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CA17: Super PAC backing Khanna has spent $812k

The super PAC that’s spending independently in support of Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign has reported another $250,000 in spending, this time on radio ads – which means someone has put another big load of money into it.

Unfortunately, while Federal Election Commission rules require disclosure of spending within a day or two, the Californians for Innovation super PAC won’t have to disclose its donors again until after this 17th Congressional District election is in the history books.

Californians for Innovation, formed this summer by Khanna supporters, already had spent about $305,000 by mid-October on direct mail to help Khanna in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Several late expenditure reports showed $256,441 in additional spending in the month’s second half – and then, with another report filed late Wednesday night, $250,000 more.

So the running total is now almost $812,000, all but $72,000 of which has been spent in October. As of the middle of the month, the committee had reported raising only $480,000.

Super PACs can take unlimited contributions, and this one’s biggest disclosed donors by far – $250,000 – are Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, a former Enron trader, and his wife, Laura. Another $25,000 came from OO Investment LLC; corporate registrations filed in California and Delaware don’t disclose OO’s executives or members, and the lawyer who filed the papers – Myron Sugarman of San Francisco – hasn’t returned calls or emails seeking comment.

Super PACs are forbidden by law from communicating or coordinating activities with the candidates or campaigns they support or oppose. Law said Monday that he, Khanna and the rest of Khanna’s campaign have “no idea” who’s behind OO Investment LLC.

The Working For Us PAC, a union-funded super PAC, spent about $140,000 to send out several mailers on Honda’s behalf before June’s primary election.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

The Bay Area House races you haven’t heard about

I feel as if I’ve written a million stories and blog items about the hotly contested 17th Congressional District race between Rep. Mike Honda and challenger Ro Khanna, and I did a story last week about the lopsided race for the Bay Area’s only open House seat, in the 11th District.

Sadly, these and many other election duties precluded me from getting into the Bay Area’s other House races. It’s safe to say none of the Democratic incumbents are endangered, but I wish for the days when we had enough staff and time to cover them all individually.

For now, a summary will have to suffice – a brief look at the candidates, the challenger’s stances on a few issues, fundraising and voter education in those districts.

Dale Mensing2nd District: Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Dale Mensing, a supermarket cashier from Redway. Mensing calls for securing the nation’s borders; reforming Social Security to include personal retirement accounts; and replacing Obamacare with a system including personal medical accounts. Huffman reported raising $884,000, Mensing reported raising $5,400. The district is registered 49.1 percent Democrat, 21.3 percent Republican and 23 percent independent.

James Hinton5th District: Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, is challenged in his bid for a ninth term by independent James Hinton of Napa. Hinton calls for a “Next New Deal” including a 1 percent Wall Street sales tax and re-regulation of financial markets; ending free trade with a protective tariff, parity price floors and other protections for U.S. producers; Medicare for all; and expanding Social Security. Thompson reported raising $1.73 million, Hinton reported no fundraising. The district is registered 51.2 percent Democrat, 21.1 percent Republican and 20.8 percent independent.

Tony Amador9th District: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, is challenged in his bid for a fifth term by Republican Tony Amador, a retired U.S. Marshal from Lodi. Amador calls for cutting taxes to create jobs, improving education, fixing Obamacare, and taking better care of veterans. McNerney reported raising $1.16 million, Amador reported raising $61,300. The district is registered 45.1 percent Democrat, 32.5 percent Republican and 18.3 percent independent.

John Dennis12th District: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is challenged in her bid for a 15th term by Republican John Dennis, a San Francisco businessman. Dennis calls for auditing the Federal Reserve, bringing U.S. troops home from overseas, ensuring civil liberties and abolishing corporate, capital gains and income taxes. Pelosi reported raising $2.4 million, Dennis reported raising $580,000. The district is registered 56.1 percent Democrat, 8.1 percent Republican and 30.9 percent independent.

Dakin Sundeen13th District: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, is challenged in her bid for an eighth full term by Republican Dakin Sundeen, an information technology system administrator from Oakland. Sundeen calls for forcing local schools to compete for students, cracking down on surveillance abuses in the name of national security, reforming drug-sentencing laws, reforming and flattening the tax code, and repealing Obamacare. Lee reported raising $1.05 million, Sundeen reported raising $4,900. The district is registered 63.1 percent Democrat, 7.3 percent Republican and 19 percent independent.

Robin Chew14th District: Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is challenged in her bid for a third full term by Republican Robin Chew of Redwood City, cofounder of an online education marketing company. Chew calls for infrastructure renewal, using technology to reinvent education, controlling federal spending, and new environmental policies to better address climate change. Speier reported raising $1.02 million, Chew reported raising $25,000. The district is registered 51.8 percent Democrat, 16.7 percent Republican and 27.6 percent independent.

Hugh Bussell15th District: Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, is challenged in his bid for a second term by Republican Hugh Bussell, a technology manager from Livermore. Bussell calls for reducing high taxes and heavy regulation, replacing Obamacare with other reforms, and securing the nation’s borders. Swalwell reported raising $1.93 million, Bussell reported raising $19,800. The district is registered 47.8 percent Democrat, 21.5 percent Republican and 21.9 percent independent.

Richard Fox18th District: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, is challenged in her bid for a 12th term by Republican Richard Fox, a pediatrician and attorney from Los Gatos. Fox describes himself as “a Libertarian-Republican focused on smaller government as the best way to foster more jobs, better and more affordable healthcare, better schools, and privacy protection.” Eshoo reported raising $1.4 million, Fox reported raising $39,600. The district is registered 45.2 percent Democrat, 23.6 percent Republican and 27.3 percent independent.

Robert Murray19th District: Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is challenged in her bid for an 11th term by fellow Democrat Robert Murray, a Morgan Hill business executive. Murray calls for repealing Obamacare, cutting spending, improving public education, and cutting corporate and capital gains taxes. Lofgren reported raising $1.04 million, Murray reported no fundraising. The district is registered 46 percent Democrat, 22.3 percent Republican and 27.9 percent independent.

Ronald Kabat20th District: Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz, is challenged in his bid for a 12th term by independent Ronald Paul Kabat, a Carmel accountant. Kabat’s calls for pruning the federal government’s size, reforming the tax code, reducing the national debt and creating jobs. Farr reported raising $673,000, Kabat reported raising $15,000. The district is registered 52.2 percent Democrat, 21 percent Republican and 22.1 percent independent.

Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Jared Huffman, Jerry McNerney, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Sam Farr, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Today’s congressional odds and ends

IMMIGRANT FAMILY DETENTION – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, led 32 House Democrats in writing to President Obama about how the Homeland Security Department is detaining immigrant families, and its plan to significantly expand family detention in the months ahead. “At the current rates, within one year this Administration will have increased capacity to detain immigrant women and children by more than 4,000 percent” Lofgren said. “As the law requires, there needs to be a better assessment in place to appropriately screen and assess these women and children, many of whom are fleeing violence, torture or persecution in Central America.” Among those signing the letter were Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

BIO-DEFENSE FUNDING – Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, joined with Rep. Mike Rogers, R-M ich., in calling for additional funding for the Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and related bio-defense programs amid the ongoing Ebola epidemic. “BARDA is now leading the federal government’s efforts to develop vaccines and therapeutics against Ebola,” they wrote. “While ongoing programs at the National Institutes of Health are essential for early-stage Ebola research, only BARDA has the infrastructure to actually get a vaccine or drug prepared for use in this outbreak.” Eshoo and Rogers authored the 2006 law creating BARDA; their letter went to House Appropriations Committee and subcommittee chairs and ranking members; Speaker John Bohener; Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s chair and ranking member; and White House Ebola “czar” Ron Klain.

Barbara Lee (Dec-2010)SURGEON GENERAL – Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; and Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, got 88 of their House colleagues to sign a letter calling for the confirmation of Surgeon General nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy, as the nation worries about Ebola. Obama nominated Murthy almost a year ago, but conservatives have blocked his confirmation mainly because he sees gun control as a public health issue. “As our nation faces public health concerns, the Senate needs to stop playing politics with Presidential nominees and confirm a Surgeon General to assist in disseminating information and to amplify the work being done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Lee said. “Dr. Murthy is an eminently qualified physician and has the support of our nation’s preeminent health and physicians groups. It’s time to confirm him.” Among those signing the letter were Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin; Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz.

Mike ThompsonNAPA QUAKE DISASTER FUNDS – The Obama administration has approved individual-assistance Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds for areas in Napa and Solano counties hurt by Aug. 24’s 6.0-magnitude earthquake, senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Thompson announced Tuesday. The administration also approved Small Business Administration loans for homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations; until now, only public assistance FEMA disaster funds had been approved. “The approval of this much needed assistance is an important step in our region’s recovery, and it will finally allow us to start helping folks get back on their feet,” said Thompson, D-Napa. “Individuals and families will be able to use these funds to begin the process of rebuilding and repairing homes and other personal property. And, local businesses will be able to apply for low-interest SBA loans to repair or replace disaster-damaged property, inventory and supplies.” Individuals in Napa and Solano Counties can register with FEMA online, via smartphone, or by calling 800-621-3362.

Posted on Tuesday, October 28th, 2014
Under: Ami Bera, Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, Mike Thompson, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | No Comments »

CA17: Khanna won’t refund wage-theft CEO’s $$$

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna won’t refund a contribution from the CEO of a company fined this week for labor abuses, as the Alameda Labor Council – which solidly supports seven-term incumbent Rep. Mike Honda – has demanded.

Electronics For Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company’s Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. Honda, D-San Jose, on Thursday promised to introduce legislation to stiffen penalties for wage theft like this.

EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013; campaign staffers removed his name Thursday from a list of Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements.

Khanna issued a strong denunciation of EFI’s practices, but the labor council on Friday urged him to refund Gecht’s money.

“When Khanna approached us for support, he promised that he was a progressive, but we’ve long been concerned that Khanna has been acting as a tool for right-wing millionaires and conservative CEOs to push their policies,” Josie Camacho, the council’s executive secretary-treasurer, said in a news release. “Hopefully even he can agree that there is no room for this kind of practice in Silicon Valley. Ro should immediately refund the $2,600 donation from Gecht.”

Khanna spokesman Tyler Law replied Honda “seems to have just discovered that wage theft exists two weeks before an election.

“Further, he has had no problem taking huge amounts of money from defense contractors, big pharma, and many other special interests including PG&E – even after their criminal negligence resulted in the death of eight people,” Law said. “It’s unfortunate that Congressman Honda is playing politics on the backs of workers.”

But Gecht’s money is “not returned,” Law added when pressed on the issue.

Law noted Honda’s campaign also has paid more than $15,000 to “one of the most anti-labor communications firms in the Bay Area,” San Francisco-based Singer Associates. Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan, a former SEIU staffer, emailed local and state labor leaders on Monday with a litany of cases in which Singer Associates has worked against unions, including during last year’s BART strike; during a battle between AT&T Park management and concessionaires in 2013; and during hotel workers’ 2010 fight for better wages.

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

CA17: PCCC aids Honda, Newsom aids Khanna

It was a battle of the proxies Friday in the 17th Congressional District as a national liberal grassroots group came to Rep. Mike Honda’s aid while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom made a plea on Democratic challenger Ro Khanna’s behalf.

Both say the race is basically tied, and that their chosen candidate needs a little added oomph to seal the deal.

PCCCThe Progressive Change Campaign Committee and liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., sent an email to PCCC members – about a million nationwide, including about 125,000 in California – urging them to donate money to or make phone calls for Honda’s campaign. PCCC also is adding Honda to its “Call Out The Vote” program, mobilizing calls to voters from its national election headquarters and volunteers across the country on his behalf.

“Mike Honda is one of my closest allies in the House — a solid progressive champion,” Grayson writes in the email. “But today he’s in a tight race against a challenger lavishly funded by corporate big shots. The latest poll in his California district shows Honda up two points – and in this progressive district, that’s only due to corporate money.”

The email lauds Honda’s record before claiming “a bunch of corporate CEOs have decided they’d rather have a tool of their own in that seat, so they’re backing Mike’s opponent – a guy who has refused to commit to protecting Social Security benefits, let alone expanding them.”

As I’ve previously reported, Khanna has balked at expanding Social Security benefits but has repeatedly vowed to protect existing benefits for “current and future seniors.”

PCCC spokeswoman Laura Friedenbach said Friday that helping Honda win is a no-brainer for her group, especially since Khanna sent out a mailer blasting Honda as being too liberal.

“Khanna can’t seem to decide what party he sides with, but he’s made one thing clear: He’s not on the side of progressives,” she said. “This race is center stage in a national battle taking place between corporate Democrats and Elizabeth Warren wing Democrats for the soul of the Democratic Party.”

The plea for help on Honda’s behalf comes as Honda appears to have the upper hand in cash to spend from now until Election Day. But Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said it’s a sign of desperation.

“Yesterday the Honda campaign sent out a desperate email saying they might have to close down a field office,” Law said. “Today they’re begging for out-of-state-support because they don’t have enough local volunteers. Actions speak louder than words, and their actions are making it pretty clear they are worried.”

Newsom, in an email blast sent out by Khanna’s campaign, urged voters to sign up to volunteer in the campaign’s final weeks.

Gavin Newsom“Silicon Valley leads the world in innovation, and it deserves a representative who works as hard and is as entrepreneurial as the people in this district,” Newsom wrote. “That’s what Ro brings to the table.

“We need someone who will fight to make sure local businesses can grow, help create good paying jobs, and make sure the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top,” he added. “Ro has concrete plans to get it done. And throughout this campaign, he’s shown that he will listen to the people in this district and fight for what matters to you.”

Honda spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that Honda “is proud to fight for progressive values like raising the minimum wage and expanding Social Security, and grateful to have the backing of grassroots allies like the PCCC and it’s thousands of members. This is a stark contrast to Ro Khanna, who is relying on the millionaires, billionaires, and companies that fund his Super PAC to call the shots.”

Posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

CA17: Khanna mailer, Honda letter create buzz

Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s new mailer attacks incumbent Rep. Mike Honda as a diehard, partisan, tax-and-spend liberal – a move that Honda’s liberal supporters say calls Khanna’s own loyalties into question.

The mailer asks “Have you had enough of Mike Honda?” and cites various sources to underscore how Honda, D-San Jose, consistently votes a liberal line, including on budgetary matters.

(Click to enlarge:)
Khanna mailer p1

Khanna mailer p2

Khanna mailer p3

Khanna mailer p4

Democracy for America – a national grassroots liberal group that supports Honda and has already been criticizing Khanna since mid-2013 as “Republican lite” – blasted the mailer out to its email list Wednesday.

“As the former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, it’s obvious to me that Ro Khanna is campaigning like a Republican,” DFA founder Howard Dean wrote in that email. “Real Democrats don’t use ‘liberal’ as an epithet or attack fellow Democrats for standing up for progressive values like making sure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”

Meanwhile, Khanna’s campaign is once again accusing Honda of using taxpayer dollars to fund what basically amounts to a campaign mailing.

Much like the pre-primary “franking” complaint Khanna filed in May, Khanna’s campaign says an Oct. 3 letter that Honda’s office sent to constituents serves no real official purpose. The letter is a litany of Honda’s accomplishments – various instances of money he has brought back to the district, legislation he has cosponsored or supported, and so on.

“You can count on me to work to close the skills gap and increase the competitiveness of our workforce, and to continue to work to deliver for our district,” the letter concludes. “Thank you again for letting me serve you in Congress.”

Wonderfully, Khanna was among the constituents who received it.

(Click to enlarge:)
Honda's franked letter to Khanna

As I noted three years ago when Republican challenger Ricky Gill leveled a similar complaint against Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, House members must submit their mailers to the House Franking Commission for an advisory opinion. They cannot contain personal biographical material, make direct references to an election, make statements of a partisan tone or ask for money. The House also imposes a 90-day blackout period on mass mailings prior to an election; that means Honda probably sent these letters only to parts of his constituency, or sent different letters to various segment to get around it being a “mass mailing.” (Read the full checklist here. Or if you really want to know more, click here for the full manual.)

But there are no prohibitions on stating your positions on policies or touting your record or accomplishments as an elected member of the House of Representatives.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Rep. Eric Swalwell attended Ebola hearing in Dallas

Rep. Eric Swalwell was in Dallas on Friday for a House Homeland Security Committee field hearing on the Ebola virus.

The only person so far to be diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Wednesday in Dallas. People with whom he came into contact are being watched carefully for signs of the disease.

Swalwell, D-Dublin, and other members of Congress at Friday’s hearing discussed with health officials how the federal government is working to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and prevent a serious outbreak in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security will be implementing enhanced security procedures at the five international airports in the U.S. that account for over 90 percent of travel to the U.S. from areas affected by Ebola.

“As we respond to the Ebola crisis overseas, I called on health officials to aggressively address the situation in West Africa, prepare local hospitals and clinics, and to bust the myths that threaten to cause unnecessary panic,” Swalwell in a statement issued after the hearing.

Swalwell will hold a conference call Tuesday with East Bay hospital officials and the Centers for Disease Control about the Ebola virus and how his office can help to ensure local hospitals and clinics are prepared to screen, diagnose and treat potential Ebola patients.

Posted on Friday, October 10th, 2014
Under: Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | No Comments »

Steny Hoyer, Barbara Lee visit East Bay’s ‘GATE’

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer joined Rep. Barbara Lee on Thursday for a tour of San Leandro’s “The GATE,” an 18-acre building serving as a hub for manufacturers, techies and artists.

Hoyer & Lee at the GATE - photo courtesy of Lee's officeHoyer, D-Md., and Lee, D-Oakland, were there to highlight Democrats’ “Make it in America” initiative, aimed at nurturing U.S. manufacturers to succeed, grow and create jobs. At the GATE, they toured Type A Machines, which makes 3D printers; Phase Space, which deals in motion-tracking technology; and the Hive art collective.

Their visit coincided with the launch of Bay Area Advanced Manufacturing (BAAM), the world’s largest cluster of 3D-printing-related products and services under one roof.

By joining forces, BAAM’s 12 member companies “make it faster, cheaper, and easier to produce goods here in America than overseas,” said Espen Sivertsen, Type A Machines’ CEO. “BAAM is dedicated to developing new manufacturing jobs in the United States as well as new manufacturing technologies.”

Hoyer issued a statement after the tour calling Lee “a leader in promoting the Make It In America plan for jobs and competitiveness, and I look forward to continuing to work with her and other House Democrats to invest in innovation, education, and infrastructure so American manufacturing businesses can succeed and hire more workers.”

Lee called Hoyer “a tireless champion for American manufacturing and American workers.

“It was my pleasure to show Whip Hoyer how the East Bay is leading the way in innovation and advanced manufacturing,” she said. “American manufacturing is growing in the East Bay and across the country. The GATE and other East Bay manufacturers are proof that when companies Make It In America, working families Make It In America thanks to good-paying manufacturing jobs. In Washington, I will continue to push Congress to pass the Make It In America plan so there are more American manufacturers and more good-paying American manufacturing jobs.”

Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, U.S. House | No Comments »

My Commonwealth Club chat w/ Rep. George Miller

Please join us this Wednesday evening, Oct. 8 in Lafayette for my public conversation with Rep. George Miller – who is retiring at the end of this year after 40 years in the House – hosted by the Commonwealth Club of California.

George MillerFord was president; former U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell, former presidential Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman had just been convicted in the Watergate cover-up; and a gallon of gas cost about 57 cents in January 1975 when Miller, D-Martinez, first was sworn in at the tender age of 29.

Now 69, Miller has chaired, and is still ranking Democrat of, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; has been a key advisor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi; and consistently has been among the House’s most liberal voices. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and retired immigration judge Tue Phan of Danville, a Republican, are vying to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District.

“Join The Commonwealth Club to celebrate this long time public servant as Congressman Miller reflects on four decades in office, what he expects to see from Congress in the coming years, the race for his seat, and more,” the club invites.

Check-in starts at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette. Tickets cost $12 for club members, $22 for non-members and $7 for students with valid ID, and are available online.

Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

CA17: Dems spend almost $100k on Honda’s behalf

The television ad that Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, debuted last week is remaining on the airwaves this week courtesy of the California Democratic Party.

The party’s contribution means Honda, D-San Jose, can keep his own powder dry for further ads shoring up his position against Democratic challenger Ro Khanna.

“Our country needs more leaders like Mike Honda, who works hard, behind the scenes if necessary, and delivers results for his constituents and our country,” California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton said in a news release. “From his passionate work on educational equity, to expanding Social Security benefits for our seniors, to his unfailing advocacy for equal treatment of all people, Mike embodies the best values of our Party.”

Party spokesman Tenoch Flores said the party is paying almost $100,000 to air the ad; he wouldn’t list the channels on which it will air, but said it’s running in cable systems across the 17th Congressional District.

Also, in case you missed it (though I don’t know how anyone could), tonight is the big Honda-Khanna debate. Don’t miss it!

Posted on Monday, October 6th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 14 Comments »