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 by Mike Honda
Personal details
Born (1976-09-13) September 13, 1976 (age 41)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
Political party Democratic
Education University of Chicago (BA)
Yale University (JD)
Website House website

Rohit Khanna /ˈr ˈkɑːnə/ (born September 13, 1976) is an American academic, lawyer, and politician serving as the U.S. Representative for California's 17th congressional district as a member of the Democratic Party. Khanna defeated eight-term incumbent Congressman Mike Honda in the general election held on November 8, 2016, after he ran unsuccessfully 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 November 2012.

Khanna only accepts donations from individuals and is one of only six members of Congress who does not take campaign contributions from Political Action Committees (PACs) or corporations.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Khanna was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1976.[3] His parents are Punjabi and immigrated 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.[3][4][5] Khanna's maternal grandfather, Amarnath Vidyalankar, was part of India's (led by Gandhi) independence movement working with Lala Lajpat Rai and spent years in jail in the pursuit of human rights and freedom.[6][7][8] 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.[3][9][10] He attended Yale Law School, receiving his law degree in 2001. He specializes in intellectual property law.[11]

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.[12][13][14] Khanna interned for Jack Quinn when Quinn served as the Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore.[15]

President Barack Obama appointed Khanna to a role in the United States Department of Commerce in 2009.[9] In his role as deputy assistant secretary,[16] Khanna led international trade missions[17] and worked to increase United States exports.[18] He was later appointed to the White House Business Council.[16] Khanna resigned from the Department of Commerce in August 2011 to join Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm located in Silicon Valley.[19] 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.[20][21] 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.[22][23][24]

Khanna teaches economics at Stanford University and law at the Santa Clara University School of Law,[3] and has taught American Jurisprudence at San Francisco State University.[25] 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.[16][26] Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, appointed Khanna to the California Workforce Investment Board in 2012.[27] Khanna served on the board of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte from 2006 until 2013 while being on a leave during his time in the Obama Administration.[28]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Committee assignments[edit]

Technology and manufacturing jobs across America[edit]

On Kara Swisher's Recode Decode podcast, Khanna laid out his vision for how Silicon Valley needs to give back to all Americans.[29] 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.[30]

In March 2017, Khanna traveled to Paintsville, Kentucky, also known as "Silicon Holler", along with a bi-partisan delegation from Congress to lend their 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.[31][32][33] The press has dubbed Representative Khanna the "Ambassador of Silicon Valley."[34][32]

In May of 2017, Khanna stood up for the Appalachian Regional Commission and Manufacturing Externship Partnership, a Reagan-era policy, when President Trump's proposed 2018 budget zeroed out its funding. Khanna called for quadrupling the program's budget.[35]

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.[36]

Congressman 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 noted "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. It means offering apprenticeships to help build tech capability in the heartland." He went on to write "Tech firms also need to make heavy investments into weeding out fake accounts and false news. This may require hiring thousands of people to do reviews, engaging with third-party fact checkers and implementing exceptional processing to prevent bad actors or foreign agents such as the Russians from becoming customers."[37]


Khanna has called on his colleagues to adopt a more progressive economic platform.[38][39] He is an original co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders' bill to make college affordable to all.[40] He also has proposed $1 trillion expansion of the earned income tax credit[41], financed by a financial transaction tax, to help working families across America.[42]

In the Budget Committee, Khanna pointed out that President Donald Trump was for a single payer healthcare system in 2000.[43] He now supports a bill to provide "Medicare for All" in the House.[44]

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.[45]

Founder NO PAC Caucus[edit]

Representative Khanna founded the NO PAC Caucus in Congress, and currently six members of Congress refuse all contributions from political action committees. These members do not want to fill out questionnaires and pledge positions to political action committees in exchange for contributions. Khanna also introduced with Representative Beto O'Rourke a bill to ban PACs from giving contributions to members of Congress.[1][46]

Khanna has worked across the aisle with Congressman Mike Gallagher on reform proposals.[47]

Reforming H1B abuse[edit]

Representative Khanna has co-sponsored H.R.1303, a bipartisan companion bill to the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017. H.R. 1303 is designed to prevent the exploitation of foreign workers while still recognizing the contributions immigrants make to our economy. This 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.[48]

Standing against monopolistic behavior[edit]

Representative Khanna has called for a re-orientating of antitrust policy to consider the impact on jobs, wages, small business, and innovation and called for scrutiny on the Whole Foods Amazon merger.[49][50]

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.[51] 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.[52]

Restraint In Foreign Policy[edit]

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, Islamic State and other groups to thrive.[53] Congressman Ro Khanna, along with Congressman Jim McGovern, co-sponsored the resolution on the House floor. The resolution passed by a wide bipartisan majority of 366-30.[54][55][56][57][58][59][60][61]

On September 27, 2017, Khanna along with Congressmen 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 grounds that Congress has never approved the American role in the war. Congressman Khanna in a joint statement with Congressman Pocan noted “we aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it.”[62][63][64] Khanna, Pocan, and Jones penned a New York Times Op-ed piece detailing the human cost of the continued war in Yemen, noting "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."[65]

Khanna, a supporter of a more non-interventionist foreign policy,[41] wrote an Op-Ed for The Los Angeles Times with Senator Rand Paul 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 the calls for regime change abroad have been a mistake.[66]

Khanna has been very critical of the strikes on Syria.[67]

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.[68] He received endorsements from prominent officials, including Matt Gonzalez,[68] and newspapers, including the San Mateo County Times,[69] but lost.[70]

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.[71] 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.[71] Khanna's fundraising total for the fourth quarter of 2011 exceeded that of all but two House candidates nationwide.[15] Eric Swalwell defeated Stark in 2012.[72]

2014 election[edit]

United States House of Representatives elections, 2014[73]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mike Honda (incumbent) 69,561 51.8
Democratic Ro Khanna 64,847 48.2
Total votes 134,408 100
Voter turnout  %
Democratic hold

On April 2, 2013, Khanna announced that he would challenge Mike Honda for California's 17th congressional district in the 2014 midterm elections.[74] Khanna has assembled a campaign team composed of top members of President Obama's re-election team, including Jeremy Bird, Obama's 2012 national field director, and Steve Spinner, one of Obama's top-three fundraisers.[75] Khanna has been backed by executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies,[76] and by the editorial boards of the San Jose Mercury News,[77] the San Francisco Chronicle,[78] the Oakland Tribune,[79] and the Contra Costa Times.[80] Khanna earned the endorsement of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed,[81] and has also won the endorsement from the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.[82]

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 was not responsible in connection with the incident.[83]

On November 4, 2014, incumbent congressman Mike Honda defeated Khanna 69,561 (51.8%) votes to 64,847 (48.2%). Khanna's campaign was largely 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.[84]

2016 election[edit]

United States House of Representatives elections, 2016[85]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mike Honda (incumbent) 90,919 39.0
Democratic Ro Khanna 142,262 61.0
Total votes 233,181 100
Voter turnout  %
Democratic hold
California's 17th congressional district primary election, 2016[86]
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 for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 17th congressional district.[87] Khanna 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.[88] All of these donations were subject to the $2,700 individual contributions cap. On June 7, 2016, Khanna won California's 17th Congressional District Primary receiving 52,059 (39.1%) votes.[89] Incumbent Democratic Congressman Mike Honda came in second place receiving 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%).[90] 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.[91] On May 10, 2017, Khanna officially joined the Justice Democrats.[92]

He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.[93]

Personal life[edit]

Khanna resides in Fremont, California, with his wife Ritu Khanna.[71][94] In July of 2017, they had their first child, a boy named Soren.

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.[95][96]


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