It’s a common trope to suggest that progressive Democrats and organized labor share the same ideological tent. But one California Congressman is taking that metaphor to its logical conclusion by actually using the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)’s San Jose headquarters as the nominal base of operations for his campaign.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Congressman Mike Honda (D-Calif.) – whose home address is not located in the 17th Congressional District he’s represented for seven terms – has rented office space inside the SEIU Local 521 headquarters in San Jose.
It’s the only published address affiliated with the Honda campaign that lies within the 17th District. His operational headquarters, a field office elsewhere in town, is outside the District, as is the address advertised on the official “Mike Honda for Congress” campaign website.
The Chronicle determined, via a simple Google map search, that the Honda camp provided the newspaper an address that was in his district after the newspaper ran an April 15 story on his out-of-district headquarters and residence.
“It’s perfectly legal,” reported the Chronicle, “but as fellow Democrat and former Obama trade representative Ro Khanna tries to wrest the seat away, there’s the potential for it to become political ammunition.”
Three days later came the updated story pointing out Honda’s dubious “official” campaign digs. “Asked to explain,” wrote the Chronicle, “Vivek Kembaiyan, the campaign spokesman, said, ‘our campaign rents office space from SEIU 521.’”
Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law and governance at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said that the arrangement raises concerns.
Regarding the appropriateness, “my main question is: is (SEIU) basically giving him a donation by letting him use the office for less than what a member of the public would pay?” she said.
But the decision also makes a political statement, she added. “It’s so clear he is aligning himself with the unions..its very visual,” she said. “I mean, they’re roommates.”
It’s not clear whether the SEIU is providing Honda with an in-kind monetary equivalency donation with the lease this election cycle. His campaign is reportedly leasing their office space for $3,140 for the first quarter of the Federal Election Commission’s mandatory reporting period. But, in 2013, the Honda campaign appears to have leased the same office space for $3,900 – for the entire year.