Khanna Campaign Manager Accused of Illegally Accessing Rep. Honda’s Donor Database

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, the campaign of Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) accused his opponent’s campaign manager of illegally downloading private fundraising data and using it to contact the congressman’s backers.

Ro Khanna and campaign chief, Brian Parvizshahi, broke the federal Economic Espionage Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by stealing proprietary information on nearly 10,000 Honda supporters, according to the complaint. (UPDATE: Parvizshahi resigned from the Khanna campaign Thursday evening. See the full statement below.)

At the heart of the allegations is Parvizshahi, who became an intern for a Democratic consulting firm called Arum Group upon graduating from Cal State Fullerton in 2012. Before accessing client information, the lawsuit states, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. But when he quit a month later, he allegedly kept accessing the password-protected Dropbox account with Honda’s records.

Nearly two years later, Parvizshahi began working for Khanna’s campaign to oust Honda from Silicon Valley’s 17th Congressional District. After switching to team Khanna in January 2014, Parvizshahi allegedly kept logging into that Dropbox file. According to the lawsuit, he accessed them 44 times before the breach was discovered this past May.

Signs of trouble, however, surfaced almost a year ago.

In October 2015, Honda’s campaign fielded calls from supporters wondering why they were getting emails from Khanna’s camp. These messages were reportedly sent to personal accounts, which are exempt from disclosure requirements for people who donate $200 or more to a campaign.

Concerns intensified a couple of months later, according to the lawsuit, when San Jose Inside published a list of Honda’s biggest donors. The “1,000 Cranes” dossier named people who paid $1,000 or more, apparently in exchange for special treatment from the eight-term congressman.

The list of 281 donors was mailed anonymously to Metro Silicon Valley, San Jose Inside’s parent newspaper. The list included names, nicknames, employer information, home addresses, and home and cellphone numbers of Honda’s most generous donors from 2010 to 2012. San Jose Inside’s report redacted most of this personal information. According to the lawsuit, Parvizshahi downloaded a document identical to the one mailed to San Jose Inside last year.

Yet five more months passed before anyone noticed the unauthorized Dropbox use. On May 31 of this year, a Honda fundraising consultant got an automated notice that a Dropbox file had been modified, allegedly by Parvizshahi.

Much of the attention in the Khanna-Honda rematch has focused on the incumbent’s ethics scandal, as the House Committee on Ethics has been investigating alleged pay-to-play activity in Honda’s office for more than year.

Honda’s campaign manager, Michael Beckendorf, said the findings noted in the lawsuit reflect poorly on Khanna’s candidacy.

“Relying on illegal tactics to propel his campaign is deplorable and unbecoming of Congress,” Beckendorf wrote in a statement Thursday. “Silicon Valley voters deserve better and are owed an explanation for the actions of his campaign.”

Requests for comment from the Khanna campaign were not immediately returned.

Click here to read the entire complaint.

UPDATE: Ro Khanna’s campaign announced Thursday evening that campaign manager Brian Parvizshahi has resigned. Below is the statement:

“At his request, Brian Parvizshahi will step down as campaign manager. By filling this lawsuit with six weeks to go and down in the polls, he believes Mike Honda is trying to distract voters from the ongoing ethics investigation into how he sold special governmental access to his VIP donors after accepting $3 million in PAC contributions. And Brian will not let Mike Honda use him to distract voters from the need for real change.”

Josh Koehn contributed to this report.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

29 Comments

  1. This news must be pretty deflating to SJI’s years long campaign to get Khanna elected over Honda, particularly since SJI has been making such an effort to promote the theme that Honda lacks the proper ethics. I appreciate the fact that you actually ran the story, even though it goes a long way toward ruining your previous efforts.

  2. If true, is this a federal crime under 18 USC 1030? Just wondering. Not really sure.

  3. Ro Khanna tommorow morning: “I am new politics because I held my CM accountable, whereas Honda hasn’t held anyone accountable on his pending stuff.

  4. I know it looks bad, but I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation.

  5. Bubbles, your optimism is beyond words. Several phrases, apply here.
    THE PLOT THICKENS !
    THE #HIT, HAS HIT THE FAN !
    OK Josh, What is your perfectly innocent explanation.
    As Ricky Arnez used to say ! You Josh, and the Howler Monkey, have some “Es’splaining to Do!”

  6. Does anyone really believe there’s any ethical difference between K and H?

    This shows there’s no difference. Might as well vote for the one with high seniority…

  7. IT Perspective here…

    We have both “onboarding” and “offboarding” in IT. Onboarding is when you hire someone, and prep their accounts, laptop, wire their desk and get them everything needed to get working on day 1.

    Offboarding is the opposite. Account access is cut off, usually via an admin password change. Any loaned equipment usually has some sort of management software on them to remote wipe (Meraki comes to mind) if needed. Usually though the laptop comes back, it’s imaged (in case of future issues) and retained.

    The fact that nobody at ARUM Group didn’t bother to properly offboard Parvizshahi, or inform him “You are no longer to access these systems” opens up the possibility that he is not culpable for any wrongdoing under the Economic Espionage Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Also an NDA is only enforceable for 2 years in California (I’ve signed tons of them)

    It just really seems stupid of the ARUM group to have let this go on for 4 years.

    • Agreed. Pure carelessness on Arum group’s part.
      I had a friend who was an system admin who got laid off while on a medical LOA. Her dumbsh&* employer didn’t change any passwords and for months afterwards was able to access the system and grab the emails that proved she was illegally terminated.
      OTOH, when I took a LOA at my last job, my account was cut off at midnight on my last day. I had to wait for IT to re-instate it on first day back at work, even though I confirmed with HR the week before that I was returning to work as scheduled.

  8. A perfectly innocent explanation! I’ve signed tons of them. Yea Right
    Sounds like Cortese, takes Ro off the Hook?
    You good Ole boys are sick!

    • I’m not taking anyone off the Hook Gil. When a cop is discharged, we take his gun, their badge, and all IT related access. There are checks in place to make sure this happens.

      Why didn’t this happen at the ARUM group? The only thing I can assume is Mike is very lazy in regards to his data policies with his campaign consultants.

  9. “What difference does it make now” in Hillary speak, They’re all Democrats and immune from investigation or prosecution by other Democrats. the advantage of a one party system.
    I just wonder if someone will go missing?

    • Do you really want to go to conspiracy theories on this? See, the problem is you kinda have to choose: are Democrats so brilliantly effective we can control everything, all the time, with little apparent effort? If so, for Heaven’s sake, vote for the Democrats! We’ll get things sorted out in a week, and all live happily ever after. But if you want to believe Democrats are incapable of effective action, and therefore undeserving your vote, then you have to decide whether to drop the conspiracy theories or abandon any hope of credibility.

      You could just say something along the lines of, “gee, I’m not sure I’m impressed by this guy – why didn’t he know this was happening in his name?” That sort of comment fits the situation, without further damaging your credibility.

      • Likewise for Mike. Shall we wait and see who the crookedest of all and then vote for him?

  10. THIS news must be heart-breaking for you, San Jose Inside, for your work on the shady campaign against Congressman Honda.

    Note: Honda will beat Khanna again in November.

    Lol!!!

    • ROSS:

      I’ve lost track of who I dis-endorsed in this race.

      Since it is now beginning to appear that my dis-endorsement is going to have serious clout with voters, I may have to convene a working group to study which loser will provide the least interference with the workings of the American Republic during the coming Trump presidency.

      Stay tuned. I will probably tease this one several more times and then announce my decision immediately after the CNN Special Report on the next Obama race riot or Muslim terror attack.

  11. Got a great idea!! Bring in several H1 Bs to Replace Ro Kahanna, Josh, Metro, and Scott , Howler Monkey, Merc. The timing, could not h ave been better!

  12. I thought they were both H1B’s?
    On second thought the POTUS. is an illegal alien, and Hillary is ALF., and “What Difference Does it make Now”.
    My God they have taken over!

  13. Today’s merc, 2 page article on Ro Kahanna, discribe Mike Honda’s (aligations,)!
    They were not aligations. They filed a law suit.
    The merc, is still the Rag, it has always been!
    Ro is so slimey, all the slugs, are following his slim trail..

    • Moveon.org has a petition you can sign demanding that the Mercury News withdraw their endorsement of Khanna. Moveon.org has broken with tradition & has vigorously endorsed Congressman Honda even though his challenger is another Democrat. They’ve also compiled a very precise account of all the underhanded chicanery perpetrated by the Khanna campaign over the last two election cycles & lambastes him thoroughly for his deceitfulness. “Ro,Ro,Ro your boat gently down the drain / Merrily,merrily,merrily – Ro is so inane”

  14. Time for Ro to step down as a candidate. The corruption is just too great. While I’m not a big fan of Mike Honda, the reality is that this will be his last term, and then in 2018 we can hopefully have some less corrupt choices.

    • Maybe the same ethics committee that is investigating Honda could investigate Khanna when he arrives in DC.
      Of course if it’s the FBI they will never find a thing and IRS only investigate Republicans, so that’s no help.
      Looks like you all might be stuck with Khanna for 2 years.
      LOL!

  15. Time for Khanna to step down. The criminal activity is clear and he must have known about it.

    No fan of Honda, but this term would probably be his last and then we would be able to select someone better than Khanna to replace hi,

  16. It’s time for Ro’s politically biased cheerleaders at San Jose Inside to hold their preferred candidate to the same ethical standards they demand of Congressman Honda & his staff. In fact if the editorial staff at SJI had any real integrity of their own they’d withdraw their endorsement of this devious & untrustworthy con-man Ro Khanna immediately & with great fanfare. In light of these latest revelations,continuing to support a serial sleaze ball like Khanna would be as ludicrous as it is inexcusable for a publication that claims it’s intent is to factually & impartially inform the communities which it serves. Say Sayonara Ro.

    • Dear Ima,
      First thing you must understand is there are no ethical standards that politicians of the Democratic persuasion are to be held to. Only Republican are to be burned at the stake for any indiscretions real or imagined.
      Devious & Untrustworthy are the hallmarks of of the last two Democrat presidents and this years front runner Madam Hillary we might also add for sale as some of you have pointed out.

      If you want someone loyal and trustworthy that will eat out of your hand, I recommend a Golden Retriever for office,
      and the will die after twelve years so you don’t have to vote them out!

      • Your gun isn’t the only thing that’s empty,you must have a lot of trouble finding a hat that fits your pinhead. Republican politicians are subhuman,scum sucking,hypocritical parasites,whose treachery & debauchery is only exceeded by their piosity. They’re a bunch of lying right-wing obstructionist bigots who’ll wave the flag & pound the Bible,who’ll stoop to any level (race-baiting,gerrymandering,voter suppression) to cling to power & stymie progress. President Obama’s popularity is presently well over 50% & the Republican Party has been crying wolf about the Clintons for so long that hardly anyone believes them anymore. Rest assured that thanks to the train wreck your party chose to run for President,you’ll be seeing Madame President Hillary Clinton every time they play “Hail to the Chief” until at least 2020. You’re certainly entitled to your opinions (fantasies),but you’re obviously just another low information,biased,inarticulate,irrational Trump supporter who’s about as objective as you are bright. Are you so stupid that you actually believe all of the propaganda that you repeat ? Or are you just lying & distorting the truth to mislead your neighbors,in an effort to further your right-wing political agenda ? As far as burning Republicans at the stake goes I’m not only in favor of it,I’ll go so far as to speculate that it’s the best idea you’ve ever had in your entire life. I’ll see to it that you get all the credit for coming up with such a bold plan,you’re a regular idiot savant. Lets do it when they play “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sundays at NFL games to appease those who oppose racism,by demonstrating that we’re finally beginning to make some real progress ending bigotry here in America. If you’ll bring the stakes & the kerosene,I’ll bring a lighter & some marshmallows & we’ll have some good old fashioned family fun.

        • Oh Ima,
          I hadn’t realized you were Joe Stalin Wife and Moa’s sister all rolled into one!
          The left wing intolerant bigotry rolls off your typewriter so well, did you learn it while you were writing for Pol Pot
          or Dr Mengele?