California Democratic Rep. Mike HondaMichael (Mike) Makoto HondaSwalwell, California politicians targeted by Chinese spy: report Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 MORE is embroiled in a growing controversy over whether his staffers occasionally mixed their campaign and official work.

In one string of emails from February, 2013, revealed by Metro Silicon Valley last week, Honda’s then-campaign manager discussed with his chief of staff whether possible donors for the seven-term congressman should be invited to an upcoming State Department roundtable.


“Here is a list of South Asian tech/investment folks who’ve donated to candidates in the past (none to MH),” then-campaign manager Lamar Heystek wrote, using Honda’s initials.

“Great lists—how are we doing outreach to them for $?” responded Jennifer Van der Heide, Honda’s longtime chief of staff.

“Can we at least collect emails and send newsletters or something if we can’t do straight asks electronically now?” she added. “Also do you have the list of the South Asians now endorsing/supporting MH? I want to make sure we are including all of them. Invites going out first thing Monday morning.”

Other emails seemed to show a misuse of staffers’ time.

In one, an aide was asked to spend part of their workday setting up Honda’s Netflix account on his home television, Metro reported.

“Yes, that’s a request [bordering on] personal, but such is life,” an unnamed aide wrote in the email to staff.

The flap has prompted an ethics complaint from local officials and has seemed to buoy Honda’s challenger, former Commerce Department official Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaLawmakers gird for spending battle over nuclear weapons Texas power grid CEO fired in wake of massive storm outages How to create the next 10 great American tech clusters MORE.

Khanna, another Democrat, said in a statement last week that the emails “are the latest sign that Congressman Honda has become part of the problem in Washington."

Honda is “more focused on using his office to raise money and secure his re-election than in getting things done for the people of his district," Khanna said.

Neither Honda’s congressional office nor his campaign immediately responded to inquiries from The Hill, but aides have told other outlets that staffers always keep official and campaign work separate.

“In this instance, while not a violation of House Rules, we should have taken more care to prevent the appearance of coordination,” official spokesman Ken Scudder told San Jose Inside

Honda easily won the all-party primary in June, but he will face Khanna again in November due to California's voting rules. 

Honda has won the support of much of the Democratic establishment, but Khanna has been backed by many major tech executives including Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer and Google chairman Eric Schmidt.