Honda sues challenger, claims he hacked donor info

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Longtime Silicon Valley Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) on Thursday filed suit against political opponent Ro Khanna, accusing his top aide of illegally hacking Honda’s computer system and downloading personal information from more than 10,000 donors.

{mosads}Honda, who’s facing a tough rematch against Khanna this fall, alleges in the lawsuit that Khanna campaign manager Brian Parvizshahi since 2013 had been accessing and using private documents owned by Honda and his campaign in violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Honda also claims that Khanna and Parvizshahi violated the Federal Economic Espionage Act.

Khanna and Parvizshahi “illegally obtained and used confidential, proprietary information belonging to Mike Honda for Congress. As a result of their wrongdoing, the privacy of thousands of supporters of Congressmember Honda was violated,” states Honda’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.

“Furthermore, they were personally pressured and intimidated by Defendant Khanna at a place that they had least expected: their own email inbox.”

The Khanna campaign said Thursday it had not been served and has not had a chance to evaluate Honda’s complaint.

“The fact that Mike Honda went to the press before serving us tells you what this is really about: politics. Down in the polls six weeks before an election, it’s clear Mike Honda will do and say anything to hold on to his seat, including suing anyone who is on track to defeat him,” Khanna spokesman Hari Sevugan said.

“It’s desperate and sad, but just like the ongoing ethics investigation into how Mike Honda sold access to his office, it’s a clear sign that it’s time for change.”

According to Honda’s complaint, Parvizshahi had earlier worked as an intern for a fundraising consultant, Arum Group, used by Honda’s campaign. But when he left, Arum never withdrew Parvizshahi’s access to its Dropbox account.

The former intern became Khanna’s campaign manager in 2015 and allegedly continued to access files containing fundraising information for Honda’s campaign.

In October 2015, the Khanna campaign used contact information from those files to email Honda donors to see if they “might have time for a call” about the race, the lawsuit states. Some of those supporters reported that Khanna replied to them personally when they emailed asking to be removed from the campaign’s list.

Honda’s lawyers are attempting to use a controversially broad anti-hacking law intended to prevent “unauthorized access” of a protected computer.

Former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was recently indicted under the law, known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), for using a former Cardinals employee’s password to log into a private player database belonging to the Astros.

Critics argue the 1980s law is being used by prosecutors in a way that lawmakers never intended, by charging ex-employees for exceeding their authorized access.

Civil liberties activists in 2013 launched an aggressive campaign to curtail the use of the law for crimes they feel are not truly “computer crimes,” after internet activist Aaron Schwartz committed suicide following a charge that he had illegally downloaded academic papers.

The Honda suit accuses Khanna’s campaign — including Khanna himself — of conspiring to flout the CFAA, pointing to his personal responses to Honda donor emails. It also argues the campaign derived economic value by accessing the information and therefore committed economic espionage.

In 2014, Honda, a former Democratic National Committee vice chairman and former head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, beat back a challenge from Khanna, a lawyer and former Obama Commerce Department official.

But Khanna ran again this cycle and came out narrowly ahead of Honda in the June primary after hammering the incumbent congressman over his House ethics investigation. Under California law, both Democrats moved on to the general election because they were the top two vote-getters in the all-party primary.

California’s 17th Congressional District is in the heart of Silicon Valley and home to Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Intel and a host of other tech companies.

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