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CA17: A little more Khanna-Honda post-mortem

My story in today’s editions explores why Ro Khanna’s campaign to unseat Rep. Mike Honda didn’t succeed, but there was more to my interview with Khanna than we had room for in this article.

I sat down with Khanna minutes after he delivered his concession speech Friday night. At that time, Honda led in unofficial returns by 3,658 votes, or 3.66 percentage points. Another 27,853 votes have been tallied in Santa Clara and Alameda counties since then, and as of Monday morning, Honda leads by 4,637 votes, or 3.62 percentage points.

CONGRESSMAN CANDIDATE RO KHANNAFirst, some more math. Khanna had said Friday that he and his consultants had hoped 150,000 to 160,000 votes would be cast in this race; in a district of about 296,000 voters, that would’ve meant turnout of about 51 to 54 percent. As of Monday morning, only about 128,000 ballots have been tallied – a turnout of only about 43 percent – and as Khanna notes in the story, his key constituencies of young voters, independents and Republicans were among the least likely to vote.

In Election Day’s earliest returns – absentee ballots that came in early enough that they’d already been processed by 8 p.m. Tuesday – Honda led by about 7 percentage points, a lead that narrowed later that night and in the following days. Khanna said that indicates Honda did better among earlier voters, while he was far more competitive among those who did their vote-by-mail ballots at the last minute or who voted at the polls on Election Day.

“We’d always said this was a race against time,” he said Friday. “If we’d had a couple more weeks, maybe we would’ve pulled ahead.”

Also, Khanna was more effusive in his praise of his deepest-pocketed supporter than I could fully explain in the story.

I had pressed Khanna about the $857,000 spent by Californians for Innovation, the super PAC formed by his supporters to do independent spending on his behalf; much of that spending came in the campaign’s final month, and about half that money was contributed late enough that the donors’ identities won’t be revealed until December.

I asked whether this had been a double-edged sword for him – the radio ads and mailers kept his name out there after his own campaign had run out of money, but the independent and somewhat shadowy spending might’ve discomfited some supporters who had been proud to back a candidate who shunned PAC and lobbyist donations to his own campaign. Khanna said he was OK with it.

“I was very open to say that if there were supporters who wanted to come to our defense, they should” – and he’s thankful that they did, he said. “I’m glad that there was someone there to set the record straight, I didn’t discourage it… but I think it’s unfortunate that we had to go there.”

The biggest super PAC donors – at $250,000 – were Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife. Honda’s late ads noted Arnold had worked at Enron, a company which before its collapse in 2002 had gamed California’s electricity grid to cost the state’s residents billions of dollars in surcharges.

“I do know John Arnold, we had a long conversation about pension reform and his desire for new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Khanna said, noting Arnold has also supported Democrats like outgoing San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. “The idea that he’s a right-wing kind of person is just false… He and his wife are an incredibly decent couple and I’m very proud of their support. I regret that they were attacked in the campaign, I think they’re good people.”

Posted on Monday, November 10th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 8 Comments »

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 | 11 Comments »

CA17: Khanna launches ‘PAC-Mike’ video game

The increasingly ugly 17th Congressional District race now has its own video game.

Democratic challenger Ro Khanna launched www.pacmike.com Monday, taking a page from the classic Pac-Man video came to highlight the $778,000 that Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, has accepted in campaign donations this cycle from political action committees and other committees.

Meanwhile, Honda launched his own website Monday – RightWingRo.com – and a new mailer to highlight Khanna’s support by conservatives that Honda’s campaign says are of questionable character.

PAC-Mike basically functions like the old arcade game, though when PAC-Mike eats one of the “power pills” at a corner of the maze, up pops a message such as “A full quarter of Rep. Honda’s money has come from the Washington, DC beltway this cycle (and 30% this month).”

(Click to enlarge:)
PAC-Mike

“No matter how much the Honda campaign tries to change the conversation away from his record of not showing up and not getting the job done, the fact remains that Ro is the only candidate to say no to all PACs and special interests,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said in a news release. “That’s a critical difference between the candidates and one of the reasons there’s so much momentum behind our grassroots campaign.”

Honda campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan replied that “no amount of gimmicks can change the fact that Ro Khanna is relying on a Super PAC funded by his biggest donors, including $250,000 from a Texas hedge fund billionaire who made a fortune as an energy trader at Enron and $25,000 from a company with little publicly-available information.

“Voters know that while Mike stands up for those who need it most, Khanna is just a puppet of the millionaires and billionaires who want a return on their investment that will not benefit the hardworking people in this district,” Kembaiyan said.

The fact is, both candidates have benefited tremendously from the largess of organizations and people that have little in common with the district’s working families.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, October 27th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 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 | 2 Comments »

CA17: Honda spends big while Khanna runs dry

That dull thud you heard echoing across the 17th Congressional District recently was the sound of Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign dropping a massive $651,000 in October’s first half, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

Ro Khanna, Honda’s Democratic challenger, spent only about $168,000 during the same time, his report shows – and his campaign is now on the financial ropes.

Recent polls have shown a close race between the seven-term incumbent Honda, D-San Jose, and Khanna, and each have tried to maximize their impact since vote-by-mail ballots went out Oct. 6.

Honda’s report shows his campaign – which started the month with about $1 million in the bank – raised another $106,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him about $420,000 cash on hand but just short of $10,000 in debt at the close of that period.

The lion’s share of the spending went to the Washington, D.C. media and strategic communications firm of Adelstein Liston: $370,960 for a digital media buy and another $66,926 for “media services.” Next came the San Francisco-based Terris, Barnes & Walters campaign firm: $107,348 for direct mail, and $25,000 for campaign consulting.

Khanna – who started this race with far more money but spent most of it before June’s primary, in which he finished 20 points behind Honda – had about $218,000 cash on hand at the start of this month but about $141,000 in debt.

His new report shows he raised about $97,000 but spent about $168,000 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, leaving him with $148,000 cash on hand but $141,000 in debt – so, about $7,000 in unencumbered money.

Most of Khanna’s October spending – almost $111,000 – went to Chicago-based AKPD Message & Media (run by Obama campaign paid-media mogul Larry Grisolano) for direct mail.

I don’t yet see a pre-general report for Californians for Innovation, the independent super PAC formed this summer to support Khanna’s campaign and bankrolled in large part ($250,000 that we know so far) by Texas energy hedge fund billionaire John Arnold. When I do, I’ll update this post accordingly.

UPDATE @ 10:20 A.M. FRIDAY: (Sorry this is late, but I made an executive decision to take last night off.) Californians for Innovation’s report shows it raised $90,000 and spent $233,000 in the first half of October, leaving it with about $175,000 cash on hand and $30,000 in debt as of Oct. 15. Other FEC filings show it has spent about $58,000 more since mid-month.

Its contributors in the month’s first half were:

  • Arthur Patterson of Accel Partners (Palo Alto) – $10,000
  • Venkatesh Harinarayan of Cambrian Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Anand Rajaraman of Cambiran Ventures (Mountain View) – $25,000
  • Rajeev Madhavan of Magma Design Automation (San Jose) – $5,000
  • OO Investment LLC (San Francisco) – $25,000
  • I initially can’t find much about OO Investment, but I’ll pursue it.

    Most of the spending – about $214,000 – went to Mailrite Print & Mail Inc. of Sacramento for direct mail. The $30,000 debt is owed to veteran Democratic political consultant Roger Salazar of Sacramento, for campaign consulting services.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

    CA17: Honda blasts firm fined for wage theft

    Rep. Mike Honda talked tough Thursday against a Fremont company that the Labor Department has fined for unfair labor practices – the CEO of which is a donor to and endorser of his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna.

    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, issued a statement Thursday saying these practices “constitute the most egregious type of wage theft and employee abuse. They undermine fair labor competition among businesses, and if left unaddressed they would erode the idea that this is an economy of opportunity.”

    Honda said the Labor Department “operated within their guidelines to deliver justice” – a $3,500 fine plus payment of more than $40,000 in back wages – but wage laws must be updated to deter such things “especially for a publicly traded, multi-national corporation that generated $197.7 million in revenue in its last quarter.”

    “As soon as Congress comes back into session, I will introduce a commonsense change in our labor laws which will ensure that there a strong, effective minimum penalty in place for offenders, and increase the maximum penalty enough to deter unscrupulous employers from contemplating wage abuses against workers in the United States,” Honda said. “We will send a message that wage abuses are human rights abuses and competitive abuses that will not be tolerated by our economy and society.”

    EFI CEO Guy Gecht contributed $2,600 to Khanna’s campaign in September 2013, and is listed among Khanna’s tech-executive endorsements on the campaign’s website. (UPDATE @ 5:19 P.M.: Khanna’s campaign has just removed Gecht’s name from the endorsement list.)

    “The inexcusable exploitation by Electronics for Imaging goes against everything that Silicon Valley stands for,” Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said Thursday. “Their behavior is not representative of the hardworking and honest people who live and work in the 17th District, and should serve as a reminder of why we need strong labor laws in this country. Ro is encouraged that they have been fined by the Labor Department and is committed to forcefully confronting any company that engages in wage theft.”

    UPDATE @ 5:45 P.M. FRIDAY: The Alameda Labor Council, which staunchly supports Honda, has called upon Khanna to refund Gecht’s money; Khanna has declined.

    Posted on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 30 Comments »

    CA17: A closer look at Honda’s & Khanna’s polls

    I’ve just posted a story about new internal polls released by Rep. Mike Honda and his Democratic challenger, Ro Khanna, in the 17th Congressional District: Khanna’s poll shows a dead heat, while Honda’s shows him with a 15-point lead.

    Both campaigns have veteran pollsters – David Binder for Khanna, and Lake Research Partners for Honda. But any poll’s accuracy depends on the sample’s composition, and these have some interesting quirks.

    Khanna’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 27 percent independents and 23 percent Republicans; Honda’s poll respondents were 46 percent Democrats, 30 percent independents and 21 percent Republicans. The district’s overall voter registration is 44 percent Democrat, 32 percent independent and 19 percent Republican, though that may not be the breakdown of the district’s likely voters.

    Also, Khanna’s poll respondents were 51 percent white, 29 percent Asian and 12 percent Latino, while Honda’s poll respondents were 43 percent white, 38 percent Asian and 13 percent Latino. The U.S. Census estimates the 17th District is about 33 percent white, 52 percent Asian and 16 percent Latino.

    Finally, Honda’s poll, conducted Oct. 7 through 12, indicates 21 percent of respondents already have voted by mail – that seems awfully high, given that ballots just went out Oct. 6. Only 1 percent of the respondents to Khanna’s poll, conducted Oct. 8-9, said they already had voted.

    Posted on Monday, October 13th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 12 Comments »

    CA17: Some of Honda’s wins seem shared at best

    Rep. Mike Honda has been touting his accomplishments on the campaign trail this week, but a few of those accomplishments appear to be his by extension.

    During Monday night’s televised debate between Honda, D-San Jose, and Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, Honda responded to Khanna’s jibes that he’s not bipartisan enough by rattling off a few examples of bills or issues on which he has worked across the aisle.

    DEBATE BETWEEN REP. MIKE HONDA AND CHALLENGER RO KHANNAOne example he cited was H.R. 2061, the digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013 by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. The bill standardizes and publishes the U.S. government’s reports and data compilations on financial management, procurement and aid, with the goal of creating more transparency for taxpayers, improving federal management and reducing costs.

    “Darrell Issa and myself, we passed the DATA bill, the DATA Act, that requires the government agencies to tell people where the dollars are spent, how much it is, and to be transparent about it,” Honda said. “I think that’s across the (aisle) work.”

    And cosponsor it he did, though at the last minute. Honda signed on as the last of 10 cosponsors on Nov. 18, 2013 – six months after it was introduced, and the same day the House overwhelmingly passed it 388-1. Honda and Issa also co-authored an op-ed piece in the Silicon Valley Business Journal praising the bill, but that was this past June, more than a month after President Obama had signed the bill into law.

    When asked specifically what Honda did to help pass the bill, campaign spokesman Vivek Kembaiyan reiterated that Honda had supported the bill, co-authored the op-ed and was “one of 10 co-sponsors who worked to get the bill passed in the House and signed into law.”

    Also, in a mailer appearing in voters’ mailboxes this week, Honda claims he “secured $8.6 billion this year for early childhood education programs across the country, so every child can begin school ready to learn.”

    (Click to enlarge)
    Honda_Track_Proof_2_001

    That’s a reference to the Head Start program, for which funding was included in a big omnibus spending bill passed by the House in December on a 376-5 vote and signed into law in January. Honda wasn’t a cosponsor.

    “No bill is done by one person alone, but Congressman Honda has the influence, experience, and relationships to deliver for his constituents in a way no freshman can,” Kembaiyan said. “Congressman Honda used his position on the specific Appropriations subcommittee that oversees education funding to make sure Head Start received the $600 million increase that is benefiting children throughout the district and the country.”

    Honda is the least-senior of five Democratic minority members on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

    Khanna’s campaign is giving no quarter on these claims.

    “In a desperate attempt to rewrite his almost nonexistent legislative record, Congressman Honda is taking credit for things he didn’t do,” spokesman Tyler Law said Thursday. “This troubling strategy of misleading voters is yet another reason why the 17th District needs new leadership.”

    UPDATE @ 7:53 P.M.: I was unaware when I posted this item that Calbuzz earlier had posted something similar. We’re all covering the same race, seeing and hearing the same things, and talking to many of the same people; it seems Honda’s assertions are deemed newsworthy far and wide.

    Posted on Thursday, October 9th, 2014
    Under: 2014 general, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 4 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 »