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Mike Honda sues Ro Khanna, claims campaign stole donor data

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Ro Khanna
Ro Khanna

Vedant Patel, Rep. Mike Honda’s communication manger, announces the filing of lawsuits charging that the campaign manager for Ro Khanna, Honda’s Democratic opponent, illegally downloaded Honda donors’ confidential data.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Ro Khanna’s campaign manager broke into a private computer system and stole lists of the financial contributions and personal information of more than 10,000 supporters of Rep. Mike Honda, the congressman charged Thursday.

Brian Parvizshahi, Khanna’s campaign manager, resigned early Thursday evening, “at his own request,” said Hari Sevugan, a campaign spokesman. “Brian will not let Mike Honda use him to distract voters from the need for real change.”

A pair of legal actions filed in San Jose federal court alleges Khanna and Parvizshahi violated the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the federal Economic Espionage Act by taking the confidential information and using it in the campaign to oust Honda from the seat he has held since 2000.

The two men “conspired to intentionally access Mike Honda for Congress’ confidential, proprietary information” that contained “trade secret data regarding past, current and potential donors,” a statement from the Honda lawsuit read.

“We haven’t had a chance to evaluate the Honda campaign’s complaint and haven’t even been served,” Sevugan said. “The fact that Mike Honda went to the press before serving us tells you what this is really about — politics. Down in the polls six weeks before an election, it’s clear Mike Honda will do and say anything to hold on to his seat, including suing anyone who is on track to defeat him.”

The suit could serve as an extreme nuisance for the Khanna camp. Earlier this year, Chris Correa, the former scouting director of the MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals, was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison under the computer fraud law for hacking into the Houston Astros’ scouting records.

Criminal charges aren’t the immediate aim of the legal measures, which seek a preliminary injunction against the Khanna campaign calling for the immediate return of the campaign finance data and barring any use of Honda’s files.

“Right now our focus is that we want the information returned and we want the Khanna campaign to stop using it,” said Michael Beckendorf, Honda’s campaign manager. “The information was stolen and we want it back.”

The files Honda alleges have been broached contain scores of priceless information, for any politician.

Just one file contained detailed information on 9,793 people who gave to Honda between 2008 and 2014, including their names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers along with their occupation, employer, and date and amount of all donations.

Gautum Dutta, attorney for the Honda campaign, said: “This is very serious. You’re not supposed to engage in a cyberattack of your political opponent.”

Parvizshahi remains the central character throughout the suit. According to court documents, Parvizshahi was hired in May 2012 as an intern for the Arum Group, a Democratic consultant that at the time handled fundraising for Honda. Parvizshahi was required to sign a confidentiality agreement before he was given access to client information, including what a company official described as “private, highly sensitive contact and donation information about (Honda’s) donors.”

When Parvizshashi quit a month later, he kept his access to the password-protected digital Dropbox file containing Honda’s records.

Computer records show that after he was hired in January 2014 as data director for the Khanna campaign, “Defendant Parvizshasi continually accessed the Honda files,” going into them 44 times before his connection was hurriedly removed after the unauthorized incursions were discovered last May, according to court documents.

“We’ve got Brian’s digital fingerprints on those files,” Beckendorf said.

The first warning of something having gone awry came in October, when a multitude of Honda’s supporters had called him to notify him that they had received email messages from Khanna asking to chat “about the race and about my policy ideas.” They also included links to unfavorable news stories about Honda.

Khanna’s messages were polite. When one Honda supporter slammed him for running against the congressman, Khanna replied: “I respect your support of Mike Honda. I just honestly believe this district needs a new beginning.”

Honda’s team denied suggestions from the Khanna campaign that there were political reasons for waiting until September to file the suits.

“These charges are ones we don’t take lightly — they took time to assess,” Dutta said.

Those complaints were just “the tip of the iceberg,” Beckendorf said, who estimated that for every person who called the Honda campaign to complain, another 50 to 100 received the messages, but didn’t call. “We knew we definitely had an invasion of privacy we had to address,” he said. “We knew (the email addresses) had to have been obtained illegally, but for a while it was an unsolved mystery.”

Concerns grew even graver in December, when San Jose Inside published online a list of Honda’s “1,000 Cranes,” donors who gave $1,000 and purportedly got special access and treatment from the congressman and his staff.

The newspaper reported on Dec. 16, 2015, that the list arrived “in an anonymous envelope.” It included the names, nicknames, employer information and personal phone numbers of 281 people who gave at least $1,000 to Honda’s re-election campaigns in 2010 and 2012.

A document reportedly downloaded by Parvizshahi was an exact match to the one posted by San Jose Inside, Beckendorf said. “We knew within moments that the files had been accessed and who had done it,” he added.

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FTX’s Nishad Singh got $543 million loan

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More fallout from the FTX cryptocurrency platform collapse. Court documents show its affiliate Alameda Research loaned executives like Sam Bankman Fried $1 billion and more than $500 million to Indian American Nishad Singh, FTX’s top engineer. FTX’s interim CEO says never in his career has he seen such complete failure of corporate controls and a complete absence of trustworthy financial information. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was unable to come up with customer funds.

Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison after her conviction in January for defrauding investors while running the failed blood testing start up Theranos.In her trial, Holmes alleged she was in the midst of a decade-long abusive relationship with her then-boyfriend and Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The Indian American was also found guilty for his role in this fraud and will be sentenced later.

Starting next month, India will assume the G20 presidency for a year and chair more than 200 meetings, leading the way for global economic growth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his country’s leadership here will be inclusive, ambitious, and decisive.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Arvind Venkat & Tarik Khan win Pennsylvania State seats

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WASHINGTON D.C. (Diya TV) – Looking back at the midterm elections, Arvind Venkat and Tarik Khan made history as the first South Asian Americans elected to the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Advocacy group Indian American Impact played a major role on the ground, saying it trained and mobilized 200 volunteers to go door-to-door, to engage voters and provide info they needed to elect new leadership.

After 35 years, the Nancy Pelosi era is officially coming to an end. The speaker from San Francisco announced she’s bowing out of leadership, but will retain her House seat. The midterms cost Pelosi’s Democratic party the House and effectively ended her speakership.

Two former Indian American executives at Meta Platforms will launch a new non fungible token start up for creators. Kirthiga Reddy and Saurabh Doshi have raised more than $8 million for their new company called Virtualness. But they are facing headwinds as the FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse is putting pressure on the entire industry.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Meet FTX insider Nishad Singh

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SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) – The controversy around failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX continues to captivate the world. Part of the scrutiny is now on the people involved, including Indian American Nishad Singh. According to new reports, this techie was part of FTX’s inner circle, which lived together and ran the cryptocurrency empire from the Bahamas. The software engineer was also reportedly aware that FTX secretly transferred customer funds worth billions of dollars to its sister firm Alameda Research. Currently, no one is facing any criminal charges. Diya TV featured Singh more than a decade ago for running ultra marathons as a 17 year old getting ready for college. 

Former President Donald Trump has officially announced he is running for president in 2024, marking his third bid for the White House. Trump had been hinting at this announcement for months, as the embattled former president faces multiple criminal and civil litigations and as his party is grappling with a worse than expected showing in the midterm elections. 

At the G20 Summit in Bali, world leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden are coming together to condemn the rising threat of nuclear weapons as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to raise tension and anxiety around the world.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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