|Eight-term Rep. Mike Honda|
The OCE, which reviews alleged misconduct by its members, alleges Honda’s two previous congressional campaigns in 2012 and 2014 shared staff with his congressional staff and offered benefits to some influential constituents in exchange for campaign contributions.
The congressional office’s eagerly-anticipated recommendation offered no timetable for the next step in the investigation. In addition, the on-going probe appears destined to be the focal point of Honda’s rematch next year in the Seventeenth Congressional District against Democrat Ro Khanna. Honda won re-election in November by just under four points over Khanna.
The report compiled for means of furthering the investigation, concluded "there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Honda and members of his congressional staff used official resources, including staff time, to benefit his campaign.”
The report also alleges Honda’s so-called “1,000 Cranes” binder of constituent's identified as prime donors later offered enhanced favors, such as, fast-tracking a visa for a donor. The report also concluded “there is substantial reason to believe that Representative Honda improperly tied official activities to past or potential political support.”
A third allegation, however, that Honda used his congressional staffers to run personal errands such as hook-up his Netflix account to Apple TV lacked evidence and was recommended dismissed by the ethics committee.
Honda told The Hill Thursday new rules prohibiting cross-employment of his staff on future campaign has already been implemented. He added, “I’m rightfully proud of my staff for being extraordinarily hard-working public servants, dedicated to constituent service, but they are not flawless.”
Honda has already spent over $65,000 in legal representation over the matter, according to mid-year campaign finance reports, including the hiring of noted San Francisco public relations guru Sam Singer.
Meanwhile, the report includes varying amounts of testimony alleging Honda staffers (also employed or volunteers for Honda’s campaign) used congressional offices and computers for campaign work. During one occasion, a Honda staffer collected business cards from an official congressional event to be included in the campaign’s database.
In another instance, regarding fundraising, a 2012 retreat included a new scheme, possibly hatched by Honda, himself. The campaign sought 1,000 donors each contributing $1,000 (referred to as "1,000 Cranes) and would “require [Mike Honda] to use his personal touch,” read the notes. “Unlike a non-profit folks are not going to ante up every year because they believe in the cause,” it continued, “also will likely be transactional—i.e. help me with this visa for my grandma.”
The crossover between Honda’s offices apparently continued to his next re-election campaign starting in 2013. During a campaign presentation in October 2013, Honda’s then-campaign manager Doug Greven noted, “DC makes policy – we do events – Campaign takes DO events and uses them to raise $.” Greven was listed in the report as uncooperative with the investigations and recommends seeking a subpoena for his testimony, in addition, to a former legal correspondent named Nadir Vissanjy.
When shown the notes, Honda told investigators he was surprised. “I’ve never seen this,” he said. Later, Honda, remarked about the statement, “It’s open to a lot of interpretation, but it doesn’t look good.”
LISTEN TO SF CHRONICLE'S CARLA MARINUCCI DISCUSS HONDA'S PENDING ETHICS INVESTIGATION ON THE EAST BAY CITIZEN SHOW