Silicon Valley congressmember’s visibility attracts donors
Silicon Valley Congressmember Ro Khanna has raised more money in the last six months than over the last two years. Associated Press file photo by Reed Saxton.

    Silicon Valley Congressmember Ro Khanna has been making headlines this year—and his campaign finances indicate he’s seeing a huge return on making himself more visible.

    Khanna said his growing contributions can be attributed to his greater visibility on high-profile issues including a number of Supreme court decisions and the failure of Silicon Valley Bank,  as well as taking on more responsibilities in Congress.

    “(The increase) makes me able to help a lot more people in California,” Khanna told San José Spotlight. “My main focus remains my constituency… I think that our district wants a member of Congress to have that kind of impact and visibility (on the national stage).”

    Khanna represents California’s 17th congressional district, which includes northern San Jose, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and parts of Fremont.

    Khanna has significantly outpaced his prior fundraising efforts. In the first six months of 2023 he raised more than $3.8 million, compared to his prior two-year campaign cycle where he raised $5.9 million. He currently has more than $8.2 million available.

    The Silicon Valley congressman ruled out running for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat in early March, after contemplating the decision for months. Instead, Khanna took on the role of campaign co-chair for longtime East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who is one of three Democratic candidates running for the seat.

    Khanna said his focus is on being a leader for Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, especially when it comes to fundraising. He said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been a fundraising role model across California and the country.

    “It’s important for someone in the Bay Area to really be a strong fundraiser for the party, and I can see myself in the Bay Area, stepping into that role,” Khanna said.

    While growing his war chest to help other Democrats, Khanna has taken on a greater leadership in Congress. He is on the House Armed Services Committee and serves as the ranking member of the subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies and Information Systems. He is also the co-chair of the India and Indian Americans caucus and on the Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. He previously served as chair on the environmental subcommittee for the Oversight and Accountability Committee.

    Khanna said the largest share of his contributions have come from constituents in the Bay Area. While Khanna has received individual contributions from CEOs and venture capitalists, including a $5,000 contribution from serial entrepreneur and Xapo Bank founder Wences Casares, Khanna has long been against taking corporate money. Khanna started a caucus in 2017 dubbed the NO PAC caucus, comprised of members who do not accept political action campaign money and push for bills that will ban PAC money.

    “I’m honored that people that I represent have that kind of confidence in me, and that it comes from such a diverse group of people from the students, to teachers, to workers, to progressives, to venture capitalists, CEOs and entrepreneurs,” Khanna told San José Spotlight.

    Recently, Khanna renewed his efforts to pass a bill he authored to place term limits on Supreme Court justices. This was after the court’s decisions in June to cancel President Joe Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan and ruling in favor of allowing a web-design company to deny service to same-sex couples.

    Earlier this year, Khanna and other lawmakers pressured the Federal Reserve Bank to protect all depositors at Silicon Valley Bank and New York-based Signature Bank by allowing customers to withdraw all their funds in excess of the $250,000 insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

    Khanna also made headlines and received backlash in June from the South Asian community for his push to invite Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi to speak in front of Congress. Criticism arose out of concern surrounding Modi’s history with human rights.

    Larry Gerston, a political science professor emeritus at San Jose State University, said Khanna’s fundraising haul could be a result of his unique ability to position himself in the middle of the road in the Democratic Party in Congress.

    “He’s managed to place himself at the connection between progressives and mainstream Democrats,” Gersten told San José Spotlight. “And not too many people can do that and he has.”

    Contact Julia Forrest at [email protected] or follow @juliaforrest35 on Twitter.

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