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.


New California Supreme Court justices sworn in

Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar and Leondra Kruger were sworn into their California Supreme Court seats today in Sacramento by Gov. Jerry Brown, hours after his own swearing-in for a fourth term.

Brown with Cuellar & Kruger“What I’m looking for is insight and growing wisdom over time so we can create a measure of harmony in what is a very conflicted society,” Brown said at the ceremony. “And I think we are going to do very well in helping build the respect for the law, for the courts, for their independence, so that all of us – whatever our particular ideological or philosophical proclivities – at the end of the day are very thankful that we have honest, intelligent and fair-minded people making sense out of the complexities.”

Brown nominated Cuéllar, 41, of Stanford, in July, and nominated Kruger, 38, of Washington, D.C., in November. Note their relatively young ages: Brown’s appointments potentially will be serving on the state’s highest court for decades to come.

Cuéllar, a Stanford professor since 2001, served as special assistant to the President for Justice and Regulatory Policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council in 2009 and 2010 and was co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition’s Immigration Policy Working Group in 2008 and 2009.

Kruger served as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel from 2013 to 2014; earlier, she served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and as Acting Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General from 2007 to 2013.

Cuéllar was confirmed in August and Kruger in December by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which is composed of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Kamala Harris and senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal Joan Dempsey Klein.


Former CA House candidate sentenced to prison

A former Congressional candidate from Southern California was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for obstructing justice by lying about a letter sent to Latino voters during his campaign, federal prosecutors said.

Tan Nguyen (AP photo)Tan Nguyen, 35, of Oceanside, was convicted last year; in addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David Carter also sentenced him to serve six months at a halfway house. He must surrender to start serving his sentence by March 28.

A federal jury in December found Nguyen had lied to state investigators who were probing complaints from Latino voters in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County, where Nguyen in 2006 was the Republican nominee who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove.

About 14,000 voters in the district had received a letter in Spanish that made claims about who was eligible to vote and what would happen to immigrant voters if they cast ballots; the letter had gone out on letterhead similar to that of an anti-illegal immigration group, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which actually had nothing to do with the letter.

Nguyen, interviewed by investigators in October 2006, falsely stated that campaign volunteers created the letter without his knowledge, prosecutors said. A federal grand jury handed up an indictment in October 2008.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the voting rights of all individuals. We simply will not tolerate those who attempt to interfere with efforts to enforce civil rights laws in our nation,” Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release.

In a sentencing memo filed Feb. 5, Nguyen’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, had argued his client shouldn’t have to serve any time behind bars.

“Without question, Tan Nguyen’s reputation took a heavy strike in the indictment, trials and conviction herein,” Steward wrote. “As a public figure, well known in the Vietnamese community and the community in general, such a hit will remove him from politics and many other endeavors for life.”