4

Past Bay Area ethics probes pale beside Honda’s

The allegations leveled against Rep. Mike Honda in an Office of Congressional Ethics report and made public by the House Ethics Committee on Thursday are arguably the most significant allegations any Bay Area House member has faced in decades.

The OCE in 2009 began investigating then-Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and four other lawmakers to see whether they had violated Maryland criminal tax law and House ethics rules by intentionally filing false applications for a Maryland homeowner’s tax credit. But the Ethics Committee in 2010 cleared Stark of any wrongdoing, and blasted the OCE for conducting “an inadequate review, the result of which was to subject Representative Stark to unfounded criminal allegations.”

In 2011, the OCE investigated whether support for the wine industry by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, had benefited his campaign donors or a vineyard he owns, as described in a New York Times article. But the OCE eventually decided unanimously against further review, Thompson’s spokesman later said; because the matter was never referred to the Ethics Committee, the OCE made no announcement.

Way back in 1983, the Ethics Committee probed whether then-Rep. Ron Dellums, D-Oakland, and one of his aides had used cocaine and marijuana. A special counsel investigated and found no basis for charges, so the committee took no further action.

2

Pete Stark’s son is running for elected office

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Former Rep. Pete Stark’s college-age son has launched a campaign for elected office.

Fish StarkFortney “Fish” Stark announced Tuesday on Facebook that he’s running for the Ward 1 seat on the Board of Alders in New Haven, Conn., to represent the swath of the city that includes most of Yale’s undergraduate campus. Stark, 19, is in his sophomore year studying political science at Yale.

“I love New Haven, and I love Yale, and I know that these two communities are strongest when we engage meaningfully with one another and work together towards progressive change,” he wrote. “I’m running because I want to work to bridge the divide between Yalies and the city. Yale students should be proud to call themselves New Haveners, and earn that identity through meaningful participation – and New Haveners should feel respected and supported by Yale.”

Stark wrote that he wants to continue the work and experiences he has had in New Haven so far: working over the summer for an afterschool and weekend enrichment program for local youths; serving on the city’s Peace Commission; serving on the Yale College Democrats’ board; and more.

“I hope that we can use this election as a platform to start community-wide conversations about what meaningful, respectful engagement in New Haven looks like, and how we can create a campus climate that supports this positive citizenship,” he wrote.

The elder Fortney “Pete” Stark represented part of the East Bay in Congress for 40 years before losing his seat to fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in 2012. The Stark family resides in Maryland, where Fish grew up.

It’s no secret that Fish Stark has had his eye on a political career. He helped out on his father’s 2012 campaign, and also that year won election as president of the Princeton Model Congress in Washington D.C.

UPDATE @ 4:15 P.M.: Click here for the story I’ve just filed for the print editions, with a bit more background.

42

CA17: A few Khanna contributors want refunds

Three contributors to South Bay congressional candidate Ro Khanna’s campaign want their money back.

They gave to the Fremont Democrat during the final quarter of 2011, in which he shattered fundraising records with a $1.2 million haul. At the time, it was widely believed he would run to succeed Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in the 15th Congressional District; instead, he later chose to run against Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, this year in the 17th Congressional District. And these three contributors are Mike Honda fans.

After consulting with Honda’s campaign, they sent this e-mail to Khanna on Monday morning:

Dear Ro,

In 2011, you asked us to contribute to your campaign to be Pete Stark’s successor when he retired. You are an energetic, smart person who shared our values, so we gave you $6,000 to support this goal.

But you are not using our money the way you promised. Instead, you’re using it to run against Congressman Mike Honda, a man who has spent his life increasing opportunities for people to better themselves, including you. We cannot support you in this and we don’t want our money to play any part in it either.

We request a refund of the $6,000 we gave you under the false pretense that you would use it to run in an open seat, which you clearly are not doing now. We did not give you the money to replace Congressman Mike Honda — a well-respected, accomplished, former Japanese internment camp survivor, former science educator, Asian-American trailblazer and legislator.

Sincerely,
Sophia Yen
Steve Silberstein
Ted Fang

“I want people to know who we are backing and who we feel should win,” Yen, 42, of Los Altos, said Monday afternoon. “I love Mike Honda and I think he’s well qualified and has done so much.”

A clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medical School and a physician at the Center for Adolescent Health in Mountain View, Yen gave Khanna’s campaign $1,000 on Nov. 30, 2011, and said Monday she hopes Khanna “will be honorable” and refund her contribution. She said she knows Khanna from having worked alongside him on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and for other causes: “I feel bad, but I’d feel worse if he were to take out Mike Honda.”

Fang, 50, of San Francisco – president and executive director of the AsianWeek Foundation and a former editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and AsianWeek – gave Khanna’s campaign $2,500 on Dec. 8, 2011. He declined comment further Monday, saying the email speaks for itself.

Silberstein, 70, of Belvedere, the retired co-founder of a company that makes software for libraries and a prolific philanthropist and Democratic donor, gave Khanna’s campaign $2,500 on Oct. 18, 2011. He couldn’t be reached for comment Monday and Tuesday.

They’re not getting their money back, Khanna campaign manager Leah Cowan said Tuesday.

“Ro has been running a positive campaign focused on his ideas and vision for the future of the Bay Area and our nation,” she said. “Since launching his campaign to represent California’s 17th district, Ro has received support from many people who contributed to Congressman Honda in the past. We’re not aware that any of them have requested to be reimbursed by the Honda campaign, nor would we expect the Honda campaign to honor such a request. Because this donation to Ro was made almost two years ago, it would be impractical to return at this point.”

Also Tuesday, Khanna’s campaign launched a “Truth Squad” – with its own Facebook and Twitter accounts – which it described as a group of volunteers in the district “committed to confronting distortions with facts.”

“Ro’s candidacy is about engaging a broad group of voters and allowing them to make an informed choice on the kind of representative they want in Washington. But Ro’s opponents aren’t confident they can win on the truth alone – and that’s why they have been making baseless attacks since we launched this campaign,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law wrote in an e-mail announcing the effort. “When you sign up for the Truth Squad, you’ll get updates and tip sheets so you can make sure your friends, neighbors, and family have the facts about this race. All information that you find on the site will be fully sourced so you can see where we got it.”

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M.: It seems the “Truth Squad” needs a dose of its own medicine.

In a post that sought to shore up Khanna’s Democratic bona fides, the campaign listed a dozen “local Democratic officials” who support his candidacy. But three of those officials – Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves, former Newark Mayor Dave Smith and former Cupertino Mayor Richard Lowenthal – actually are registered Republicans. And I’m hearing that a fourth – Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward – has either made a dual endorsement or no endorsement at all in this race. Click to enlarge:

Truth Squad screencap

Law said this was a minor, behind-the-scenes snafu in which a few local endorsers inadvertently were added to a list of Democratic supporters, and it will be changed immediately.

7

CA15: Stark vows to help Corbett beat Swalwell

The 2014 campaign for the 15th Congressional District seat has started sounding a lot like the 2012 campaign, as former congressman Pete Stark vengefully vows to support a challenger to the fellow Democrat who unseated him, Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Pete Stark“Hopefully Eric will lose, and I am doing everything I can to see that Ellen Corbett wins that primary election,” Stark told CQ Roll Call on Wednesday. “I remember Eric, during the campaign against me, suggested that I was too old and inept to be of any value in the political process, so I am going to see if I can prove that to be wrong.”

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, has trailed Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, thus far in fundraising and visibility, but Stark hopes to change that.

“I know that Eric used to say that I had $30 million,” Stark said. “I wish he was correct. But I have at least half that much at my disposal, and so I intend to broadcast far and wide his ethics problems and his inexperience and his failure to accomplish much in the Congress.”

Stark’s 2012 campaign committee contributed $2,000 to Corbett’s campaign in August.

Then again, Swalwell beat the 20-term incumbent last year in part because the district’s voters apparently were fed up with Stark’s behavior, including a series of unsupported accusations against Swalwell and others. And Stark’s vow to spend from his own pocket on Corbett’s campaign begs questions both of why he hasn’t done so thus far, and why he didn’t do so to keep himself in office last year.

Swalwell said Thursday that voters decided last year to replace a 40-year incumbent, and that he has kept his promise “to bring new energy and ideas to Congress. It’s time to move on and look forward and not go back to the tired politics of the past.”

“He’s trying to buy a seat in Congress for a friend that he couldn’t win for himself. But this seat isn’t for sale,” Swalwell added. “It’s one gift money can’t buy.”

Swalwell seems proud of the CQ Roll Call story, as he has been sharing it via social media.

“Last yr voters told Pete Stark, ‘bye, bye!’ But he took it as ‘buy, buy!’ & says he’ll spend $15M to help my opponent,” Swalwell tweeted Thursday morning.

He also posted the story on his Facebook page. “The voters have moved on and this seat is not for sale. I promise to keep bringing new energy and ideas to Congress,” he wrote there.

Corbett has not yet returned a call and an e-mail seeking comment.

UPDATE @ 2:35 P.M.: “I have a broad coalition of support from throughout the district, from people who realize I have a superior record of achieving for the district, and that includes Congressman Stark,” Corbett said Thursday afternoon. “It seems that Eric is picking a fight with the former Congressman, but I’m running to offer voters a choice and I will be standing on my own record of public service to this district. After all, that’s what democracy is all about, and I look forward to the campaign.”

2

Swalwell raised big money in 2013’s first quarter

One of the Bay Area’s House freshmen was among the region’s top fundraisers in the first quarter of 2013, according to newly filed Federal Election Commission reports.

Eric SwalwellRep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, raised $262,810 in the first three months of the year, leaving him with $222,932 cash on hand as of March 31.

On its face, that’s more even than the $207,030 that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, collected in individual contributions to her campaign committee. But Pelosi also transferred in more than $136,000 from her Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund, which itself raised $671,400 in the first quarter. (Now THAT’s some serious scratch; don’t mess with the big dog, Congressman Swalwell.)

Still, Swalwell’s first-quarter fundraising outstripped that of every other Bay Area House member including Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who raised $214,000 while already in full campaign mode due to the challenge posed by fellow Democrat Ro Khanna.

Swalwell might also face a fellow Democrat in 2014: state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, who like Swalwell had hoped to succeed Pete Stark in the 15th Congressional District but chose not to run against him last year. Corbett, who’s favored by many of the same local Democrats who had backed Stark in 2012, raised $16,201 in the first quarter of this year and had $114,963 cash on hand as of March 31.

Here’s a readout of the rest of the greater Bay Area delegation’s first-quarter haul, looking only at their principal campaign committees:

    Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: $69,482 raised, $29,804 cash on hand
    George Miller, D-Martinez: $79,253 raised, $215,537 cash on hand
    Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose: $45,240 raised, $571,704 cash on hand
    Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz: $32,650 raised, $70,731 cash on hand
    Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto: $50,186 raised, $319,929 cash on hand
    Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo: $34,728 raised, $976,878 cash on hand
    Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael: $95,152 raised, $116,503 cash on hand
13

Pete Stark says he’ll move back to Bay Area

Pete Stark says he’s planning to move back to the Bay Area.

Pete StarkThe former Congressman said Friday afternoon that once his son heads off to Yale University later this year and he and his wife can make school arrangements for their 11-year-old twins, they’ll be seeking a place to live in the East Bay.

Stark, 81 – who served the East Bay in the House for 40 years before being unseated in November by fellow Democrat Eric Swalwell – has made his family’s home in Maryland, though he maintained a residence here and is registered to vote at his in-laws home in San Lorenzo.

“Our interest is in using what’s left of my campaign funds and our foundation money to see what we can do about working in the area of children’s groups, whether it’s for child care or homes for children who are abused,” Stark said. “We’re looking forward to coming back and being active in that arena.”

“It’s going to take me a while to get used to not having the perks of a staff – being a congressman for 40 years had spoiled me, and the return to citizenry is hard,” he said. “But my shuffleboard game is getting good.”

UPDATE @ 3:03 P.M. FRIDAY: Just saw this tweet from Glen Fuller of Orinda, whose wife, Sharon Fuller, is Swalwell’s district director: “Deborah Stark 2014?” Hmmm.