Rep. Mike Honda's campaign is touting a video of Democratic challenger Ro Khanna singing Honda's praises at a March 2012 party event.

"Congressman Honda, of course, is an outstanding representative for our area," Khanna says in the video, which you can see online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZssK-WDpn8U. "It's a privilege to have him from this area."

Khanna -- who amassed a huge campaign bankroll in late 2011 when people assumed he would be running to succeed Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District -- formally announced his candidacy challenging Honda in April 2013, although by then it had been the Bay Area's worst-kept political secret for several months.

Honda's 17th Congressional District encompasses the heart of Silicon Valley, including the cities of Cupertino, Fremont, Milpitas, Newark, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and a third of San Jose. So how did Khanna's folks explain his apparent change of heart toward the incumbent?

"His campaign touts that 'Mike hasn't changed.' That's exactly the problem, and it's clear with this kind of silly attack," Khanna spokesman Tyler Law said after the video was released. "What the people of the 17th District don't need is more stale, tired political games. They need, and deserve, a real debate about ideas for the future. That's a debate Ro is ready to have. We hope Congressman Honda can 'change' enough to allow for that."

Starbucks denies wages were issue in pullout

Following reports last week that Starbucks had abandoned a potential new San Jose coffee shop in a kiosk at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, the coffee giant responded Wednesday by denying it was bailing over city-mandated wages for its baristas.

"We were interested in pursuing the location, but we actually never heard back from the city," spokeswoman Laurel Harper said. "It has nothing to do with the city's living-wage policy."

San Jose city officials said they had never heard Starbucks' lament before and were in touch with the company throughout the process.

The brief letter a Starbucks representative sent the city last week to withdraw its application said only: "Due to our development timelines, we are focusing our attention on other opportunities."

In San Jose, some public contracts like the one leasing retail space at the city-owned convention center are subject to a city law requiring workers to be paid at least $15.78 an hour, instead of the standard minimum wage of $10.15.

A majority of City Council members had requested an exemption, claiming the coffee shop told them they couldn't make the shop pencil out financially under the higher wages. Plus, typically only companies that provide a public service, such as trash collection, pay the higher wage -- all 32 restaurants and other shops that lease property with the city do not have to pay the higher wages.

But union interests had seized on the issue and said a corporate giant could more than afford to pay its workers higher wages.

Before the vote on the issue Tuesday, the City Council received news that Starbucks had pulled out of plans for the convention center shop. At the meeting, the council voted to allow shops that don't provide a public service to be exempt from the higher living wage requirements.

But the union barbs stung enough that Starbucks took the unusual step of posting a statement on its website "because it is not reflective of the way we run our business and take care of our" employees.

Candidate Donnelly missed voting in a few elections

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly leads a legislative committee on elections, and he expects you to vote for him in June's primary. But voting records show he failed to cast ballots in about half of the elections held since 1995. He missed a 2009 special election called to decide whether to temporarily increase taxes, a June 2008 statewide primary and 2002's general election. That's the year former Gov. Gray Davis was re-elected to a second term.

In all, the state assemblyman and tea party darling from Twin Peaks only voted in 19 of 37 elections from 1995 to 2013, according to San Bernardino County records.

Donnelly isn't the first person vying for top office in California whose spotty voting record has been scrutinized. Meg Whitman, the 2010 Republican nominee who squared off against Jerry Brown, was hammered by Brown's campaign for her repeated failures to participate in our democracy before she decided to run for governor. Neel Kashkari, another Republican candidate for governor this year, has also been criticized for skipping a number of elections in recent years — something he admits and for which he has apologized.

Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns stressed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that the lawmaker has voted in every presidential election since 2000, in every gubernatorial race since 2006 and in 2008 when same-sex marriage was on the ballot.

"He voted in the elections in which there were pressing issues facing our state," Kerns said.

Yes, Donnelly may have missed a few local elections here and there, Kerns said, but that may have been due to his travel schedule, raising five children and running a small business at the time, she added.

As for all the other Californians with children and small businesses, the Donnelly camp likely hopes that they find their way to the polls a few months from now to vote for him.

Taxpayers may pay for landmark decision

When a federal judge in San Francisco recently found the U.S. government violated a former Stanford University doctoral student's rights by putting her on its supersecret "no fly" list, it was a big win for San Jose lawyer Jim McManis and his law firm, McManis Faulkner.

It was the first ruling in the country finding that the Department of Homeland Security's anti-terrorism program had some constitutional flaws. But it appears there may be a steep price to taxpayers for the government's handling of Rahinah Ibrahim's plight. (She was branded a terrorism suspect in 2005 and has fought in court since that time to clear her name.)

The McManis firm last week asked a federal judge to order the government to pay $3.6 million in legal fees for successfully representing Ibrahim, as well as nearly $300,000 more in litigation costs.

"McManis Faulkner took on this case when no one else would protect an innocent person and all Americans from encroachment on our constitutional freedoms by zealous and well-meaning officials," the law firm argued.

It is now up to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who determined Ibrahim's rights were violated, to decide if the law firm deserves that sort of payday. The Justice Department can oppose the request, or argue that it should be reduced, although it's likely the government will have to pay up something -- winners in such federal cases are entitled to legal fees. Aside from Ibrahim, the biggest winner in the case is one of the law firm's lawyers, Elizabeth Pipkin, who carried the laboring oar in the lengthy legal battle. Perhaps if Alsup orders the government to pay in full, McManis will give her a raise.

Internal Affairs is an offbeat look at state and local politics. This week's items were written by Josh Richman, Mike Rosenberg, Jessica Calefati, Howard Mintz and Paul Rogers. Send tips to internalaffairs@mercurynews.com, or call 408-920-5782.