Honda, opponent spar over 'people's pledge'

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and his primary opponent, former Commerce Department official Ro Khanna (D), are sparring over a Khanna campaign suggestion to commit to the "people's pledge" to keep super-PACs out of the race.

Khanna got the ball rolling Thursday afternoon with a letter to Honda asking him to agree to pay a penalty equal to half the amount outside groups spend on their behalf as a way of dissuading outside spending.

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"Today, I invite you to join me in asking independent expenditure campaigns and super-PACs, many of which rely on outside donors, to keep their money out of the 17th District race," Khanna said in the letter. "Let's stand together with the other candidates in this race and take the same People's Pledge Senator Elizabeth Warren and her opponent did to keep independent expenditures out of their race in 2012."

Honda's campaign fired back, taking aim at some of Khanna's backers as well as the number of well-heeled donors who've backed Khanna in the race. It also tweaked Khanna for refusing to return some donations made to him before he'd indicated he was running against Honda that the donors have requested back.

"In the true spirit of keeping undue influence out of this election, we propose limiting contributions to all candidates in this race to an amount that puts millionaires on a level playing field with ordinary folks: $570. This is the same limit as local elections in the city of Fremont, in our district," Honda Campaign Manager Doug Greven wrote Thursday night.

"We propose that all campaigns refund contributions to any donors who have already given more than this limit of $570. Your campaign can start by refunding the $11,000 in contributions from the five donors who have already requested a refund because Ro misled them. He had asked for their max-out contributions to run for an open seat, then used their money to run in a different district — against Mike," he continued.

Greven then hit Khanna for taking donations from Marc Leder, who was the host at the fundraiser where Mitt Romney made his infamous "47 percent" remark, and libertarian-leaning PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who has given to the Club for Growth.

Khanna has raised huge amounts for the race against Honda, much of it from Silicon Valley power players. Honda's campaign has increasingly emphasized his working-class roots in a district that has a huge wealth gap between working-class San Jose and billionaire tech tycoons.

Khanna has outpaced Honda in fundraising, and has $2 million for the race to Honda's $600,000.