Rohit Khanna (known as Ro Khanna, / /; 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.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from California's 17th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||Mike Honda|
September 13, 1976
Ritu Ahuja (m. 2015)
|Relatives||Amarnath Vidyalankar (Grandfather)|
|Education||University of Chicago (BA)|
Yale Law School (JD)
Khanna identifies as a progressive capitalist. He accepts campaign donations only from individuals and is one of only six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and ten members of Congress, who do not take campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs) or corporations.
Early life and education
Khanna was born in 1976 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents are Punjabi Indian immigrants who came to the United States. 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. 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. In a Boston Globe op-ed, Khanna and Representative John Lewis examined how Gandhi's movement was intertwined with the civil rights movement. Khanna graduated from Council Rock High School, a public school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1994. He received a B.A. in economics with honors from the University of Chicago in 1998, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 2001. Khanna specialized in intellectual property law.
Early work in politics, law, and teaching
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. Khanna interned for Jack Quinn when Quinn served as the Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore. As a sophomore, he interned at former president Jimmy Carter's Carter Center. President Carter later endorsed Khanna when he ran for Congress. Khanna served as a law clerk for Judge Morris Arnold on the Eighth Circuit from 2001–2002.
President Obama appointed Khanna to a role in the United States Department of Commerce in 2009. In his role as deputy assistant secretary, Khanna led international trade missions and worked to increase United States exports. He was later appointed to the White House Business Council. Khanna resigned from the Department of Commerce in August 2011 to join Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, a law firm located in Silicon Valley. 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 U.S. Supreme Court in the Mt. Holly case to allow for race discrimination suits under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. 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 (known as affirmative action) used by institutions like the University of Texas result in a more diverse student body.
Khanna was a visiting lecturer of economics at Stanford University (2012–2016) and also taught law at the Santa Clara University School of Law, and has taught American Jurisprudence at San Francisco State University. 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. Governor Jerry Brown appointed Khanna to the California Workforce Investment Board in 2012. Khanna served on the board of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte from 2006 until 2013 while on leave from the Obama Administration.
U.S. House of Representatives
Internet Bill of Rights
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. 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. He hopes these principles will spark legislation to protect online privacy.
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.”
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."
Technology and manufacturing jobs
Khanna's second bill, the IDEA Act, was signed into law by President Trump in the Oval Office on December 20, 2018. The bill will require all federal agencies to modernize their websites to bring them up to the standard of the private sector.
In a New York Times op-ed, Khanna laid out his vision for bringing meaningful tech jobs to rural and small-town America. He called for additional funds to existing community colleges and land-grant universities to create tech institutes, endorsed an $80 billion investment in high-speed fiber internet throughout the country, and called for federal incentives for government hiring of rural-based software development companies. Khanna also led a delegation of Silicon Valley executives to Jefferson, Iowa, where they partnered with local community colleges and Pillar Technology to create software designer jobs paying $65,000 a year.
Khanna has argued that Silicon Valley should share its economic success with the rest of the US. He 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.
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. He 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. The press has dubbed Khanna the "Ambassador of Silicon Valley."
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.
Khanna passed his first legislative initiative as the lead Democrat with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to enable veterans to use GI funding for tech training programs.
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, 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."
Khanna has called on his colleagues to adopt a more progressive economic platform. He is an original co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders's bill to make college affordable to all. He also has proposed $1 trillion expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC), financed by a financial transaction tax, to help working families across America.
In the Budget Committee, Khanna pointed out that Trump was for a single-payer healthcare system in 2000. He now supports a bill to provide "Medicare for All" in the House.
NO PAC Caucus
In 2017 Khanna co-founded the NO PAC Caucus 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). 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.
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. Khanna has also worked across the aisle with Representative Mike Gallagher on reform proposals.
Reforming H1B abuse
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.
Khanna founded and co-chairs the Antitrust Caucus in the United States House of Representatives. 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.
In 2018, along with Senator Bernie Sanders, Khanna proposed the Stop BEZOS Act, which would tax firms for every dollar that employees earn in government health-care benefits or food stamps. The law would also make it illegal for any large company to investigate whether or not a potential employee receives federal assistance. 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. 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. 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.” 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.
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. 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. Transdigm agreed to refund $16.1 million to the Defense Department.
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.
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. He 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."
In March 2019 Khanna was one of 14 members of the House to cosponsor the PFAS Detection Act, legislation intended to provide $45 million to the U.S. Geological Survey for the purpose of developing advanced technologies that can detect PFAS and afterward conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS in the environment.
In a December 2019 New York Times op-ed, Khanna and former Secretary of State John Kerry laid out a plan for how America should win the green energy race, analogizing it to the space race. Khanna and Kerry called for expanding the electric vehicle tax credit to make it fully refundable at the time of purchase. This would mean that a person would receive money back immediately when buying an electric vehicle rather than waiting a year for a tax refund. They also called for an exponential increase in the Advanced Research Projects Agency's budget and for doubling the budgets for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Science, which they say would support renewable energy research to foster the sort of innovation necessary to meet the scale and urgency of the climate challenge. Kerry and Khanna also called for the creation of an infrastructure bank to finance a high-speed rail system to relieve congestion, reduce pollution, increase energy efficiency, and provide alternatives to regional air travel. Finally, Khanna and Kerry call for the US to match China’s annual investment in public-private partnerships, noting that China spent $126 billion on renewable energy investments in 2016 while the US spent just over $40 billion.
On November 20, 2018, Khanna and Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled a bill intended to abolish monopolies on pharmaceuticals, regardless of any patents, and authorize companies to make cheaper generic versions of a drug if its price is higher than the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan. Sanders said in a statement that the United States was the only country in the world that allowed "pharmaceutical companies to charge any price they want for any reason they want" and that the "greed of the prescription drug industry is literally killing Americans".
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. Khanna, along with Representative Jim McGovern, co-sponsored the resolution on the House floor. The resolution passed with a bipartisan majority of 366-30.
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." 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."
In December 2017, Khanna criticized President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying, "The United States and Israel share similar values of peace, democracy, and entrepreneurship. We should always look for ways to strengthen the relationship and address Israel’s legitimate security concerns. The President’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, however, is misguided and does not advance peace."
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. He also called for two other steps that should be taken to alleviate tension with the DPRK. 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 also called upon Trump to send a bipartisan team to negotiate directly with the North Koreans.
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. In February 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced a bill ending American support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen. Khanna noted that more than "14 million Yemenis—half the country—are on the brink of famine, and at least 85,000 children have already died from hunger and disease as a result of the war" and called for Congress to "end American complicity in the atrocities in Yemen." On February 13, after the House voted to withdraw support for the Saudis in Yemen, Khanna called the day "historic" and said he was "encouraged by the direction people are pushing our party to take on foreign policy, promoting restraint and human rights and with the sense they want Congress to play a much larger role."
A supporter of a more non-interventionist foreign policy, Khanna 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. Khanna has been critical of the strikes on Syria.
On December 22, 2018, Khanna laid out the progressive case for withdrawal of military forces from Syria and Afghanistan, noting that Congress never authorized the involvement of U.S. troops in the Syrian civil war.
In 2019 Khanna was one of eight lawmakers to sign a pledge stating their intent "to fight to reclaim Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of U.S. foreign policy and independently debate whether to authorize each new use of military force" and to bring "the Forever War to a responsible and expedient conclusion" after 17 years of ongoing US military conflict.
In February 2019 Khanna introduced a resolution to end the Korean War while leaving American troops in Korea that urged the Trump administration to give "a clear roadmap for achieving a permanent peace regime and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." In a statement, Khanna said diplomacy between North and South Korea had "created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to formally end this war" and advocated that Trump "work hand in hand with our ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to bring the war to a close and advance toward the denuclearization of the peninsula."
In 2019 Khanna and Senator Rand Paul led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in signing a letter to Trump asserting that it is "long past time to rein in the use of force that goes beyond congressional authorization" and they hoped this would "serve as a model for ending hostilities in the future—in particular, as you and your administration seek a political solution to our involvement in Afghanistan.” In a statement, Khanna said, "The president cannot pursue a foreign policy agenda without the advice and consent, let alone the support, of the Congress" and thanked Paul for helping him "in bringing an end to these wars", citing the Constitution as not being partisan.
Khanna has been critical of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right politician criticized for misogynistic, homophobic and anti-immigrant views who has been embraced by the Trump administration as an ally and partner. In March 2019 Khanna and 29 other Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that read in part, "Since the election of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro as president, we have been particularly alarmed by the threat Bolsonaro’s agenda poses to the LGBTQ+ community and other minority communities, women, labor activists, and political dissidents in Brazil. We are deeply concerned that, by targeting hard-won political and social rights, Bolsonaro is endangering Brazil’s long-term democratic future". Khanna also asked the Trump administration to investigate the case that imprisoned former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges, following The Intercept’s exposé that showed Judge Sérgio Moro plotted with prosecutors to convict Lula and prevent the Workers’ Party from returning to power.
Combating international anti-Semitism
On April 25, 2018, 57 members of the House of Representatives, led by Khanna, released a condemnation of Holocaust distortion in Ukraine and Poland. They criticized Poland’s new Holocaust law and Ukraine’s 2015 memory laws glorifying Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its leaders, such as Roman Shukhevych. The condemnation came in an open bipartisan letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. 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." California's State Assembly passed a separate resolution calling upon Congress to pressure Polish lawmakers to change this new Holocaust speech law. Andrzej Pawluszek, an adviser to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, called the claims in Congress's letter "irresponsible and shocking." 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.
Combating Hindu nationalism
Varghese K. George of The Hindu called Khanna "an unequivocal and strong supporter of a pluralist America, and India-U.S. ties," who "for the same reason rejects Hindutva and its exclusive nationalism." In 2019, Khanna said, "it is the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhist and Christians", a statement that was criticized in a letter published by the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and signed by what was described as "a record number of 230 Indian-American organisations in the US", who also objected to Khanna's membership in the Congressional Caucus on Pakistan.
Electoral history in the U.S. House of Representatives
2004 and 2012 elections
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. He received endorsements from prominent officials, including Matt Gonzalez, and newspapers, including the San Mateo County Times, but lost.
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. 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. Khanna's fundraising total for the fourth quarter of 2011 exceeded that of all but two House candidates nationwide. Eric Swalwell defeated Stark in 2012.
|Democratic||Mike Honda (incumbent)||69,561||51.8|
On April 2, 2013, Khanna announced that he would challenge Mike Honda in California's 17th congressional district in the 2014 midterm elections. He 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. Khanna was backed by executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and other tech companies, and by the editorial boards of the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, and the Contra Costa Times. He earned the endorsement of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and also won the endorsement of the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
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.
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.
|Democratic||Mike Honda (incumbent)||90,919||39.0|
|Democratic||Mike Honda (incumbent)||49,823||37.4|
|Democratic||Pierluigi C. Oliverio||5,533||4.2|
In June 2015 Khanna announced his intention to run again for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's 17th congressional district. 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. 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. 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, 61% to 39%. According to the East Bay Times, Khanna won with 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.
Khanna won reelection against Republican Ron Cohen in the 2018 general election, by a margin of 72.5% to 27.5%.
|Democratic||Ro Khanna (incumbent)||72676||62.0|
|Democratic||Ro Khanna (incumbent)||159105||75.3|
Khanna resides in Fremont, California, with his wife, Ritu, and their two children Zara and Soren. 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.
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.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ro Khanna|
- Congressman Ro Khanna official U.S. House website
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- Profile at Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
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|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 17th congressional district
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