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Rep. Khanna on Political Intersection Between Hollywood, Silicon Valley

Rep. Khanna on Political Intersection Between Hollywood, Silicon Valley

Representative Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th congressional district, held a fundraiser with Paris Hilton and Joseph Gordon-Levitt on May 28, The Hollywood Reporter has exclusively learned.

Khanna, a Democrat, is currently seeking reelection for his seat, competing against 26-year-old Republican candidate Anita Chen in the upcoming November election.

He was introduced to Hilton a few years ago. The congressman tells THR he has had a “long friendship” with Hilton’s husband Carter Reum, the co-founder of the technology-focused venture capital firm M13. Khanna said Reum is “one of the most innovative technology leaders and investors in the country.”

A couple of years ago, Khanna met with Hilton regarding her long-standing push for more oversight of abusive youth centers. The heiress and reality TV personality has been vocal about her time at a “troubled teen” center in Utah, alleging in her memoir that she was beaten multiple times, “digitally” raped, verbally harassed by staff and more during her time at the school.

In April 2023, Khanna, along with four other representatives, introduced the bipartisan “Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act.” The bill “would provide greater oversight and data transparency for institutional youth treatment programs, begin implementing urgent recommendations to develop robust information sharing systems among states and promote dissemination of best practices for identifying and preventing institutional child abuse.”

“I was so moved by Paris’ commitment,” Khanna tells THR about Hilton’s work in the space, noting that he met her family, others in her organization and victims. “I saw the passion about how she cared about survivors.”

Asked how his party can win votes in 2024, Khanna emphasizes the importance of “cultural influencers” in trying to reach voters, particularly young voters, recognizing that “we’re living in a different moment” with the prevalence of social media.

The congressman also touts the importance of his party harnessing the “incredible storytellers” in Hollywood “to help the Democratic party get our message out in this election and to inspire young voters.”

“I just think we need to look to the storytellers in Hollywood for much more than money,” Khanna says. “What we need to look at them for is their imagination, their ability to do creative videos, their social media following, their ability to inspire … and that I think is the real asset for the progressive movement and the Democratic party.”

Khanna’s district includes Silicon Valley. When asked how he thinks Democrats can gain support in the technology space, he says, “I think what the Democrats need to say is that, ‘We are the party that’s going to bring entrepreneurship and innovation and technology opportunities to every part of this country,’” adding that Democratic policies “have helped seed Silicon Valley.”

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The congressman also notes the increasingly strong link between entertainment and technology, pointing out that there is “now more interconnection between Hollywood and Silicon Valley than ever before,” using Hilton and Reum as a symbol of that.

Amid the close 2024 presidential race, which has seen many polls showing Donald Trump ahead of Joe Biden, the congressman underlines how important he feels it is for the Democrats to take control of the House of Representatives: “Having [Rep.] Hakeem Jeffries as speaker of the house is the ultimate insurance policy against Donald Trump.”

In particular, Khanna says he feels “optimistic” about Democrats winning back congressional seats in California and believes it’s also possible in New York, which gives the party a path to the majority. For the House specifically, Khanna feels that there are three major issues for this election: the “insurance policy,” abortion rights and codifying Roe v. Wade, and economic policy.

“People are desperate to be inspired, and they find this election fundamentally uninspiring,” Khanna says. “I think that Hollywood can help us with what that inspiring story is that speaks to people in an authentic, real way. … The Democrats need the young talent today in Hollywood more than ever.”

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