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CA17: Khanna tops Honda again in fundraising

Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna significantly outraised incumbent Rep. Mike Honda in 2015’s final quarter, and now has about three times as much money banked for their electoral rematch this year, according to initial reports from both campaigns.

Both Democrats want to represent the 17th Congressional District, which lies in the heart of Silicon Valley and is the first district outside Hawaii in which Asian-Americans make up a majority of voters. Khanna, a Fremont resident who served for two years in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department, lost 2014’s bruising, nationally watched election by 3.6 percentage points as Honda held on for an eighth term.

Ro KhannaKhanna’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised more than $500,000 and spent about $117,000 from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, leaving him with more than $1.7 million cash on hand and about $52,800 in outstanding debt.

“I am proud to see support for our campaign to strengthen the middle class create this type of enthusiasm and energy,” Khanna said in a news release. “Because we refuse to take PAC and lobbyist money, we’re going to need our grassroots support to take on the special interests and bring change to Washington. As we grow our campaign in 2016, we will continue to fund a grassroots campaign that engages and empowers the people of the 17th District.”

Khanna spent big on television ads and campaign consultants in 2014’s primary, leaving his campaign almost broke in the final weeks before that November’s general election; a super PAC called Californians for Innovation independently spent about $776,000 on his behalf to help bear him over the finish line.

Honda’s campaign said Wednesday that he raised $290,250 and spent $276,137 – a much higher burn rate than Khanna’s – in 2015’s fourth quarter, leaving him with $571,266 cash on hand and $20,907 in outstanding debt.

honda.jpgThe congressman “has raised more money at this point in the campaign cycle than in 2014, and like last time, the campaign is on track to raise the resources necessary to win this race,” campaign manager Michael Beckendorf said. “Even without the luxury of conservative millionaires and billionaires bankrolling his campaign, Mike Honda will win this race because he is the only candidate who has a track record of reaching across the aisle to deliver for Silicon Valley while standing up for justice and equality.”

But it’s not just re-election for which Honda is raising money. His campaign in the first three quarters of last year paid out a total of about $109,000 to two Washington, D.C., law firms and a San Francisco crisis-communications shop to combat the ongoing ethics investigation of which he’s a target. The House Ethics Committee is still probing whether Honda’s office and campaign broke House rules or federal laws by sharing resources, and it’s not yet known how much he paid his lawyers and spokespeople in the year’s final quarter.

Neither candidate’s full report to the Federal Election Commission is available yet; the filing deadline is Jan. 31. Khanna outraised Honda in 2015’s third, second and first quarters, too.

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How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

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Report: Kamala Harris living well on campaign trail

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris has a penchant for pricey luxury hotels, cars and airfare, according to a report published Sunday by the National Journal.

Kamala HarrisHarris, California’s attorney general, is seeking the seat that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer will vacate at the end of next year. She’s competing with Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Republicans including Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, R-Oceanside, and former state GOP chairs Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette and Duf Sundheim of Los Altos Hills.

Per Harris’ latest FEC filing, her campaign had burned through 44 percent of what it has raised. That still left her almost $3 million in the bank (after accounting for outstanding debts), which is far more than Sanchez ($1.25 million) or any of the Republicans have. (UPDATE: Sanchez’s campaign notes that about half the money Harris has banked can’t be used in the primary while all of Sanchez’ bankroll can be, so they’re not really so far apart.) She also has close ties to President Obama’s fundraising network, so it’s unlikely she’ll run out of money anytime soon – or ever.

And the spending – including $18,000 on luxury hotels, $20,000 on car services, and 13 instances of air travel costing more than $1,000 each – still isn’t much in the context of the campaign’s spending overall.

Still, some Democrats are taking Harris to task for what looks like unseemly spending – not a good narrative for a candidate who declared early and tried to clear the field in order to project an aura of inevitability.

And it might make donors wonder what their money really pays for. She’ll attend a fundraiser Wednesday, Dec. 9 in Atlanta, hosted by Mayor Kasim Reed, for which tickets cost $500 to $5,400 each. Then she’ll be back in the Bay Area for a fundraiser Sunday, Dec. 13 in Richmond, hosted by the local chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond, and others; tickets for that one cost from $75 to $5,400.

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Carly Fiorina talks tough in telephone town hall

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina renewed her call Thursday for a citizen-led government that would grow the economy, cut spending, better support our Middle Eastern allies against ISIS and cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, formerly of Los Altos Hills and now of Virginia, held a 45-minute telephone town hall Thursday, taking 10 questions from supporters across the country.

Fiorina 5-14-2015 AP photoFiorina – whom the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls shows is in a three-way tie for 12th place among the 16 major, declared GOP candidates – sounded undaunted by her lack of traction and likened herself to a beloved party icon.

“At this point in previous presidential elections, the polls, the pundits and the money said that Jimmy Carter couldn’t win, Ronald Reagan couldn’t win, Bill Clinton couldn’t win and Barack Obama couldn’t win,” she said, adding “the media may want to control the process, the party may want to control the process, but you know in the end the voters control the process.”

Reagan won the White House in 1980 “because the people decided he should win,” she said – though she didn’t mention that 1980 was Reagan’s third presidential run, and he had served two terms as governor of the nation’s most populous state.

Fiorina said even Republicans who support other candidates are telling her “I would love to see you debate Hillary Clinton.”

“They know what I would do, they know I would win that debate, they know I would bring up all the tough issues that are not being brought up,” she said. “We’re at a pivotal point. We need to challenge the status quo in Washington, D.C.”

More on Fiorina’s policy answers, after the jump…
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CA17: Mike Honda touts budget bill victories

Rep. Mike Honda, facing a second consecutive challenge from fellow Democrat Ro Khanna, wants his Silicon Valley district to know it was front and center in his mind as he pursued certain funding in the Commerce, Justice and Science budget bill that the House passed Wednesday.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, issued a news release Thursday saying he used “his senior position on the Appropriations Committee and long-standing relationships” to ensure that the bill prevented NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy – which includes researchers at Ames Research Center in Mountain View – from being prematurely terminated; directed the FBI to explore using outside labs for DNA testing, to end the backlog of untested rape kits across the country; and called for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program to focus on plastic marine debris, one of the main types of waste harming fish and other wildlife.

“I will always work to bring Silicon Valley’s unique voice to Congress,” Honda said in the release. “We represent the very best of America – a diverse population made up of forward thinkers and innovators who have a deep understanding and respect of our history. Serving as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee has allowed me to champion initiatives critical to the continued success and growth of our region.”

Khanna, a former Obama administration Commerce Department official who lost last year’s race to Honda by 3.6 percentage points, launched his 2016 campaign this past Saturday and announced this week his lead campaign strategist will be netroots guru Joe Trippi. One of Khanna’s key criticisms of Honda has been that the eight-term congressman is ineffective, authoring too few successful bills and accomplishing too little.

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House members tell DOJ to back off on marijuana

A bipartisan pair of California House members are insisting that the Justice Department back off from prosecutions of medical marijuana patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws – as Congress mandated in a recent spending bill.

Reps. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, reminding him in no uncertain terms that the amendment they co-authored to the “cromnibus” federal spending bill – approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in December – bars the Justice Department from spending money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.

The lawmakers cited a recent Los Angeles Times article in which a department spokesman said the amendment doesn’t apply to cases against individuals or organizations, but merely stops the department from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”

“We write to inform you that this interpretation of our amendment is emphatically wrong,” Farr and Rohrabacher wrote to Holder. “Rest assured, the purpose of our amendment was to prevent the Department from wasting its limited law enforcement resources on prosecutions and asset forfeiture actions against medical marijuana patients and providers, including businesses that operate legally under state law.”

State law enforcement agencies are better equipped to determine whether people and businesses are abiding by state laws, they wrote.

“We respectfully insist that you bring your Department back into compliance with federal law by ceasing marijuana prosecutions and forfeiture actions against those acting in accordance with state medical marijuana laws,” their letter concludes.