Rep. Ro Khanna is paying a cadre of political consultants in the early presidential nominating states, which some say is a possible sign he’s exploring a presidential run as early as 2024.
Khanna, a three-term California Democrat, has on his campaign payroll political consultants and strategists throughout the Northeast as well as in Iowa, Nevada and Colorado. The relationships were first disclosed on Friday in filings Khanna’s re-election campaign made with the Federal Election Commission.
“He’s clearly exploring the possibility of running for president at some point,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic political strategist who has worked on multiple high-profile campaigns. “It might not be in 2024, but he’s young and has time to prepare and meet people. Plus, we live in a very volatile political climate. You never know what can happen.”
Khanna, who recently published a book on “dignity” in the age of Big Tech, has become a staple of Democratic fundraising dinners in the early nominating states. This year alone, the California congressman has traveled extensively to New Hampshire and Nevada to address local Democratic groups.
“Hiring a consultant doesn’t always mean you’re running,” said Bannon. “But it usually means you’re at least interested in seeing what the process looks like. A consultant provides introductions to potential staffers and special interest groups that usually form the nucleus of a campaign.”
A former Obama administration official and avowed progressive, Khanna has openly expressed interest in a potential White House run at some point in the future. Khanna’s campaign filings suggest he’s taking the first steps toward that goal.
In the last three months, for instance, Khanna paid El Faro Consulting $4,000 for its political services. The Nevada-based firm was incorporated this past July by a Las Vegas political operative.
Over the past three months, Khanna has paid two political operatives that helped orchestrate Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ early primary victories in 2020.
He has paid Shannon Jackson, a Vermont-based consultant, $16,000 over the past three months. Jackson has long-standing ties to Sanders, I-Vt., and served as a senior adviser on his 2016 presidential campaign.
In 2020, Jackson was the New Hampshire state director for Sanders’ second White House bid. In between the presidential campaigns, Jackson served as the founding executive director of Our Revolution.
In July, Khanna paid $1,000 to a political operative who served as Sanders’ deputy caucus director in Nevada during the 2020 campaign.
Sanders, who was endorsed by Khanna, beat President Biden by double digits in both the New Hampshire primary and Nevada caucus during the 2020 primaries. His campaign lost ground, however, after being defeated by Biden in the South Carolina primary.
The payments to the Nevada consultant and the former Sanders’ staffers were the first for Khanna’s congressional campaign, according to a review of FEC filings.
Earlier this year, the California Democrat began paying Iowa-based Sage Strategies for political consulting. The relationship appears to be ongoing as Khanna paid the firm $4,000 in July.
Khanna’s campaign staff did not reply to questions from Fox News Digital about the hirings.
Khanna’s hiring spree comes as Biden, who turns 80 next month, has prompted questions about his appetite for re-election. Biden told CBS News last month “it’s much too early” to talk about launching a re-election bid.
“Look, my intention, as I said, that began with is that I would run again. But it’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” Biden said in an interview with CBS.
The comments were followed up by reports Biden had told Rev. Al Sharpton during a White House meeting last month that he was running again in 2024.
Khanna recently refused to say if Biden should run again when asked during a Fox News Channel interview, saying instead the president was the only who could make that decision. In recent months, the California Democrat has not been shy about criticizing the White House.
Khanna wrote an op-ed in June urging Biden to utilize price controls to combat 40-year high inflation. He also recently called for a tough line on Saudi Arabia in the wake of OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production.
“They get almost 73% of their arms from the United States. If it weren’t for our technicians, their airplanes literally wouldn’t fly,” Khanna said when urging Biden to cut off military aide to the country.