Ro Khanna

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Ro Khanna
Ro Khanna, official portrait, 115th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2017
Preceded byMike Honda
Personal details
Rohit Khanna

(1976-09-13) September 13, 1976 (age 42)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Political partyDemocratic
Ritu Ahuja (m. 2015)
RelativesAmarnath Vidyalankar (Grandfather)
EducationUniversity of Chicago (BA)
Yale University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Rohit Khanna (/ˈr ˈkɑːnə/; born September 13, 1976) is an American academic, lawyer, and politician serving as the U.S. Representative from California's 17th congressional district, since 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he defeated eight-term incumbent Democratic Representative Mike Honda in the general election on November 8, 2016, after first running for the same seat in 2014. Khanna also served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama from August 8, 2009, to August 2011.

Khanna only accepts donations from individuals and is one of only six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and ten total members of Congress, who do not take campaign contributions from Political Action Committees (PACs) or corporations.[1][2][3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Khanna was born in 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[5] His parents are Punjabi immigrants to the United States from India. His father is a chemical engineer who graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Michigan, and his mother is a former substitute school teacher.[5][6][7] Khanna's maternal grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, was part of India's independence movement, working with Lala Lajpat Rai, and spent years in jail in the pursuit of human rights and freedom.[8][9][10] In a Boston Globe op-ed, Khanna and Representative John Lewis examined how Gandhi's movement was intertwined with the civil rights movement.[11] Khanna received his B.A. degree in economics with honors from the University of Chicago in 1998, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[5][12][13] He attended Yale Law School, receiving his law degree in 2001. He specialized in intellectual property law.[14]

Early work in politics, law, and teaching[edit]

As a student at the University of Chicago, Khanna worked for William D. Burns walking precincts during Barack Obama's first campaign for the Illinois Senate in 1996.[15][16][17] Khanna interned for Jack Quinn when Quinn served as the Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore.[18]

President Obama appointed Khanna to a role in the United States Department of Commerce in 2009.[12] In his role as deputy assistant secretary,[19] Khanna led international trade missions[20] and worked to increase United States exports.[21] He was later appointed to the White House Business Council.[19] Khanna resigned from the Department of Commerce in August 2011 to join Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm located in Silicon Valley.[22] His pro bono legal activity includes work with the Mississippi Center for Justice on several contractor fraud cases on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims and co-authoring an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Mt. Holly case to allow for race discrimination suits under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.[23][24] As part of a pro bono legal team, Khanna filed an amicus brief on behalf of 13 of the country's leading social scientists in the Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. That brief included research that provided a deeper understanding of how a diverse educational environment benefits students and cited studies showing that race-conscious admissions policies used by institutions like the University of Texas result in a more diverse student body.[25][26][27]

Khanna teaches economics at Stanford University and law at the Santa Clara University School of Law,[5] and has taught American Jurisprudence at San Francisco State University.[28] He wrote a book on American competitiveness in business, Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future, which was published in 2012.[19][29] Governor Jerry Brown appointed Khanna to the California Workforce Investment Board in 2012.[30] Khanna served on the board of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte from 2006 until 2013 while on leave from the Obama Administration.[31]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]


Internet Bill of Rights[edit]

In April 2018, Nancy Pelosi tapped Khanna to draft the Internet Bill of Rights in wake of Cambridge Analytica's breach and Mark Zuckerberg's testimony to Congress.[33][34] In October 2018, Khanna released a set of principles for an Internet Bill of Rights, including the right of US citizens to have full knowledge of and control over their personal online data, the right to be notified and consent when an entity seeks to collect or sell one's personal data, and the guarantee of Net Neutrality.[35] Khanna hopes these principles will spark legislation to protect online privacy.[36]

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has endorsed Khanna's set of principles for the Internet Bill of Rights, saying, "This bill of rights provides a set of principles that are about giving users more control of their online lives while creating a healthier internet economy.”[37]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the efforts to establish an Internet Bill of Rights in her keynote speech at Oxford University's Mansfield College, saying, "it is past time to demand that all nations and corporations respect the right of individuals to control their own data... There is important work now being done by technologists like Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Ro Khanna, the US Congressman representing Silicon Valley. They are trying to develop guidelines for how this could work."[38]

Technology and manufacturing jobs[edit]

Khanna's Valor Act passed both the House and the Senate and was signed by President Trump on November 21, 2017. The bill will make it easier for companies to offer veterans apprenticeships.[39][40]

On Kara Swisher's Recode Decode podcast, Khanna laid out his vision for how Silicon Valley needs to give back to all Americans.[41] Khanna has also been a longtime supporter of bringing advanced manufacturing jobs across America and has written a book on the topic, Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing Is Still Key To America's Future.[42]

In March 2017, Khanna traveled to Paintsville, Kentucky, also known as "Silicon Holler", along with a bipartisan delegation from Congress, to lend support to TechHire Eastern Kentucky, a program that trains Kentuckians in fields like computer technology and coding. Khanna expressed support for a broad technology apprenticeship program, which could help areas of the United States like Appalachia by giving blue collar Americans the skills they need to launch future careers in the technology sector.[43][44][45] The press has dubbed Khanna the "Ambassador of Silicon Valley."[46][44]

In May 2017, Khanna stood up for the Appalachian Regional Commission and Manufacturing Externship Partnership, a Reagan-era policy, when Trump's proposed 2018 budget zeroed out its funding. Khanna called for quadrupling the program's budget.[47]

Khanna passed his first piece of legislation, as the lead Democrat, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to enable veterans to use GI funding for tech training programs.[48]

Khanna called on Silicon Valley executives and technology companies to do more all across the country to create tech jobs and diversify their recruiting efforts by making sure to recruit the next generation of tech workers from not just Ivy League institutions but also from state schools and historically black colleges and universities. In a Washington Post op-ed he authored, Khanna wrote, "Tech companies must offer an aspirational vision of how all Americans, regardless of geography, can benefit from a tech-driven economy. This means making investments not just in California, Massachusetts, and New York, but also in start-ups and entrepreneurs in cities and rural communities across the nation."[49]

In February 2018, Khanna and Representative Tim Ryan led a tour of venture capitalists encouraging them to invest in middle America.[50][51][52]

Khanna has been described as an "unconventional ambassador" for the Democratic Party in bringing tech and innovation across America.[53]


Khanna has called on his colleagues to adopt a more progressive economic platform.[54][55] He is an original co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders's bill to make college affordable to all.[56] He also has proposed $1 trillion expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC),[57][58] financed by a financial transaction tax, to help working families across America.[59]

In the Budget Committee, Khanna pointed out that Trump was for a single payer healthcare system in 2000.[60] He now supports a bill to provide "Medicare for All" in the House.[61]

Fred Hiatt, the editor of the Editorial Page of the Washington Post, has suggested that Khanna is a thoughtful and new economic voice for the Democratic Party.[62]

Khanna has co-sponsored the Reward Work Act of 2018, to reform US labor law and corporate law by guaranteeing the right of employees in listed companies to elect one-third of the board of directors.

NO PAC Caucus[edit]

Khanna co-founded the NO PAC Caucus[63] in Congress with two other members: Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Three other members of Congress now refuse all contributions from political action committees: Phil Roe (R-TN), Francis Rooney (R-FL), and John Sarbanes (D-MD).[4] These members do not want to fill out questionnaires and pledge positions to political action committees in exchange for contributions. Khanna and O'Rourke also introduced a bill to ban PACs from giving contributions to members of Congress.[2][64]

Khanna has worked with constitutional scholar Bruce Ackerman and Senator Russ Feingold to propose a plan for "Democracy Dollars". Under the proposal, every American citizen would get $50 to spend on federal elections.[65][66] Khanna has also worked across the aisle with Representative Mike Gallagher on reform proposals.[67]

Reforming H1B abuse[edit]

Khanna co-sponsored H.R.1303, a bipartisan companion bill to the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 designed to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers while still recognizing the contributions immigrants make to our economy. The bill would overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programs to protect American workers and crack down on the outsourcing of American jobs abroad.[68]

Monopolistic behavior[edit]

Khanna founded and co-chairs the Antitrust Caucus in the United States House of Representatives.[69] He has called for a reorientation of antitrust policy to consider the impact on jobs, wages, small business, and innovation, and called for scrutiny on the Whole Foods/Amazon merger.[70][71]

In 2018, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, Khanna proposed the BEZOS Act, which would tax firms for every dollar that employees earn in government health-care benefits or food stamps.[72] The law would also make it illegal for any large company to investigate whether or not a potential employee receives federal assistance.[73] Khanna's rationale for the legislation was that it would force corporations to increase salaries for workers or pay for the welfare programs their employees rely on.[72] Economists at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published an analysis of the bill finding that it would hurt low-wage workers by giving corporations incentives not to hire workers that rely on federal assistance programs.[74][75] Khanna challenged Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos directly, saying that if Bezos "announced that [he] would pay everyone at least a $15 minimum wage and reliable hours, [he] could set the standard.”[76] In response to Sanders's and Khanna's legislation and criticism, on October 2, 2018, Bezos announced that Amazon would raise wages of all employees to $15 an hour, effective November 2018.[77][78][79]

Khanna wrote a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Defense requesting that he look into TransDigm Group, an aviation-parts manufacturer, and supplier of companies like Boeing.[80] In his letter, Khanna said TransDigm may be bypassing rules that protect U.S. taxpayers since the manufacturer conducts business with the Pentagon. He said he wants to make sure the TransDigm Group is not adding unnecessary costs to the U.S. taxpayer and is not contributing to the $54 billion increase in defense spending proposed by the Trump administration.[81]

In November 2018, Khanna and Senator Bernie Sanders introduced the Stop WALMART Act, intended to ban large companies from buying back their own stock unless the company has a minimum hourly wage of $15 for all employees, allows employees to earn up to 7 days of paid sick leave, and pays the company's CEO or highest-paid employee no more than 150 times the median pay for employees.[82]


In 2018, Khanna signed onto Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's "Green New Deal" proposal, which seeks to form a climate change plan with a goal of a 100 percent renewable-energy economy.[83] Khanna promoted the proposal as "compelling because it is bold in dealing with climate change and it would also create jobs, and it helps link pro-environmental policies with job creation in rural America and places left behind."[84]

Foreign policy[edit]

On January 18, 2018, Khanna organized a group of 33 members of the US House of Representatives to sign a letter urging Trump to re-establish military to military communications with North Korea. Khanna also called for two other steps that should be taken to alleviate tension with the DPRK. First he reintroduced a bill explicitly stating that the President of the United States should not be allowed to launch a nuclear strike without congressional approval, and Khanna also called upon Trump to send a bipartisan team to negotiate directly with the North Koreans.[85]

On November 13, 2017, the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning civilian deaths, starvation and the spread of disease in Yemen, admitting that much of the responsibility for that humanitarian crisis rests with the U.S. because of its support for a Saudi-led military intervention, and noting that the war has allowed al Qaeda, ISIL, and other groups to thrive.[86] Khanna, along with Representative Jim McGovern, co-sponsored the resolution on the House floor. The resolution passed with a bipartisan majority of 366-30.[87][88][89][90][91][92][93][94]

On September 27, 2017, Khanna along with Representatives Thomas Massie, Mark Pocan, and Walter B. Jones Jr., submitted a bipartisan bill on the floor of the House that would halt U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen on the grounds that Congress has never approved the American role in the war. In a joint statement with Pocan, Khanna said, "we aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it."[95][96][97] Khanna, Pocan, and Jones penned an op-ed for The New York Times detailing the human cost of the continued war in Yemen, saying, "We believe that the American people, if presented with the facts of this conflict, will oppose the use of their tax dollars to bomb and starve civilians in order to further the Saudi monarchy's regional goals."[98]

In November 2018, after American and Saudi officials announced that the Trump administration had halted its inflight refueling support for the Saudi-led coalition aircraft engaged in Yemen, Khanna called the decision "a major victory" while asserting the need for Congress to pass a resolution ensuring all American involvement was ended.[99]

Khanna, a supporter of a more non-interventionist foreign policy,[57] wrote an op-ed for The Los Angeles Times with Senator Rand Paul on June 1, 2017, making the case against military interventions when our security is not at risk. They argued that the nation is weary of perpetual war since 2001, and that calls for regime change abroad have been a mistake.[100] Khanna has been critical of the strikes on Syria.[101]

Combating international anti-Semitism[edit]

On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, led by Khanna, released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland.[102][103] The condemnation came in an open bipartisan letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.[104] The letter read in part, "We urge you to join us and human rights organizations in standing against anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and all forms of intolerance by calling for the Polish and Ukrainian governments to unequivocally reject Holocaust distortion and the honoring of Nazi collaborators and fully prosecute anti-Semitic crimes. We also ask that you detail what steps are being taken by the United States (U.S.) government to monitor instances of Holocaust distortion and ensure that the U.S. is not supporting or funding groups and individuals that promote or justify anti-Semitism. We believe these steps must include a firm request that these offensive laws be repealed."[105] California's State Assembly passed a separate resolution calling upon Congress to pressure Polish lawmakers to change this new Holocaust speech law.[106][107] Andrzej Pawluszek, an adviser to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, called the claims in Congress's letter "irresponsible and shocking."[108] The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine (Vaad of Ukraine) also rebuked the letter, calling it "anti-Ukrainian defamation" like that used by Russian propaganda during the war in Ukraine.[109][110]

2016 elections[edit]

Khanna was one of the few Representatives to endorse Bernie Sanders for President of the United States.[111]

Electoral history in the U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

2004 and 2012 elections[edit]

Khanna ran one of the nation's first anti-Iraq war campaigns for the United States House of Representatives in the 2004 elections, unsuccessfully challenging Tom Lantos in the Democratic primary in California's 12th congressional district.[112] He received endorsements from prominent officials, including Matt Gonzalez,[112] and newspapers, including the San Mateo County Times,[113] but lost.[114]

Khanna intended to run for the House in California's 15th congressional district in the 2012 election, hoping to succeed Democrat Pete Stark after Stark's eventual retirement, though stating he would not challenge Stark directly.[115] He raised $1.2 million, receiving support from Governor Brown, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, and businessmen Vinod Khosla and John W. Thompson.[115] Khanna's fundraising total for the fourth quarter of 2011 exceeded that of all but two House candidates nationwide.[18] Eric Swalwell defeated Stark in 2012.[116]

2014 election[edit]

United States House of Representatives elections, 2014[117]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mike Honda (incumbent) 69,561 51.8
Democratic Ro Khanna 64,847 48.2
Total votes 134,408 100
Democratic hold

On April 2, 2013, Khanna announced that he would challenge Mike Honda in California's 17th congressional district in the 2014 midterm elections.[118] Khanna assembled a campaign team composed of top members of President Obama's reelection team, including Jeremy Bird, Obama's 2012 national field director, and Steve Spinner, one of Obama's top three fundraisers.[119] Khanna was backed by executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies,[120] and by the editorial boards of the San Jose Mercury News,[121] the San Francisco Chronicle,[122] the Oakland Tribune,[123] and the Contra Costa Times.[124] Khanna earned the endorsement of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed,[125] and also won the endorsement of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.[126]

A lawsuit was filed before the Sacramento County Superior Court alleging that Khanna had recruited candidates with similar names to enter the race as Republicans to split the Republican vote three ways. On March 28, 2014, the Court disqualified one of the candidates and ruled that Khanna had no connection with the incident.[127]

On November 4, 2014, incumbent congressman Honda defeated Khanna 69,561 (51.8%) votes to 64,847 (48.2%). Khanna's campaign was funded by many of the technology industry's biggest names, including Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer, Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, Napster founder Sean Parker, investor Marc Andreessen, and venture capitalist Steve Westly.[128]

2016 election[edit]

United States House of Representatives elections, 2016[129]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mike Honda (incumbent) 90,919 39.0
Democratic Ro Khanna 142,262 61.0
Total votes 233,181 100
Democratic hold
California's 17th congressional district primary election, 2016[130]
Primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Ro Khanna 52,059 39.1
Democratic Mike Honda (incumbent) 49,823 37.4
Republican Peter Kuo 12,224 9.2
Republican Ron Cohen 10,448 7.8
Democratic Pierluigi C. Oliverio 5,533 4.2
Libertarian Kennita Watson 3,125 2.3
Total votes 133,212 100

In June 2015, Khanna announced his intention to run again for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 17th congressional district.[131] He took no donations from PACs or corporations for his 2016 campaign. Khanna raised $480,500 from individuals associated with the securities and investment industry and $170,752 from individuals associated with the electronics manufacturing industry.[132] All these donations were subject to the $2,700 individual contributions cap. On June 7, 2016, Khanna won the primary with 52,059 (39.1%) votes.[133] Honda came in second with 49,823 (37.4%) votes. The two Democrats advanced to the general election on November 8, 2016. Khanna became the Representative-elect on November 8 after defeating Honda, 84,392 (60%) to 56,787 (40%).[134] According to the East Bay Times, Khanna won using a campaign platform focused on "moving the Democratic Party to a more progressive stance." He held his first town hall as a congressman on February 22, 2017, at Ohlone College.[135]

On May 10, 2017, Khanna officially joined the Justice Democrats.[136] He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus[137] and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.[138]

2018 election[edit]

Khanna won re-election against Republican Ron Cohen in the 2018 general election, by a margin of 72.5 percent to 27.5 percent.[139]

Personal life[edit]

Khanna resides in Fremont, California, with his wife, Ritu, and their two children.[140] Ritu Khanna's father is the chairman of Mura Holdings, an investment firm, and is the chief executive of Transmaxx, an automotive transmission parts supplier, both in Solon, Ohio.[115][141]

As of 2016, Khanna was a Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Smart Utility Systems, an energy efficiency company with an office in Santa Clara. Smart Utility Systems produces software for water conservation and for reducing electricity consumption.[142][143]


  • Khanna, Ro (2012). Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future. McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 9780071802000.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Mike Honda
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th congressional district

Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Johnson
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Ruben Kihuen