Rep. Honda Timed Ethics Probe Payments to Manipulate Reports

Mike Honda may need more clever accountants. Last September, the Office of Congressional Ethics reported that there was “substantial reason to believe” the eight-term congressman’s office peddled favors for campaign cash and violated House rules by using official resources to keep him elected. A quarterly report Honda’s campaign filed for the period ending Sept. 30 surprisingly noted just $15,000 owed to crisis communications firm Singer Associates. It seemed like a low sum for the damage control being done, and it’s only made the congressman’s year-end report for 2015 that much more conspicuous. Honda’s latest filing, made public earlier this month, shows his camp manipulated the timing of certain bills. His year-end report notes that he spent more than $101,000 on lawyers and crisis communications related to the investigation in the last two-and-a-half months of the year, and more than $70,000 of that amount was paid on day one of the reporting period, Oct. 1, to Miller & Chevalier, which specializes in House ethics probes. No outstanding debt was noted in the previous report, or an amended filing. The payment to Singer Associates came a day later, Oct. 2, while another $16,200 went to law firm Akin Gump on Oct. 9. Had these numbers been included in the third quarter of last year, Honda’s camp would have spent more than two-thirds of what it raised, a potential red flag to his “1000 Cranes,” who are well aware Honda is struggling to keep financial stride with repeat challenger Ro Khanna. But the legal bills aren’t over yet. Sources say the House Committee on Ethics has resumed the investigation and witnesses will be interviewed over the next several weeks. Honda could set up a special legal defense fund dedicated to the ethics probe, but for now he seems content to cash in on votes. Honda held a fundraiser this past weekend that courted Iranian Americans, and setup for the shindig in Atherton started just days after he voted against the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. Honda was one of just 19 House Democrats to vote “nay.”

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26 Comments

  1. Interested in hearing from someone with more political experience; at what point does this scandal get to the point where Honda would consider resigning/not running for re-election? How bad is this compared to other lawmakers that have been investigated for financial/political scandals?

  2. Can someone with more political knowledge tell me how big a deal this is? I’ve been seeing headlines about Honda ethics scandals every couple weeks/months for the last year, but when does it get to the point where he’d consider resigning/not running for re-election? It doesn’t seem like he’s had much of a reaction to all these scandals.

    • It’s a pretty big deal considering that most complaints with the House Ethics Committee are generally tossed aside. Honda has tried to blame this on political posturing by his opponents, but it’s important to note that the Office of Congressional Ethics who conducted the initial investigation is a bi-partisan panel of fellow House members consisting of 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. These are every day colleagues of Mike Honda’s and they voted unanimously in a 6-0 vote that they found substantial reason that he and his office violated several laws. House members tend to look out for each other, so the fact that it’s gotten this far and the investigation is still ongoing is very telling in itself.

      On the surface Honda appears that he hasn’t had much reaction to these scandals, but it’s obvious that he’s very concerned especially from a fundraising perspective which is why it is highly likely that he deferred his legal and crisis communication fees from Q3 to Q4 in hopes that he could fool his donors and raise a sufficient amount of money before the truth came out in his Q4 filing. It basically bought him 4 months (October 1st through January 31st) to raise as much money as he could before folks realized that he’s spent over $213,000 and counting to date on mounting legal fees.

      Honda is in so deep now that he has not allowed himself a graceful exit to resign or retire. If he gets to the point that he knows in his mind that he will definitely lose, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he comes up with some excuse that he decides not to run for re-election due to a new “health issue”. That’s about his only way out now. He doesn’t strike me as someone who likes to lose (especially to Ro Khanna), so that would be the easy out for him. Let’s see what happens in the June primary. If he wins/loses by a single digit margin, he will be hosed in November.

    • It is as big of a deal as someone well funded, and without opposition from someone else equally well funded, has the wherewithal to make it. Money buys an audience. Repeating something over and over makes it true. Or at least politically potent. And if media outlets are backing you (usually because of some backscratching going on behind the scenes), that can be better than being well funded. Because they will essentially run full-page ads for you free of charge under the guise of op-eds. Over and over and over again. They will saturate the 5-second attention span most people have with their spin. The truth – wherever that may be hiding – is less important than public opinion.

  3. Mike Honda needs to retire- he’s clearly a bumbler, he’s accomplished almost nothing during his tenure in the house – he’s the least productive member of the Democratic Northern California delegation. It’s just amazing the 17th district – which is full of all these talented folks who work 70 hour work weeks, would have a Congressman who is lazy, flaky, and ethically challenged! Voters are catching on to this – he was re-elected by a handful of votes last time, I think this time he will get ousted.

    • Mike Honda has clearly made some poor judgments, especially when it comes to collecting campaign contributions and free trips to Turkey and Azerbaijan by the Gulen Movement. We must encourage our politicians to stay away from foreign lobbying especially those that are anti-American and don’t share our values of democracy.

      • “We must encourage our politicians to stay away from foreign lobbying [if you meant to say lobbyists, I agree, Thomas] especially those that are anti-American and don’t share our values of democracy.” Thomas, have you ever thoughtfully considered our Pledge Of Allegiance To The Flag? Please point out to us the phrase that reads “and to the democracy for which it stands.” The USA is not a democracy, Thomas. The USA is a Republic. You can be forgiven though, Thomas, because even our moron president Obama, who has spent millions of dollars to keep his college transcripts secret from us all because they will show his abysmal grades, calls the USA a democracy. You and everyone else in the US should take this test for which I have provided a link. It’s extremely basic and non partisan. Anyone who can’t get 15 out of 25 correct, that’s only 60%, should not be allowed to vote. http://www.billoreilly.com/site/rd?satype=13&said=12&url=/quizarchive?action%3DviewQuiz%26categoryID%3D4%26quizID%3D757

        • 24 out o5 25

          Knew the right answer for the one I missed, just executed a “finger check”.

          I once heard someone assert that the person who authored the “Pledge of Allegiance” was actually a socialist. That may explain the “democracy” reference in Pledge.

  4. It is difficult for me to believe that “Karaoke Mike” Honda had the brains to conceive those alleged manipulations. It must have been his handlers who figured out how to manipulate the numbers and the timing. In 14 years he has had only one bill that he sponsored passed by his colleagues in the House—a post office named in honor of a major donor. What does that say about the people who have voted for him for 14 years? It says they are idiots who got the Congressman they deserved.

    • JMO, you are completely right. This is the doing of Honda’s Campaign Manager, Michael Beckendorf and his congressional office Chief of Staff Jennifer van der Heide. Mike is, in no way, smart enough to orchestrate this. However, he is solely responsible for the actions of his staff and thus is ultimately responsible. It’s the same thing with the OCE and House Ethics Subcommittee investigations. I just don’t understand their thinking. He is being investigated for ethics violations and so go out and commit some more…and hope that noone sees? We saw. I am surprised that the law firms would be complicit in this. I think less of both of them now. IMHO, Honda should return the money he raised in Q4 to anyone he manipulated by claiming that there was nothing more to the ethics investigation. Obviously, there is much much more. And, of course, he won’t return a penny. He’s so desperate to keep his job, he and his staff will say anything, do anything to keep it. The voters of CA-17 deserve better.

      I used to wish that Honda would retire to save everyone the time, energy and embarrassment. At this point, with all of his continued ethical lapses these past 6 months, I hope he doesn’t. If Honda retired, the investigations would go away and most voters would never know the details of the scandal. Now, however, I hope he stays in and let’s Khanna and the media educate every voter in the district of his corrupt dealings. It’ll be fun to see millions of $$ of commercials, direct mail, radio, and especially door to door conversations about it. Honda, van der Heide, Beckendorf all deserve to be humiliated for their illegal and unethical actions. This whole scandal should serve to scare any other elected officials to ever think they can be safe as an incumbent if they act this way. I hope this will be a lesson for all candidates and their teams of what NOT to do if you are an elected representative in this area. We deserve better now and always.

      • “He’s so desperate to keep his job, he and his staff will say anything, do anything to keep it.” Of course he wants to keep a “job” in which he has done almost nothing for 14 years and has raked in a ton of cash and perks. He’s never had a real job. I cannot imagine anyone stupid enough to hire him to lobby, since he’s never been able to convince his colleagues to pass a bill he has sponsored, except the post office thing for a campaign contributor. If he doesn’t have a freezer full of cash somewhere, he’ll starve to death if he’s not re-elected.

  5. I think he might be the perfect running mate for ether Hilary or Bernie, were does he keep his server?

  6. Not sure I understand. What’s the benefit to reporting in the 4th quarter rather than 3rd quarter again? To keep donors confident of the fundraising rate? What is the benefit to keeping donors confident in the 3rd quarter if they suddenly lose confidence in the 4th quarter? And how do we know the charges were not incurred on October 1st and 2nd rather than in September? And now Honda is supporting terrorism? There might be something here. I’m just not getting it.

    • I agree I’m not sure I follow the point on the timing of the payments. Seems like the new information in this post is this….

      “Sources say the House Committee on Ethics has resumed the investigation and witnesses will be interviewed over the next several weeks. ”

      The key is whether this resumed investigation will find documents that show the Congrssman knew about the stuff in OCE report.

      The last line seems to suggest that Honda was one of the relatively few (19) House Dems who voted no the visa waiver bill because of donations…not terrorism if that is what you are referring too…

  7. According to “The Hill,” the so-called “Visa Waiver Improvement & Terrorist Travel Prevention Act” was a pretty blatant anti-Iranian bill which would unfairly discriminate against people simply on the basis of their country of origin. Progressives should be proud that Honda voted against this. Honda did not violate any ethics rules; a few members of his staff did and have since been either disciplined or fired. He has repeatedly acknowledged and long since corrected the procedures that led to these transgressions. Yes Khanna is intelligent and articulate, but Honda’s lifetime history of public service, his experience and seniority as a congressional legislator, and myriad contributions to our local community make him more than worthy of re-election. In short I have yet to hear any compelling reason to throw him under the bus in favor of someone new, who has never served as an elected official or had any experience as a legislator.

    • Craig, I appreciate your loyalty and respect for Honda, however, I need to push back on some of your statements. Noone was fired. Honda has said publicly that he was not going to do that. if you know of a name or names, please share. Other than an apology Jennifer van der Heide gave to Honda (not to voters) and the new wall they erected between campaign and office (which I believe has many many holes in it), noone has been disciplined. The laws that Honda is being investigated for breaking require that he be aware of and ultimately be responsible for all actions of his office, whether he was point for it or not. He’s the boss. The law says he’s responsible. BTW, Honda was fully aware of the 1000 Cranes list. It was HIS idea! So he was fully in the middle of all these transgressions.

      Personally, I do not believe that some deserves a lifetime seat if they have had up to this point a “lifetime of public service”. He may be “senior” having been in Congress for 16 years, but he is not perceived as a leader on any of the committees (and certainly not the Appropriations committee that he likes to promote). Any other NorCal Member of Congress is respected more than Honda, from an intellectual, work ethic and accomplishment perspective. Honda is a nice man who suffered a terrible experience when he was 3 years old. I do not believe voters are required to feel subservient and obligated to vote for him until he dies (what he said in his “victory crow” in 2014). Enough is enough. He and his staff continue to break the law, demonstrate a lack of integrity and willingness to say or do anything to stay in power. You might love Honda, the man; but Honda, the politician, deserves to be replaced, either by retirement or loss in November. It’s his call. Khanna needs to do very very little to make up the 1.8% of the loss. The ethics scandal is only growing and getting more expensive for Honda. My money is on Khanna. He deserves to represent Silicon Valley in Congress.

      • You say that the 1000 Cranes was Representative Honda’s idea? How do you know? I haven’t seen any proof of this.

        My first reaction to the story when it broke last year was, “it sounds as though his staffers are enthusiastic supporters of their boss, and didn’t think it through.” Rep. Honda has done a lot for the Democratic caucus in Washington, and he has seniority on the Appropriations Committee. If Mr Khanna – someone who has never held any elected office, nor represented any constituency – is elected, we will lose the appointments and seniority Rep. Honda has earned during his years of service. Mr Khanna would arrive in Washington as a Freshman member of the minority Party, with a negative effect on the balance of power in Congress.

        I don’t say Rep. Honda is perfect, and noone should consider a Congressional seat a lifetime sinecure, but I do say that this is a singularly bad time for Mr Khanna to pursue this seat. It seems to indicate a lack of perspective that does not inspire confidence for his performance if elected. If his choice to run for office is motivated by personal desires, what evidence is there his performance in office would be any different? I always liked Mr Khanna, and have been very disappointed by his failure to grasp the larger impact of his choice to run against Rep. Honda at this critical moment.

        • Emilie, thanks for your comment.

          If you read the OCE report on the ethics scandal, it gives testimony from Honda and one of the other interviewees that the 1000 cranes was his idea. Also, there are a number of articles, both SJI and Merc, that detailed that 1000 cranes was all Mike.

          If this were all just one infraction that his staff did, I would agree with you. However, this was led by his Chief of Staff (Jennifer van der Heide), his then district director (Meri Maben) and his then campaign manager (Doug Greven). It was systematic. And there were MANY different instances of illegal and unethical actions taken. They were all so focused on doing whatever it took, crossing whatever lined needed, to keep Honda in office, that they purposely and willfully broke any law set up specifically to prevent foul play. Please read the testimony. It’s at the bottom of this article when it first came out. It’s very eye opening.

          http://www.mercurynews.com/nation-world/ci_28750105/congressman-mike-honda-grapples-ethics-reports-release?source=pkg

          As it pertains to Honda’s years of service. Yes, he’s been in DC for 15 years now, but he is NOT perceived as a strong, effective member of congress and voice for Silicon Valley. He is known best for his singing karaoke and glad handing/drinking at social events. I’m honestly not trying to be mean. That’s his reputation amongst his peers. He is considered an intellectual lightweight, not hard working, and not serious individual. He’s also slowed down…alot over the last few years. His position on Appropriations is not a powerful one (there are like 45 MoC on that committee). So, please don’t be fooled by his campaign’s position of keeping his seniority on Appropriations. Eric Swalwell did more in his first two years in Congress (at the age of 31) then Honda did in his 14 years (Swalwell passed 2 bills to Honda’s 1).

          I do not understand your point about this being a bad time for Khanna to run. IMHO, it is the best time. Silicon Valley needs a strong voice for it, someone who is brilliant, hard working and has relationships in all areas of the district (community AND business). Khanna has this in spades. The best time to run for office is when one genuinely believes that s/he can do a better job than the incumbent AND has the ability to run a winning campaign. From what I read in the papers, that time is now for Khanna.

          Then again, what do I know…I’m just a careful and eager observer of the race.

          • > Then again, what do I know…I’m just a careful and eager observer of the race.

            What do you know?

            Well, you know THIS:

            > If this were all just one infraction that his staff did, I would agree with you. However, this was led by his Chief of Staff (Jennifer van der Heide), his then district director (Meri Maben) and his then campaign manager (Doug Greven). It was systematic. And there were MANY different instances of illegal and unethical actions taken. They were all so focused on doing whatever it took, crossing whatever lined needed, to keep Honda in office, that they purposely and willfully broke any law set up specifically to prevent foul play.

            That’s pretty specific and provocative information that most of us bumpkins out here, 2,500 miles from “our nation’s capitol”, DON’T know.

            Sounds like insider information to me.

            More dish please. Don’t hold anything back.

          • If he’s only known for karaoke, why say did Khanna say Honda was an “outstanding” Rep?

            tinyurl.com/jbasp9f

  8. Mike Honda has long been known to accept money from questionable sources, even lobbying by foreign interests. One of the other probes is how Honda not only accepted cash from the controversial Turkish Islamic Gulen Movement but has taken tripes to Turkey and Azerbaijan on their dime (Pacifica Institute) The Gulen Movement operates one of the largest networks of charter schools in the USA and stealing billions in bonds, grants and other funds intended for education. They are under investigation in the USA and have had some of their schools raided by the FBI – (Concept Schools in the midwest) their schools in California are called Magnolia Science Academy. They also abuse the H1-b Visa system bringing in teachers from Turkey and other Turkic countries to steal the jobs from American teachers who are licenses and fully credentialed. Mike Honda should use better judgment when accepting funds, trips or awards from non American lobbyists with an agenda that is very much anti-American. http://gulenpoliticians.blogspot.com/2015/11/gulenfaith-movement-funds-200-trips-for.html

    • Very curious.

      Wonder what’s going on.

      Turkey is apparently a mess, and at least one commentator has predicted that Turkey is in the process of “fragmenting”.

      And. furthermore, I have never understood what people mean by the term “moderate Muslim”.

      Is that a Muslim who believes in”nice” Sharia?

      • Moderate Muslim, is one who only prays that someone else cut your head off.

  9. Every day more folks are waking up feeling fed up with the likes of Mike Honda—a self-entitled nobody with his hand always out for money and a work record in government even emptier than Barack Hussein Obama’s. That’s why more and more people are turning to Trump—a crass Ronald Reagan in a PC world, who dares to tell it like it is and gains more supporters every time the PC mainstream press vilifies him for it.