Ro Khanna’s Most Important Campaign Finance Number is Zero

Ro Khanna

ELECTION 2014 | CONGRESS | DISTRICT 17 | So, Ro Khanna pulled down another $402,000 in campaign donations. So what? Who cares? How many yard signs does that buy? Will you be overjoyed by the appearance of another dozen campaign mailers flooding your mailbox? Khanna has now raised over $3.2 million and, believe me, it will be spent on gaining your attention in some way or another and paying consultants five-figure monthly paychecks.

However, forget about the $2 million in the column listing cash-in-hand. It’s merely a giant flexing of Khanna’s financial muscle directed at his opponent, Rep. Mike Honda. The most important number on that report is zero, as in, the amount of money Khanna has received from political action committees. This figure, too, is a form of psychological warfare telling Honda, not only did we vastly out-fundraise you once again, but we did it without the mother’s milk of modern political campaigning, special interests donors.

Pulling down blockbuster fundraising numbers in a congressional race and not even being labeled as the incumbent is a major paradigm shift for Khanna. It allows him to spend like a House incumbent while plausibly presenting himself as a Washington outsider, and with Congress’s approval numbers in the teens, nobody wants to be construed as a Beltway insider..

While chatting it up with numerous politicos in the East Bay, from Oakland to Fremont, inside and outside the 17th District, I encounter a similar refrain when it comes to Honda. It’s an almost institutional description that in every case evokes grandfatherly love and affection. No doubt this is true, but it’s also a strength that can be flipped into a weakness, if properly attacked.

It only takes one instance of Honda acting counter to his warm reputation to shatter this perception. And if you take that away, what do you have left over? An excellent public servant, but also an entrenched member of the widely-loathed and broken Congress greasing his re-election campaign with special interests money. You don’t want to be that guy when your opponent is grinding out a reputation for eschewing the
evil lure of dirty Washington money and, you know, also has a couple mil in the bank ready to be spent.