CA17: Khanna’s camp knocks Honda’s new role

Rep. Mike Honda has a new role in Congress – and his challenger has something to say about it.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, has become the acting ranking member on the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies – the panel holding the purse strings for federal agencies from the FBI to NASA. That’s because the previous ranking member stepped down: Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., was charged last week in a 29-count racketeering conspiracy indictment.

But Honda’s ascension also comes shortly after the House Ethics Committee announced it’s taking some more time to probe misconduct allegations against him, rooted in claims that his staff coordinated with his re-election campaign on some pay-to-play activities.

That complaint was filed last September by supporters of fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official from Fremont who lost November’s election to Honda by 3.6 percentage points. The Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed the complaint and referred it to the Ethics Committee on June 5; House rules require that the committee notify the public if it needs more than 45 days to review an OCE report.

There’s a big difference between a 29-count criminal indictment after a long-running Justice Department investigation and a not-yet-completed probe of possible ethics violations, but some conservatives are having a field day with it nonetheless. “Dems struggle to find untainted rep for appropriations committee,” read a recent Breitbart News Network headline.

Honda said by email Tuesday that in his new role as the subcommittee’s acting ranking member, “I look forward to continuing to bring the voice of Silicon Valley to Congress and delivering results for the people I represent. I have lived a life of public service and look forward to continuing to do so in this new role in the coming months and years.”

Regarding the ethics probe, he said, “My staff and I continue to cooperate fully with the Ethics Committee in this matter. This ongoing process does not relate to my responsibilities in my new role.”

Ro KhannaKhanna campaign spokesman Hari Sevugan said Tuesday that Honda and his staff “should be accorded due process to address these pay-to-play allegations.”

“That said, it is becoming increasingly clear that he cannot represent the interests of the working men and women of the 17th District on this critical committee with these serious ethics investigations hanging over his head,” Sevugan added. “The families of the 17th District need their Congressman’s energy focused on fighting for them, not on fighting for his own political life.”

Honda might not have much role to play in the subcommittee before the Ethics Committee announces its course of action, which will happen no later than Sept. 3; the House already has recessed for the summer and won’t re-convene on Capitol Hill until Sept. 8. For now, members have scattered out to their districts – Honda plans to attend National Night Out events Tuesday evening in Cupertino and Sunnyvale; visit a Redwood City biometrics firm on Wednesday; and attend a highway interchange improvement project’s ribbon-cutting on Thursday.


CA17: Updated 2Q totals, and the ethics probe

Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign cash situation isn’t quite as dire as I first reported, although it still isn’t looking great.

A report filed this week with the Federal Election Commission shows Honda, D-San Jose, raised about $368,000 in the year’s second quarter while spending about $213,000, leaving him with about $360,000 cash on hand as of June 30 – or, less about $34,600 in debt, about $325,000 cash on hand.

But that’s somewhat better than the $265,000 cash on hand that his campaign estimated when I asked them earlier this month. Compared to the $1 million that Democratic challenger Ro Khanna had in the bank as of June 30, it’s a three-to-one margin rather than the four-to-one margin it had seemed.

Honda’s campaign told me a key member of its finance team was in labor at the time that I sought the figures earlier this month, so their estimates were a bit off. (Here’s hoping everything went well…)

Khanna’s report shows he still has much of the Silicon Valley elite on his side, with contribution from prominent venture capitalists like John Doerr, Bill Draper and Steve Krausz as well as executives like Integrated Archive Systems’ Amy Rao, Nexenta’s Tarkan Maner and a smattering of names from Salesforce and Google.

But Honda’s contributions include money from the corporate PACs of Intel, Oracle, Applied Materials, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and Microsoft, so it’s not as if he’s being shunned by the tech world.

Honda remains the pick of the Democratic establishment. He had contributions this past quarter from the campaign committees or PACs of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., as well as Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park; John Larson, D-Conn.; Joaquin Castro, D-Texas; and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

In other CA17 news, San Jose Inside’s Josh Koehn reported this week that the Office of Congressional Ethics has been investigating the complaint Khanna supporters made last fall about allegedly improper coordination between Honda’s campaign and his official staff.

Koehn’s story links to a transcript of OCE’s interview with Ruchit Agrawal, a former Honda staffer and whistleblower. Agrawal was arrested in December 2013 after allegedly threatening violence against Honda staffers, but he was never charged and he has denied making any such threats.

Honda’s chief of staff apologized in October for her “oversight” in coordinating with Honda’s campaign, though she insisted she didn’t use official resources or time to do so. It’s not surprising that OCE is following up on the complaint, and it’ll be interesting to see what the office’s conclusion turns out to be.


SD10: Unions do IE attack mailer vs. Hayashi

A new attack mailer targeting Democrat Mary Hayashi, sent by a labor-backed independent expenditure committee, is hitting the mailboxes of the 10th State Senate District’s likely voters this week.

The mailer uses the former Assemblywoman’s 2012 shoplifting conviction as a jumping-off point for other ethical allegations including using campaign funds to pay her defense team, being warned by the state’s political watchdog agency for holding a political fundraiser in a lobbyist’s home, and seeming to hold three full-time jobs at once, according to tax records.

Click to enlarge:
Hayashi IE mailer 1

Hayashi IE mailer 2

The mailer comes from “Californians for Integrity in Government Opposed to Hayashi for Senate 2014, Sponsored by Peace Officers, Nurses and Labor Organizations.” The committee’s mailing address is that of the California Nurses Association, and the mailer discloses the committee receives “major funding by California State Council of Service Employees Political Committee.”

Another Democrat in this race, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, is a longtime labor ally.

“Mary Hayashi knows she made a mistake, accepted responsibility and apologized,” Josh Pulliam, her campaign manager, said Wednesday. “What this race is really coming down to is a choice between a true champion for working families and women for 26 years, or a bully who built his career on protecting the trial attorney agenda, even when that meant standing up for attorneys and convicted rapists instead of protecting victims.”

Hayashi has insisted she was distracted and inadvertently left San Francisco’s Neiman Marcus store with $2,450 worth of clothes in a store-branded shopping bag she had brought with her that day. In a deal with prosecutors, the felony grand theft charge against her was reduced to a misdemeanor; she’s still on probation now.

Wieckowski went negative recently by launching a MugShotMary.com website to remind voters of the details of Hayashi’s shoplifting incident.

Hayashi shot back late last week by launching BobProtectedRapists.com, which informs voters that Wieckowski was the lone vote against a bill – AB 1522 of 2012 – to protect people sexually assaulted by their spouses. The bill required that if a spouse is convicted of a violent sexual felony against the other spouse and the couple divorces within five years, the injured spouse can’t be made to pay any spousal support or attorney’s fees, and is entitled to keep all of his/her own retirement and pension benefits.

Legislative records show Wieckowski voted against the bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, but several months later voted for it in the final Assembly floor vote, after it had been amended. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September 2012.

“That website is way over the top,” Wieckowski campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said Wednesday. She said Wieckowski voted against the bill in committee because he had concerns about mixing criminal and civil court cases, but those concerns were addressed by the time of the final floor vote.

Also in the 10th State Senate District race are Republican Peter Kuo of Santa Clara, Democrat Roman Reed of Fremont and independent Audie Bock of Hayward.


State Senate’s ethics review is tomorrow

The state Senate will hold its special ethics review and self-flagellation session Wednesday, following the conviction of one senator and the indictment of two others.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, announced the special day last month; all senators and staffers are required to attend.

The Senate voted 28-1 on March 28 to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. Yee, D-San Francisco, has been indicted for allegedly selling official favors and conspiring to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted last month on bribery charges. Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted in January of voter fraud and perjury related to not living in the district he represents.

Steinberg’s office says the meetings “will be closed sessions to facilitate frank discussions and candid interactive dialogue among the participants,” though Steinberg and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff will hold a news conference late Wednesday morning.

The group sessions will include a presentation on “Creating a Culture of Ethics – A National Perspective” by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts at Drake University. The nonprofit Josephson Institute works with corporations, governmental agencies and professionals on strengthening standards of conduct in individual and institutional decision-making.

There will also be a panel discussion of the “Challenges of Legal Ethics in a Legislative Environment” facilitated by three attorneys with expertise in political and campaign issues: Lance Olson of Olson & Hagel, who advises some of the state’s foremost Democrats; Charles Bell Sr. of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, general counsel to the California Republican Party; and John Panneton, a former federal prosecutor. The panel will present hypothetical scenarios that raise potential ethical and legal issues; those scenarios will also be used by senate chiefs of staff, committee chief consultants and office directors as they lead staff discussions in individual Capitol offices later Wednesday.


Campos blasts PUC’s Peevey for gifts and travel

Assemblywoman Nora Campos sent a scathing letter to Public Utilities Commission President Mike Peevey late Monday, taking him to task for accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and travel from industry-backed nonprofits and special-interest groups since 2007.

Mike PeeveyPeevey reported these gifts and trips in his statements of economic interests, filed with the state as required by law. But Campos, D-San Jose, criticized Peevey for not giving a full explanation of the trips.

“While foreign travel for public officials is legitimate and can offer unique opportunities for gathering knowledge, the sheer number and length of your trips are clearly outside of the bounds of reasonableness and undermine the spirit of the rule that permits such trips,” she wrote.

Campos wrote that reports of Peevey’s alleged exorbitances come amid widespread criticisms of the PUC for cultivating “a terribly lax safety culture” and “cozy relationships with industry officials.” The PUC also has created programs without proper legal authority, engaged in questionable contracting and ethical activities, made significant budget mistakes, and more, the lawmaker charged.

Nora Campos“This latest controversy cements my belief that the time has come for you to reform the culture you have enabled so that the PUC can restore the public’s confidence. People must know that there are real changes being made,” Campos wrote. “But it must begin with an understanding that the public’s skepticism grows when the top PUC official is accepting lavish trips and gifts from the very utility industry the PUC is charged with overseeing.”

Peevey and a PUC spokesman didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment Tuesday.

Peevey first was appointed to the PUC by former Gov. Gray Davis in March 2002; former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in December 2008 reappointed him to another 6-year term, to which the state Senate confirmed him a year later.


Zoe Lofgren sued by fellow Dem over censure

Rep. Zoe Lofgren has been sued by another Democratic House member who claims he was wrongly censured for ethical violations while Lofgren chaired the Ethics Committee.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., also names House Speaker John Boehner and a slew of Ethics Committee members and staffers. Boehner wasn’t yet Speaker in December 2010 when the House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel, but does now have the power to remove the action from the Congressional Record.

Rangel’s lawsuit claims Lofgren, D-San Jose, and Jo Bonner, R-Ala., then the Ethics Committee’s ranking Republican, “knowingly deceived” the House before the vote, “knowing then that their statements were false.” Evidence was withheld that could’ve helped clear him, he claims.

Lofgren specifically “deceptively misrepresented what had occurred during the proceedings before the committee” when advising the House that Rangel’s “pre-vote proceedings were conducted fairly, honestly, without bias and according to the law, when she knew this was not so.”

Lofgren declined to comment Tuesday.

Per the Associated Press, the committee found that Rangel had underpaid the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income from a rental unit in a Dominican Republic resort, had filed misleading financial disclosure reports, had set up a campaign office in the Harlem building where he lived that had been designated for residential use only and had used congressional letterheads to solicit donations for a center named after him at City College of New York.

It was only the 23rd time in the House’s history that a member was censured, the most severe punishment short of expulsion.