The Beat

  • Board of Ed Selects New Deputy Superintendent

    ·By Jessica Terrell
    The state Board of Education is promoting from within the Department of Education to fill the DOE’s No. 2 leadership spot, left vacant last month when Ronn Nozoe left for a position in Washington with the U.S. DOE. The BOE voted unanimously on Tuesday to make Stephen Schatz — currently assistant superintendent in the DOE’s Office of Strategy, Innovation and Performance — deputy superintendent for the DOE. Schatz has been with the Hawaii DOE since 2002, and has worked his way up steadily through the department ranks from vice principal to to principal to complex area superintendent before taking on the role of assistant superintendent at the OSIP. “I’m passionate about instruction, and focused on supporting our leaders to provide equity of opportunity for all students within our system,” Schatz said in a press release issued by the DOE on Tuesday. Deputy Superintendent of Education Stephen Schatz DOE
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  • Schatz and Hirono Call for Stronger Monitoring of Birth-Control Mandate

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono joined 37 fellow Democratic senators Tuesday in prodding the Obama administration to take a stronger stance to ensure the Affordable Care Act’s birth-control mandate is being followed. In a letter to Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the senators voiced their concerns over findings in a pair of studies that insurers are providing women inaccurate information about the required birth-control coverage. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono. Courtesy of Sen. Mazie Hirono The standards issued in 2011 require health insurers to cover all government-approved contraceptives for women, without co-payments or other charges. Insurers are also mandated to provide the coverage for sterilization procedures and “patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” “In the 21st century, women should have access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare services, like birth control, that empower them to make their own healthcare decisions and provide economic security for their families,” the Senators wrote. “Unfortunately, we write with serious concerns that some insurers are failing to uphold the standards set in the Affordable Care Act and as a result leaving women without the health care services they are entitled to under the law.” The senators are asking Burwell to issue a new written guidance to make sure that insurers comply with the contraceptive mandate. They are also calling for consumer education efforts and a push for the states to develop their “plan of action” for proper enforcement.
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  • One Last Round of Campaign Fundraisers During Session

    ·By Chad Blair
    I ran into a former state lawmaker at Kahala Mall Tuesday morning, and our discussion quickly turned to soon-to-be-ex-state Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. This well-known pol was wondering whether to attend a campaign fundraiser Tuesday night on behalf of Kim, who faces re-election next year. It’s at M Nightclub and the suggested donation is $100. Could be a little awkward. Sens. Maile Shimabukuro, Breen Harimoto and Gil Riviere are also scheduled to raise money that same night and location, and for the same contribution level. All three Democrats are up in 2018. But Riviere was one of only six senators (along with Kim herself) to reject Ron Kouchi as the new Senate president, in a vote held midday Tuesday. Salud! Kompei! Cheers! Okole maluna! Flickr: DM Let the healing begin, I say, and let the margaritas flow on this Cinco de Mayo! In related news, Maui pols Roz Baker and Angus McKelvey are set to ask for money Wednesday night at The Plaza Club. The sales price — I mean, the suggested donation — is $100. Thursday is sine die — it’s Latin for “suggested donation” — for the Legislature. Kidding. It’s actually Latin for “pau already.”
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  • Ex-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle’s New Gig in Illinois Proves Lucrative

    ·By Richard Wiens
    Location, location, location. Being a gubernatorial aide in one state can pay better than being governor of another state, according to a report in the Quad-City Times. In 2010, the final year of her eight-year run as governor of Hawaii, Republican Linda Lingle earned $117,306. In July, she’ll start earning $198,000 annually as chief operating officer for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the newspaper reported. Lingle is already working for Rauner on a $60,000 contract that runs from April to June. Rauner calls Lingle a “superstar” and says he’s willing to pay big salaries to experts who will help “fix the state,” the newspaper reported. She’s not his highest-paid aide — that designation goes to his education czar, who pulls in $250,000 annually. Lingle was governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010, then made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Then-Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle stands next to her portrait during its unveiling, Nov. 22, 2010. Office of the Governor
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  • Hirono Releases Her ‘Top 10′ Critique of the GOP Budget

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono is channeling “Late Show” host David Letterman to denounce the Republican budget proposal. In anticipation of the Senate vote this week, Hirono borrowed a format made famous by the CBS late-night host and released her own Top 10 list of reasons why she thinks the GOP budget “hurts the middle class and is bad for Hawaii.” The list, released Tuesday and accompanied by 10 pictures of Hirono interacting with her constituents, calls the GOP plan “a disastrous framework that would rig the rules in favor of billionaires and special interests” and assails it for cutting a whole host of government programs. Sen. Mazie Hirono talks to group of VA staff members after the end of a Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee Field Hearing at the Oahu Veterans Center on Aug. 19, 2014. PF Bentley/Civil Beat Topping the list was Hirono’s critique of reductions to food stamps and two tax credits for low-income taxpayers, the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit. Hirono goes on to criticize other belt-tightening measures — such as cuts to Medicare, Head Start, Pell and Title I grants — and disparages the Republicans for seeking to preserve special interest tax loopholes, to halt the construction and maintenance of national parks, and to repeal the Affordable Care Act. You can see the full list here: Hirono Top Ten list from Civil Beat
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  • From Maui Mayoral Campaign to 20-Year Prison Sentence

    ·By Richard Wiens
    A man who ran unsuccessfully for Maui mayor last year has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for securities fraud, the state Attorney General’s Office announced in a press release Monday. Nelson N. Waikiki was sentenced Friday by Maui circuit judge Rhonda I. L. Loo. Nelson Waikiki “Mr. Waikiki convinced several people to invest money in a water rights company on Maui,” said Deputy Attorney General Albert Cook in the release.  “Following an investigation by the state, it was determined that Mr. Waikiki did not have any such rights to the water, that he was not registered to sell securities in Hawaii, and that the securities he sold were not registered.  In total, Mr. Waikiki’s schemes scammed up to 21 victims for more than $100,000.” In addition to sentencing Waikiki to two consecutive 10-year prison terms for four counts of securities fraud, Loo ordered Waikiki to pay restitution to the victims.
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  • Halemaumau Crater a Big Draw at Hawaii Volcanoes Nat’l Park

    ·By Chad Blair
    I’ve visited Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park many times over the past 30 years or so, taking family, friends and students to view the huge caldera and get a closer look at Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain and active volcano. But there is something special going on right now, something drawing tourists from all over: boiling, spewing lava from the Halemaumau crater. The crowds were big and steady at Halemaumau crater on May 3. Cory Lum/Civil Beat It’s not like those images from Mark Twain’s era in the 19th century, nor quite as spectacular as the Herb Kane paintings at the Jaggar Museum that overlooks the crater. And the lava lake is not spilling over the rim of the crater, as has been suggested in some media reports, but rather sometimes flowing or spouting over the rim of the lake and spreading fresh pauhoehoe onto the crater floor. But it’s a bubbly, fiery show, especially in the evening, when the magma stands out even more and makes it seem as if you are watching “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” An iPhone 6 doesn’t do Kilauea justice, but it’s a good show nonetheless. Chad Blair/Civil Beat On Sunday, a double rainbow blessed Halemaumau not long before the sun went down. Then, a full moon provided another spectacle. Earlier in the day, a small explosion collapsed part of the crater wall. Visitors ate it up, paying the $10 per vehicle at the entrance to the park and staying far longer than the time it takes to
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  • Film About Transgender Teacher in Hawaii to Premiere on PBS

    ·By Chad Blair
    A documentary telling the story of a transgender Hawaiian teacher will premiere on PBS Monday evening. Kumu Hina is about Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, who is a mahu — the Hawaiian word for “those who embody both male and female spirit,” according to a press release for the film. Wong-Kalu was born on Oahu and educated at Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaii. She is known in part for her strong advocacy for kanaka maoli rights, assets and practices. “This film introduces us to an unforgettable and courageous woman whose life is simultaneously grounded in ancient tradition and on the forefront of one the most contemporary movements in society today,” said Lois Vossen of the PBS program Independent Lens. “Gender fluidity is a concept that has been understood for thousands of years in Polynesian culture, but is only now beginning to be accepted in the West. ‘Kumu Hina’ teaches us all how to love and accept ourselves as we are.” “Kumu Hina” is directed and produced by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. The film’s airing is part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month programming on PBS.
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  • New York Times Ed Board Chides Hawaii Gov. David Ige Over Mauna Kea

    ·By Patti Epler
    Hawaii Gov. David Ige is well-known in the islands for his mild-mannered approach to controversy. We like to believe that’s because he’s an engineer and takes a deliberative approach, rather than the fiery political passion of other elected officials. That demeanor holds no sway with the opinion writers 5,000 miles away who in a Sunday editorial rebuked him for being “far too withdrawn” in the clash between those who want to protect Mauna Kea from a 14th telescope and those who want to move ahead with the long-planned and approved scientific project. The NYT ed board isn’t taking a stand on the development itself, just on Ige’s lack of leadership on it. The board wants him to “step up.” “If he thinks the telescope is an important asset that promises great benefits to Hawaii’s residents and economy, not to mention to science and humanity at large, he should say so. If he thinks more needs to be done to protect the environment and native interests, he should say what that is and make it happen. His mild news releases urging more dialogue are not enough.” A false-color composite near-infrared image of Jupiter taken by the Keck II telescope on Mauna Kea. Courtesy W. M. Keck Observatory
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  • Chaminade President to Continue Through 2017

    ·By Todd Simmons
    Brother Bernard Ploeger will continue to serve as president of Chaminade University through 2017 under a two-year contract extension approved Friday by the school’s board of regents, but will conclude his tenure then, by which time he’ll have served as president for eight years. Chaminade President Bernard Ploeger Kapono RyanPloeger, 66, has held various leadership positions at the private Catholic university since joining it in 1995. He was named president in 2009 following the death of President Sue Wesselkamper. Board of Regents Chair Vaughn A. Vasconcellos on Friday said the university, which serves about 2,600 students, has flourished under Ploeger’s leadership. “Brother Bernie has worked tirelessly to put the university on sound financial footing, raise the quality of our educational offerings, and renew and expand our facilities,” Vasconcellos said in a statement. “His quiet style of leadership allowed the university to achieve sound progress across the board and has led to an overall transformation of our campus.” Ploeger noted that conducting a search for a university president is an extended duty these days, and said campus leadership will spend the next two years preparing for a successful transition. “I am so pleased with what we have been able to accomplish thus far.  The extension will afford me the privilege of serving for over eight years as president of this wonderful institution,” said Ploeger in a university news release. “In the next two years, we have some tremendously ambitious projects to complete, and I’m committed to making these last two
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  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Begins

    ·By Jessica Terrell
    The White House marked the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month Friday with a presidential proclamation and a publicity push for a summit later this month. The White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, to be held in D.C. on May 12, is being touted as an  “unprecedented and historic all-day event” pulling together federal officials and community leaders to celebrate recent achievements and lay out priorities for the next two years. The event is open to the public, but registration is full. It will be streamed live here. A preview video can be seen here. AAPI Heritage month dates back to 1977 when — in part through the efforts of Hawaii senators Daniel Inouye and Masayuki Matsunaga — Congress passed a bill making the first 10 days of May Asian-Pacific Heritage Week. The celebration was extended across the entire month of May starting in the early-1990s. “Through times of hardship and in the face of enduring prejudice, these women and men have persisted and forged ahead to help strengthen our Union,” President Obama’s 2015 proclamation notes, adding that “Native Hawaiians have fought to protect their treasured traditions, language, and lands.” Kiran Ahuja, executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, are featured in a video previewing the event. Courtesy of the White House  
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  • HPD Posts Policies, Including For Use of Force, Online

    ·By Nick Grube
    If you ever wanted to learn more about the Honolulu Police Department’s policy on use of force, bias-based profiling or even its grooming standards, you can now do so simply by going to the agency’s website. On Friday, the HPD announced it has uploaded each of its more than 250 policies in order to increase departmental transparency. The Honolulu Police Department’s downtown headquarters. PF Bentley/Civil Beat For the past year, the HPD and its leadership has been under intense scrutiny for its handling of several cases, including those in which officers are alleged to have violated protocol or even broken the law. It even caused several lawmakers to introduce bills to impose reform on the department. “Making our policies available to the public is a necessary and key component of building the community’s trust in HPD,” Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha said in a statement. “As of today, the policies will be available 24/7 on the Internet and free to anyone who wants to review them.” While the policies cover everything from arrest procedures and drug and alcohol use to domestic violence and officer training, there are certain protocols that have been omitted from the records for security purposes. According to an HPD press relase, those policies might include sensitive information that could “jeopardize public safety or impede an officer’s ability to respond to critical incidents.” Click here to access the full list of policies.
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  • Schatz: Police Body Cams Could Help ‘Reform Our Broken Justice System’

    ·By Richard Wiens
    U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii is praising an Obama Administration announcement Fridayt that it will provide $20 million in grants to local police departments around the country for the purchase of body cameras for officers. The grants represent the first portion to be approved by Congress of a $75 million, three-year body camera funding program requested in December. Selected departments will be part of a pilot program to evaluate the effects. “The announcement today by the administration is an important step forward,” said Schatz in a press release. He said he hoped that participating police departments will be encouraged “to put in place responsible policies to ensure that cameras increase accountability and protect the privacy rights of citizens.  I support the administration’s efforts and will continue to push for legislation to rebuild the trust between communities and the police and to reform our broken criminal justice system.” Last month, Schatz introduced the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2015. Civil Beat recently published an editorial citing Hawaii’s need for police body cameras. Body-worn cameras for police. Flickr: West Midlands Police
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  • Transgender Birth Certificate Bill Passes Conference Committee

    ·By Todd Simmons
    A bill approved by conference committee in the Hawaii Legislature on Thursday would make it easier for transgender individuals to get a birth certificate that agrees with their gender identity, removing the requirement for gender reassignment surgery before such a change can be made. House Bill 631 would enable transgender individuals who either cannot or choose not to have surgery to have the sex marker changed on their birth certificate after having their physician or psychiatrist attest that the individual’s gender identity does not correspond to that indicated on the form. Based on the medical professional’s affidavit, the Department of Health would make the change. Birth certificate are used to prove such things as date of birth, citizenship and parentage in a range of circumstances, from obtaining work permits to school registration to receiving insurance benefits. They are vital records, critical to managing some of life’s most personal and basic necessities. The bill next goes back to the House and Senate for final floor votes, which are considered formalities, since both chambers previously passed similar versions of the bill. With their passage, it will go to Gov. David Ige, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Hawaii would then join six other states and the District of Columbia that allow such birth certificate changes without gender surgery. Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland are considering similar changes in their respective legislative sessions this spring.
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  • Hawaii Loses Its Bid for Obama Library

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    It was always considered a long shot, but now it looks official: Honolulu will be missing out on the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Citing two anonymous sources, The New York Times reported that the Obama library will be built in Chicago, the president’s adopted home. The exact location is not yet known, but Chicago’s local news outlets are reporting that it will be built near the University of Chicago on the city’s South Side, where the president began his career as community organizer. The proposed Kakaako Makai location. KITVChicago beat out the bids from New York City, where Obama earned his bachelor’s degree, and Honolulu, where he spent his youth. The news brings a sigh of relief to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff. Since word spread earlier this year that first lady Michelle Obama favored New York, Emanuel lobbied heavily to bring the library to his city. The Chicago bid appears to have received a lift last week when the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill designed to stem any legal action if a Chicago Park District property were used for the library.
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  • In Victory for Republicans, US House Passes Budget

    ·By Chad Blair
    The U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Republicans, on Thursday passed a Republican budget “that would boost defense spending, slash social welfare programs and target ObamaCare, in what GOP leaders cast as a victory for fiscal sanity.” That report comes from The Hill, which said that the U.S. Senate is expected to pass the “combined budget” next week. Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai of Hawaii joined all Democrats and 14 Republicans in voting “nay” on the measure. But, on another piece of legislation that also passed — this one an appropriations bill that funds the Veterans Administration and military construction projects — Hawaii’s reps were among just 19 Democrats voting in favor. Gabbard and Takai are both military veterans. U.S. flags and flowers at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe in 2014. PF Bentley/Civil Beat Though they voted differently on the military construction and VA bill than did Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, Gabbard and Takai did side with Democrats on an amendment to that bill that would have allowed doctors at VA hospitals “to discuss the use of medical marijuana with patients.” But the measure failed narrowly. As The Hill reports, “More than 30 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment. Boos ensued from the Democratic side of the House chamber when Republicans closed the vote despite the razor-thin margin.” Medical pot is legal in more than 30 states including Hawaii, but VA doctors “are prohibited from completing patient forms seeking recommendations or opinions regarding medical marijuana to
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  • Study: Big-Time Political Spending Came from Elite Donors

    ·By Rui Kaneya
    During the 2014 election cycle, the top 0.01 percent of the Americans — about 32,000 people in all — flexed their fiscal muscles, spending a whopping $1.18 billion on political contributions, according to a new study released Thursday. The joint analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Sunlight Foundation shows that 150 deep-pocketed donors hailed from Hawaii and collectively contributed about $2.7 million at the federal level. http://www.opensecrets.org The outsized impact of these big givers — dubbed “The 1 percent of the 1 percent” — on federal campaigns has steadily increased over the years. The $1.18 billion accounted for 29 percent of all disclosed political contributions in 2014 — a greater share than the total of 25 percent in 2012 and 21 percent in 2010. The study found the big givers have some common traits: “They’re mostly male, tend to be city-dwellers and often work in finance. Slightly more of them skew Republican than Democratic. A small subset — barely five dozen — earned the (even more) rarefied distinction of giving more than $1 million each. And a minute cluster of three individuals contributed more than $10 million apiece.” Of the 50 ZIP codes that generated the most money, most were population hubs like New York, San Francisco, Houston and Chicago. None of Hawaii’s ZIP codes made the list.
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  • Hawaii Dems Join Push to Raise Federal Minimum Wage

    ·By Richard Wiens
    Democrats in Washington, D.C., announced a measure Thursday to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 per hour to $12 by 2020, and tie additional increases after that to growth in the national median wage. Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono were among numerous co-sponsors in the Senate, and U.S. Rep. Mark Takai quickly chimed in with his support. Since Republicans control both houses of Congress, there is little chance that the Raise the Wage Act will be taken up in the next 20 months. But it will likely be a campaign issue for Democrats next year. The increase to $12 per hour would take place over five years, starting with an $8 wage and increasing by $1 per year through 2020. After that, the wage would be indexed to the growth in the national median wage. The bill would also gradually eliminate the lower “subminimum” wage for tipped workers. The U.S. Capitol Chad Blair/Civil Beat “If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to support your family,” said Schatz in a statement. “But too many working families today can barely make ends meet because our federal minimum wage has not kept up with the cost of living. Raising the minimum wage would lift millions of families out of poverty and put them on the path to the middle class, helping build a stronger, more resilient economy for everyone.” “It is not right that an individual working a full-time job is
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  • Seven Reps Break From Session’s Final Days to Raise Some Cash

    ·By Richard Wiens
    These are the busy final days of the Hawaii’s Legislature’s 2015 session, with the fate of numerous bills being decided. But that didn’t stop seven members of the House of Representatives from teaming up to hold a fundraising event Tuesday evening, according to documents filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission. A $100 donation was requested of people attending the event at the Jade Dynasty restaurant in the Ala Moana Shopping Center, with the proceeds apparently divvied up by the lawmakers. The participating legislators included Reps. Isaac Choy, Sharon Har, Ken Ito, Jo Jordan, Derek Kawakami, Calvin Say and James Tokioka There are a lot of people paying close attention to a lot of bills right now, and many of those same people give money to lawmakers. flickr:AMagill  
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  • Another Member of Hawaii’s Delegation Misidentified

    ·By Todd Simmons
    U.S. Rep. Mark Takai, it turns out, isn’t the only Asian-American politician from Hawaii who can suffer from a case of mistaken identity in the nation’s capital. You may recall that C-SPAN identified California Congressman Ted Lieu as Hawaii’s freshman representative while Lieu was speaking in late March on the House floor. The Washington Post on Wednesday showed it can hold its own in the misidentification sweepstakes with a large photo of two guests entering the state dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, one of whom was identified as U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono. Trouble was, it was actually Congresswoman Doris Matsui, another California lawmaker. Congressional staffer Andy Stone pointed out the Hirono-Matsui gaffe on Twitter, and conservative website Twitchy.com gleefully picked up the post, helpfully posting large color pics of both lawmakers along with a well-placed jab: “Imagine the outcry if Fox News had done this.” Update: It helps to have a sense of humor in such matters, as Hirono and Matsui showed Thursday in an epic follow-up tweet.  
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More Back-and Forth Between Lingle, Hirono

·By civilbeat

Mazie Hirono‘s U.S. Senate campaign has been making hay over a Linda Lingle campaign ad which Hirono’s folks argue violates federal election law.

Excerpt from a press release Thursday (Aug. 16):

Here are the facts: Lingle’s advertisement didn’t comply with the “Stand By Your Ad” requirement, which maintains that TV commercials paid for by candidates for federal office must include the candidate stating that they “approved this message” and have that statement accompanied by a clearly identifiable picture or image of him- or herself (the candidate’s picture/image must take up “at least 80 percent of the vertical screen height”).  …

Rather than taking responsibility for the simple mistake, the Lingle campaign issued a press release today, in which they asserted that the TV commercial they were running was different from the internet commercial and that TV commercial complied with federal election standards. …

Asked for a response, here’s what Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee had to say:

It is remarkable that Mazie Hirono continues her desperate attempt to avoid talking about the facts and substance of the “Do the Math” ad. Does Mazie Hirono have anything to say about the fact that not a single bill she sponsored from the time she was elected through today became law?

We have proven that the disclaimer is compliant. All of the television and cable stations have confirmed again that they are running the correct, FEC compliant spot. 

After speaking with the stations again, they did inform us that during the satellite transfer of the television spots, two feeds were sent to the stations. It appears that two of the

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