Rep. Mike Honda's campaign called Cohen's
complaint "petty politics."
Ron Cohen, a Republican who joined the race in the Seventeenth Congressional District last month, says a recent mailer from Honda touting his accomplishments in the South Bay violates House franking rules that oversee taxpayer-paid correspondence to constituents.
Cohen sent an official compliant to the House Ethics Committee on Dec. 13 writing the mailer amounts to Honda soliciting political support for his re-election campaign next year. “Rather than a specific discussion in his own words of his view and beliefs on legislative matters, the vast majority of the piece I received is a series of quotations of reports by news outlets and related pictures which I would argue are campaign-like promotional statements,” wrote Cohen.
Cohen, a Fremont certified public accountant, however, acknowledged Honda’s congressional office may have already received approval by the House Franking Commission to send the mailers. But, if not, Cohen asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate. Honda’s campaign is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Commission for allegedly blurring the lines between his previous re-election campaigns and congressional offices.
The mailer titled, “Delivering Results for Silicon Valley,” touts Honda’s involvement in bringing home federal funds for BART, his support for transgender equality and legislation for fighting human trafficking, among other accomplishments.
“This is petty politics," said Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager. “Congressman Honda works hard for Silicon Valley. He’s proud of his accomplishments.” Beckendorf stressed Honda’s campaign has no contact with the congressional office on this any matter or any. In addition, congressional mailers are vetted beforehand by a bipartisan committee, he said. The reason for Cohen’s opposition, Beckendorf suggested, may be politically rooted in Cohen’s dislike for some of Honda’s Democratic stances. “If Mr. Cohen has a complaint, it says more about him,” said Beckendorf.
“I don't like much of the democrat platform,” said Cohen, “but that has nothing to do with whether the mailer was a franking violation as a legal matter and an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds for a campaign style mailer.”
Ro Khanna, a Democrat facing an intraparty rematch with Honda next June, sharply criticized his opponent. “It is absolutely appalling that Mike Honda continues to brazenly violate House rules despite being the subject of a major federal investigation concerning pay to play politics and an investigation into illegal travel overseas. Has he no shame?” said Khanna. “Unfortunately he is hurting the reputation of Democrats and our belief in high ethical standards."
Since May 2014, this is the third occasion that Honda’s congressional mailers have come under scrutiny from his opponents. Khanna’s campaign issued its own formal complaint with the House Ethics Committee in May 2014 citing several official congressional mailers asserting the same allegation being made by Cohen. No action was taken against Honda by the committee.
Two of the mailers last year, in fact, had a similar heading to the one cited by Cohen. “Delivering for Us,” read a mailer featuring a dolly carrying a package labeled with Honda’s accomplishments. In the complaint, the mailer was compared by Khanna's campaign to another Honda campaign piece in March 2014 called, "Delivering for Silicon Valley." The campaign asserted its resembled the subsequent congressional mailer.
Then, just a month before the November 2014 election, Khanna’s campaign again alleged Honda was misusing his franking privileges with a letter to constituents printed on House letterhead.