Tag Archives: Ro Khanna

Desis In the House!

Democracy was under siege in the last four years as the Trump administration took a wrecking ball to free and fair elections, human rights and the rule of law.

The divisive politics that polarized our country climaxed in the appalling spectacle of an enraged mob invading the Capitol to reclaim a ‘stolen election’, followed by the deaths of five people in the riot, and a group of lawmakers refusing ratify the electoral college results.

And yet, despite the chaos over the voting process that preceded the election in the middle of a pandemic, the nation flexed its collective democratic muscle in Election 2020, and set a record for the highest turnout in over a century.

Democracy prevailed. People asserted their will, and the results were historic, especially for multi-ethnic, multicultural America. High turnouts by voters of color proved decisive and gave Joe Biden the edge in this election,

More than 159 million Americans cast their vote. Among them, Asian Americans – the fastest growing ethnic group in the country according to a Pew study, who made up at least 5% of these eligible voters, with more than 1.8 registered Indian American voters nationally.

Kamala Harris, a woman of color with African American and Indian American heritage became the first ever woman elected to the office of Vice President of the United States

A record 51 women of color were elected to serve in the next 117th Congress.

People of color now represent 28% of the House, including 16 Asian Americans. Indian Americans had reason to celebrate as their ranks include Ami Bera and Ro Khanna (D) CA, Raja Krishnamoorthi (D) IL, and Pramila Jaypal (D) WA, all of whom were re-elected to the House of Representatives.

And, in a new record for the Indian American community, at least 20 Indian Americans, including 13 women, have been named to senior posts in the incoming Biden-Harris administration.

Click this LINK to see who they are!

https://youtu.be/rF3TVDOzl5Q

Undoubtedly these numbers mirror the growing ethnic diversity within the Asian American electorate. And, even though Indian Americas constitute just over 1% of the US population, their inclusion in the new administration reflects the surge of Indian Americans informing the national dialogue as they participate in civic engagement, US politics, advocacy and community activism.

Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami  told PTI, “The dedication that the Indian-American community has shown to public service over the years has been recognized in a big way at the very start of this administration! I am particularly pleased that the overwhelming majority are women. Our community has truly arrived in serving the nation.”

In 2020, on Indian Independence Day, Joe Biden had told an Indian American audience,”As President, I’ll also continue to rely on the Indian-American diaspora, that keeps our two nations together, as I have throughout my career.”

And despite the hurdles imposed by voting in an election during the COVID19 lockdowns, this new administration more than reflects that promise.

“We pulled off an election in spite of incredibly powerful forces who wanted to stop brown and black voters from participating,” noted Myrna Perez, Director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program at an Ethnic Media Services briefing on January 8. “We did it in the face of a once in a century pandemic, we did in amidst an economic crisis, and we did it amidst politicians at all levels of government purposely trying to confuse, mislead and lie to voters.”

Civil rights advocates at the briefing cautioned that the insurrection at the Capitol on January 5 signaled a growing ‘whitelash’ against voters of color and that widespread misinformation will continue to undermine the rights of voters, especially from minority communities.

The riots were not an isolated incident warned Judith A. Browne Dianis, a civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project. The insurrection was about the rise the confederacy and the rise of white supremacy, “These riots were motivated by the same anti-democratic sentiment that inspired lawmakers to challenge November’s election results based on baseless conspiracies and lies and misinformation about voter fraud perpetrated specifically in communities of color, ” she explained.

Dianis also cautioned against restrictions  on the right to vote. “In the wake of the 2020 elections, state lawmakers are already proposing additional restrictions,”  such as the proposal to eliminate ‘no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia, the proposal to stiffen identification requirements in Pennsylvania and tighten standards for signature matches.” But what Dianis is most worried about is disinformation. “We don’t know what the truth is any longer, she said. “How do we make sure that people of color are getting the truth?”

“We need to take precautions to secure right to vote,” said Gabriela D. Lemus, board chair of Mi Familia Vota (MFV).

“As we become more and more successful (as voters), there are more repressive mechanisms.” She emphasized the need to address the lack of infrastructure in many states about educating voters on their rights and accessing ballots in their own language. Lemus pointed out that the media had a big responsibility to ensure that disinformation was held in check in order for ‘democracy to thrive’.

But we also need to invest more resources in the elections, added Perez. She called on the nation to increase preparedness for the next election to ensure that democracy can withstand future threats.

“We cannot be making this up as we go along. There should be protocols!”

Perez reiterated that people cannot take for granted “that we have to fight for the idea that all of our communities deserve a place at the table.”  She urged Congress to pass legislation on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act, to secure the future of the vote.

“We have to make the case every day for a robust, participatory and inclusive democracy.”


Meera Kymal is the Contributing Editor at India Currents

Indian-Americans Make An IMPACT

This is a heady time for Indian Americans.  Our immigration story and our growing financial and political power are in the headlines every day, especially with the addition of Senator Kamala Harris to the Democratic Party ticket for President. So what can we do to capitalize on this unique moment in history?  

Many of us want to do something but are not sure what.  This is where The Indian American IMPACT Fund comes in. It’s a bold new initiative whose mission is “to help talented and patriotic Indian Americans who reflect our community’s values run, win, and lead.”  Their goal is to build a pipeline for leadership and to provide a voice for the Indian American community in public affairs. 

IMPACT will be raising $10 million to support candidates they endorse for this election cycle.

Just this week, the IMPACT Fund released their first round of endorsements for the 2020 General Election.  Twenty four candidates have been selected from the  70 Indian Americans running for office up and down the ballot across the country.  IMPACT will put their weight behind these candidates through contributions, volunteering and help with grass roots organization. 

“We are going to do all these things to help elect these 24 candidates and really build an inclusive democracy.” says Neil Makhija, the new Executive Director of the organization. “When you have Donald Trump campaigning on building walls, that is the antithesis of our values and we don’t think about partisan lines.  We value global partnerships to solve issues like climate change, we believe in facts, believe in science.”   

The IMPACT Fund goes through an arduous process to assess the candidates and analyze the competitiveness of the races and where IMPACT can make the most difference.    

What is incredible is that in 2012, there was only one Indian American member of Congress – Ami Bera of California.  But by 2016, that number increased five fold. Joining Bera in Congress were Ro Khanna from California, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Pramila Jayapal from Washington as well Kamala Harris in the Senate. IMPACT supports candidates for public office from Congress to state capitols, school boards and city councils, as well as public leaders like Ravi Sandill who became the first ever District Court Judge in Texas of South Asian descent and who is up for relection in the Texas 127th District Court. in November. The increasing numbers of candidates from the Indian American community running for local and state offices reflect our greater engagement in politics and public affairs.

One of the key endorsements this election cycle is Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an ER physician who is running for Congress in Arizona in a district that has now become competitive but was unthinkable for a Democrat to win until recently.  Makhija believes that scientists or doctors like Dr. Tipirneni will provide different perspectives that will be valuable in helping shape what Congress. “We are excited about building a new generation that is formidable in public service.”

Another pivotal IMPACT-endorsed Senate candidate is Sara Gideon, the speaker of the house in Maine, trying to oust their 4-term Senator Susan CollinsMaine is one of the key races on the 2020 Senate map that will decide which party will have the majority.   This highly contested race is considered a “toss up” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report and has become the most expensive in Maine history. 

IMPACT has also endorsed Democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris because of her dual appeal to both the Black and Indian American communities.  “I think Kamala Harris is able to tie together our American stories like no other candidate has before in public, “ says Makhija.  “Her story in terms of growing up both Black and Indian and how she values both of those experiences in distinct ways but also in similar ways. – she can genuinely be a bridge and help us build a broad coalition that is needed to unite the country and get past this era of division with Donald Trump.”

IMPACT is working to make sure that the Indian American story is told. “We are seeing an immense desire to learn about (Kamala Harris) and that is not something that will disappear.  People are going to learn and better understand our community, our issues, our contributions and that will help build this bridge that we are talking about.  When a candidate is running in Texas or Arizona – because Kamala has run and been the first, it will be just a bit easier.  Because people will be more familiar and understand what it means to be Indian American.  So, I think that is one of the biggest impacts of the moment.” 

Neil Makhija, Executive Director             Indian American Impact Fund

Makhija’s own story represents how the Indian American community is coming into its own.  “I am the first person in three generations who has had this chance to come home and build a life where I grew up.” he says.  “My father was born a year and half after partition. My family were refugees from Sindh and then went to Ullas Nigar in Mumbai. My parents left everything and came to the United States. The joy that they feel when they go back and see their friends and family and connection is something I can appreciate. And it is easy to take for granted if you are in the town you grew up in and you have that. I have not left everything behind and gone across the world like many of them had to.  It’s really special and this rootedness gives you the platform to get involved in public affairs.” 

A common thread to the immigrant story is that the first generation works hard to build a new life and does not always  engage in public life . But their commitment allows the second generation to step up and fully participate in the public and political sphere. 

The opportunity to do that is what has Neil Makhija working around the clock at IMPACT.

Other groups like LatinX, LGBTQ, African American “all have a serious presence in terms of organization and you need that if you are going to bring a community that has not traditionally or historically been in power, “ says Makhija “It does not happen automatically.”  

The IMPACT Fund will recruit, train, and then endorse and elect candidates who want to serve and fully represent  diverse communities.  “What we find is that Indian American as well as other immigrant communities are often welcomed when they play narrow roles but receive skepticism when they aspire to leadership.  That’s what we are up against and so, we as a community and organization want to come together to help our candidates get beyond that.”

The Indian American IMPACT Project is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization which helps with building awareness about the political process while the Indian American IMPACT Fund is a political action committee (PAC) that helps candidates get elected to local, state and federal offices.  The IMPACT Fund is committed to the core values of inclusion, civil rights and a belief in science, qualities they seek when vetting candidates they want to endorse.

Makhija explains that “anyone can give $20 to the presidential race and that is fine.  But there are some races where you raise $1000 from a group of people and give it to a Presidential or Senate candidate who is raising multi million dollars, or you can actually help elect a State Senator and that could be the difference between them losing and winning.  What our organization does is that it provides infrastructure to have a more sophisticated analysis and decision making process about where you would make a difference.”

The Indian American community can impact this election cycle by volunteering, contributing or even running for office. We have to come together to amplify our voices and represent our community. 

Find out more about IMPACT at the Indian American Impact Fund,

And always, VOTE.


Anjana Nagarajan-Butaney is a Bay Area resident with experience in educational non-profits, community building, networking, and content development and was Community Director for an online platform. She is interested in how to strengthen communities by building connections to politics, science & technology, gender equality and public education.

Edited by Meera Kymal, contributing editor at India Currents

Congressman Khanna Informs Local Media on What Keeps Congress Awake at Night

Congressman Ro Khanna spoke with the journalists from ethnic media on 12th November 2019. The teleconference, organized by Vandana Kumar, Publisher India Currents, came at a timely juncture when the nation and community is gearing up for the 2020 Presidential elections and it is time to take stock of what the nation has gained and lost in the last few years. Cyber security and Healthcare emerged as two issues that impact the community and are close to the heart of the Congress.

Cyber security, with routine data mining in the face of the fast changing social media landscape, was raised as a special concern. As Internet becomes a large part of our daily lives what is Congress doing in terms of legislation to address the issue of cyber crime? The Congressman addressed the press’ concerns and spoke of his request for the Internet Bill of Rights.

Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) has introduced the Internet Bill of Rights, a proposal that includes the right to know about “all collection and uses of personal data by companies,” and to be notified “in a timely manner when a security breach or unauthorized access of personal data is discovered.” He aims to strengthen people’s ability to correct or delete personal data in a company’s control, and require companies to obtain consumer consent before collecting or sharing data with third parties. In the Congressman’s words the bill would require people to give their consent making it harder for the companies to collect data, a situation better than the one in China where people have very little protection.

The Congressman also felt blatant falsity should not be allowed. There is an obligation on the part of companies like Google and Facebook to check for an obvious disregard of the truth. If copyright violation can be checked then surely they can remove false information by following the same procedure. Perhaps, he said, we need an independent depoliticized government agency that can define the rules and draw the boundary of truth.

Though there is a desire to regulate social media before the 2020 election, what really keeps the Congress awake at night is the question of healthcare. Khanna is hoping the social media corporations will hopefully voluntarily self regulate if no legislation can be passed in time for the 2020 elections. However, Congress must and has been working hard on providing affordable healthcare.

It is the Congressman’s view that “more than almost anything else, our health has a tremendous impact on our day-to-day activities, state of mind, and overall well-being. Good health is foundational to everything else we do – our ability to take care of our families, be productive at work, and pursue our passions and hobbies”.

“We need basic care and low premiums,” said the Congressman.

Congressman Khanna would like the creation of a single-payer health care system, or Medicare for All and supports legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for more reasonable drug prices. This type of legislation will allow Americans below the age of 65 to buy into Medicare. A result of this would be that community members could save money through reduced fees and premiums.

Congressman Khanna also supports legislation to allow for the importation of drugs from nations that we trust. He was an original co-sponsor of legislation to allow for the importation of Canadian drugs.

“We must increase coverage, support small businesses, expand primary care, and provide lower premiums. Medicare for All is the next step toward addressing the high costs and inequalities in the current health care system,” said Congressman Ro Khanna. The congressman feels the states should be empowered to create their own solution if the federal government is unable to establish a single-payer system. We must guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.

The telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections”, moderated by Vandana Kumar (Publisher, India Currents), gave Congressman Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district) an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. Sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, it is part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates.

Ritu Marwah is a citizen who would like to pay closer attention to the political issues that are bound to impact her life. She understands that an informed citizen is a safer citizen.

Ro Khanna, Big Tech & the 2020 Elections

Congressman Ro Khanna participated in a telebriefing on “The Role of Silicon Valley in the 2020 Elections” on Tuesday, November 12, and answered questions from diverse ethnic media reporters on topics ranging from technology’s role on the 2020 elections and privacy issues, to the gig economy.  

Vandana Kumar, Publisher, India Currents, moderated a Q&A session that gave the congressman an opportunity to share his perspectives as a key lawmaker representing the Silicon Valley. 

Ro Khanna (California’s 17th district), sits on the House Armed Services, Budget, Oversight and Reform Committees, and is the first Vice-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

He talked at length about the role of giant tech companies and the fight against fake news. Khanna argued that social media companies have a major responsibility to be vigilant and voluntarily police their platforms to prevent hate speech, viral false ads, and election interference; blatant false speech or disregard for truth is not protected by the first amendment, Khanna said.

Khanna admitted he was concerned by Mark Zuckerberg’s views on fake news, but stressed that the “Facebooks of the world” aren’t the gatekeepers of blatantly false speech; that role belongs to an independent regulatory agency. Rather than an outright ban, a thoughtful regulatory framework to establish reasonable standards that require political ads to remove falsity, would better protect first-amendment traditions, he said.

Khanna is working with Congressman Kevin McCarthy on a bill that will allow social media companies to monitor and remove “bad actors” from election interference. 

Though he hopes that these bills will be passed before Election 2020, Khanna claimed that the hostile tone of political discourse and cable news should share the blame for false news. With the upcoming elections, Congress is concerned about security on social media platforms, he said, and tech companies need to do the right thing to avoid a repeat of 2016.

The congressman commented that healthcare is another issue getting attention in Congress, which is trying to lower the cost of prescription drugs, preserve the Affordable Care Act, and lower premiums.

Conhgressman Ro Khanna

Khanna who is co-chair of Bernie Sanders‘s 2020 presidential campaign, described the Medicare for All bill he is co-sponsoring with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Washington’s 7th congressional district).The bill will give states the flexibility to use federal funding for Medicare and Medicaid when implementing the single payer system and include a caveat requiring states to get to 100% coverage in five years. A tax on corporations will pay for the bill, said Khanna, who proposes to cover any shortfall with supplemental federal matching funds.

On the role of big tech protections for privacy and consumer data, Khanna referred to his proposed Internet Bill of Rights that requires an individual’s consent before their data is collected or transferred, and the right to know how it’s used. Reforms can protect data from being manipulated against their interests and protect privacy, Khanna pointed out, but what’s really needed is well-crafted regulation that catches up with the pace of technological change.

As the Supreme Court determines the fate of DACA recipients, Khanna expressed his opposition to end DACA; he thinks Congress should act to offer protections to dreamers. He also is supportive of AB 5, California’s effort to regulate the gig economy. Gig economy workers should be treated as employees, and get the same benefits and rights, because with universal healthcare, contends Khanna, people won’t rely on their jobs for medical care.

Khanna agreed that affordable housing remains a challenge, though he acknowledged “constructive” private sector funding from Apple and Google towards affordable housing. He emphasized that low income housing needs additional federal investment and affordable building tax credits to expand.  Khanna stressed that what would make a difference are more temporary shelters and services for the homeless, and intervention programs to help with rent and mortgage payments, as exemplified by a successful pilot program in Santa Clara.

The telebriefing, sponsored by India Currents in partnership with Ethnic Media Services, was part of the ‘Conversations with Candidates’ series initiated by India Currents to expand ethnic media news access to elected officials and presidential candidates. The event  was attended by reporters from Silicon Valley Innovation Channel – DingDingTV, EPA Today, Phillipinenews, Chinese News, The American Bazaar, California Black Media and India West. 

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor to India Currents

Ro Khanna: New Campaign Finance Initiative

Written by Ro Khanna and Bruce Ackerman. This article was first published in the Sacramento Bee as an op-ed. It has been published here with the express permission of Congressman Ro Khanna, 

As the president cuts taxes for billionaires and hobnobs at Davos, Americans should be turning inward to consider the state of our democracy. There can be no denying the overwhelming power of the rich in current American politics. As political scientists have repeatedly shown, Congress is systematically unresponsive to the opinions of ordinary Americans, reacting only to the views of the richest 10 percent.

The positions of the current Congress – tax cuts to the 1 percent, repealing net neutrality, refusing a vote on DACA, and rejecting Medicare for All – have led to a crisis of confidence about whether the body is capable of representing the democratic will of our nation.

Nothing matters more than reforming Congress so it is not beholden to the donor class. That’s why we are calling for a statutory proposal to reverse this slide into plutocracy.

The Citizen Sovereignty Act grants each registered voter a special credit card account that can be spent for only one purpose: to support favored candidates in federal elections. Citizens could sign up on the internet for the right to spend fifty “democracy dollars” during every election cycle on the contest for the presidency, the Senate, and the House.

Nearly 140 million Americans went to the polls in 2016. If the same number had been able to spend democracy dollars, they would have contributed the equivalent of $7 billion in campaign financing – compared to the $6.8 billion in green dollars provided by private interests. This is a small price to pay to restore real democracy in the United States.

The statute is designed to respect all Supreme Court decisions guaranteeing candidates the right to raise private money and would be constitutional even under the Roberts Court. While the holy grail remains to overturn Citizens United and the Supreme Court’s flawed doctrine that money is speech, this initiative will allow us to reform our democracy without waiting helplessly for the court to change.

Under the democracy dollars system, even plutocrats might pause before relying on their own money or donor money. They will have to make a choice: Either they opt into the democracy dollar system, or they rely on green dollars. If they choose the latter, that will allow their opponents to raise millions of democracy dollars that the plutocrats might have obtained if they had competed for the support of their fellow citizens.

The plutocrats would lose any significant financial advantage and would also incur a huge cost of bad publicity for refusing support from ordinary Americans.

The point of the initiative is to kick off a conversation among reformers so that we don’t waste the next few years backing half-hearted initiatives.

Among reforms, the current favorite is the “matching grant” system that prevails in New York City and other places. Under this alternative, “small” contributions of up to $1,050 are matched 6-to-1 with public funds. But in New York, these “small” donations overwhelmingly come from the top ten percent earning more than $180,000 a year.

The average family, with an income of $43,000, has a hard enough time providing a decent life for themselves and their kids. If they have anything left over, it is perfectly understandable when they give it to their church or little league instead of a candidate they admire. For a single mom at the 25th percentile earning $26,000, the smallest political contribution is a luxury she can’t afford.

In contrast, once voters gain control of democracy dollars, fundraising would become a community affair – a box lunch for 50 neighbors could gross 2,500 democracy dollars. These grass-roots efforts would provoke tens of millions of dinner-table conversations: Who should get our democracy dollars? Who is really concerned about America?

In 2015, Seattle voters became the first community to endorse a democracy dollars initiative for city elections. South Dakota followed in 2016 with a referendum of its own.

Our initiative brings the debate to the national level, and aims to put the progressive coalition in a position to act decisively if Americans repudiate the Republicans’ plutocratic politics in “wave elections” in 2018 and 2020.

Ro Khanna represents Silicon Valley in the U.S. Congress and is Vice Chair of the Progressive Caucus. Bruce Ackerman is a Professor of Law and Policitical Science at Yale University. 

San Jose Flooding: Ro Khanna's Directive to Help Victims

San Jose Flooding: Ro Khanna’s Directive to Help Victims

Rep. Ro Khanna released the following statement in response to the flooding in San Jose and mandatory evacuation orders.

“I am concerned by the dislocation of so many residents by the flooding, and my heart goes out to them. We will work with the local, state and federal government to take all necessary actions in alleviating damage for anyone affected. I encourage any resident in San Jose who needs help to contact our office at 408-436-2720 so we can help to connect them with the appropriate agency.”

About the Office

Congressman Khanna represents the 17th District of California, which covers the Silicon Valley communities of Cupertino, Fremont, Newark, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale. Visit his website at khanna.house.gov. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @RepRoKhanna.

Four Indian-Americans Sworn in to U.S. House of Representatives

In an historic day Tuesday, four Indian American members of the House of Representatives and the first Indian American Senator were sworn in to the 115th Congress of the United States, not only exceeding the number of Indian Americans ever elected to Congress, but quadrupling the community’s representation in the House. Rep. Ami Bera, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Rep. Ro Khanna, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal were sworn in to the U.S. House of Representatives, marking the first time in history more than one Indian American has served in Congress simultaneously. Sen. Kamala Harris Tuesday was the first Indian American sworn in to the Senate.

“This milestone is not only a proud moment for Indian Americans, it’s a proud moment for all Americans,” said Rep. Ami Bera of California’s 7th Congressional District. “As a nation of immigrants, the United States has greatly benefited from one generation after another of Indians and Indian Americans living here. I’m proud that Indian Americans now have the chance to contribute to our nation’s democratic fabric, and as someone who served for four years as the only Indian American in Congress, I’m honored to be joined by such qualified colleagues. With the door wide open, we hope to inspire the next generation to serve the country that we love.”

“The contributions and struggles of the Indian-American community are woven into our nation’s fabric. This is a watershed moment in our community’s history, representing all that is great about America,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington’s 7th Congressional District. “As the first Indian-American woman in the House of Representatives, I’m proud to serve with such capable colleagues, and I hope that our presence in Congress inspires the next generation of leaders.”

“I’m humbled and honored to join my friends in Congress in this historic moment. We know we stand on the shoulders of the Indian Americans who came before us. They established themselves in this country, gave back to their communities, and paved the way for us to follow,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi from the 8thCongressional District of Illinois. “The story of our community is unique but also similar to that of immigrants throughout American history. I look forward to working with my colleagues to make our contributions to that legacy, knowing others will follow.”

“It’s an extraordinary time to serve in Congress and I am proud to represent the only Asian American majority district in the continental United States,” said Rep. Ro Khanna of California’s 17th Congressional District. “As a son of immigrants and grandson to a freedom fighter during India’s independence movement, the protection of civil rights — no matter a person’s gender, race, or sexual orientation — will always be side-by-side with my commitment of economic fairness for all.”

Bera, who in the 114th Congress Co-Chaired the Caucus on India and Indian Americans, was the lone Indian American member in the 113th and 114th Congress. Prior to Bera, Dalip Singh Saund and Bobby Jindal served in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1957-1963 and 2005-2008, respectively.