Rep. Mike Honda won the Democratic Party
endorsement Saturday night.

CADEM16 | CA17 | Rep. Mike Honda won the endorsement of the California Democratic Party with a clear majority of delegates at its conventioon Saturday night but not without controversy—an anti-Ro Khanna hit piece awaiting visitors to the caucus.

Those attending the endorsing caucus for the 17th Congressional District found a well-produced and likely expensive campaign flyer resting on each seat that accused Honda’s challenger, Democrat Ro Khanna, as being funded by Republican donors.

In addition, the identity of the group or groups that paid for the flyer is not listed on the piece. A union bug, however, is shown on the back of the piece. But, according to the Federal Elections Commission rules, the flyer may not be illegal.

Political committees are not required to disclose expenditures of less than $5,000. Based on the small batch of fliers seen at Saturday’s caucus, the printing costs could well be under the federal reporting threshold.

A mystery flyer portraying Ro Khanna as a 
puppet of the Republican Party was found 
on seats in the caucus room. 

The tri-fold flyer features Khanna portrayed as a puppet along with five circles cut out for the handler to place their fingers through. The headshots of Republicans of Ted Cruz, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and Marco Rubio are also included. “Ro’s Republican donors are paying for a puppet. Now you can pull his strings too,” said the piece.

Honda said he has never seen the flier before tonight and denied anybody from his campaign had distributed them. “We don’t know who put it out there. A lot of people can put it out there, right?” Honda said, following the caucus. “I didn’t have nothing to do with it and no one took claim of it, either.”

Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager, also says he had never seen the flyer before the beginning of Saturday’s caucus. “Nobody from our staff produced that flier or handed it out,” he said.

Khanna slammed the presence of the hit piece during his opening remarks. “I come here and we’ve got this puppet on every seat, not having ‘paid for’ on it. I have a lot of respect for the congressman’s past service, but rules and laws matter,” said Khanna. “And when a campaign is being investigated for ethics issues you don’t hand out literature which doesn’t have ‘paid for’ on it.”

Somewhat overshadowed by the mysterious flier was Honda’s impressive victory Saturday night. Honda beat Khanna, 46-7, with two delegates voting for no endorsement. Under party rules, as the incumbent, Honda needed only 50 percent of the vote for victory.

With the endorsement phase of the 2016 congressional rematch in the rearview mirror, speculation over who is behind the offending literature and related rhetoric is likely to headline the next few weeks of this primary race.