Why the Emphasis on Local Financial Support in U.S. Senate Race?


When the campaign team for Linda Lingle's U.S. Senate race announced that the Republican had raised nearly $1.8 million in just 82 days, a press release pointed out that 44 percent of the money came from "generous supporters in Hawaii."

At a press conference that same day (Jan. 25) at Pohai Nani Retirement Community in Kaneohe, Lingle said, "We raised more than both Sens. Inouye and Akaka — they raised more money outside than I did in my race. So, I think that was really good."

Lingle continued: "I was happy that both Sen. Inouye and Akaka actually raised more money outside of Hawaii than I did. So, I know sometimes people make that claim that I raise a lot of money outside of the state, but the facts are that our current senators raise more money outside of Hawaii than they do inside of Hawaii. So, I was very pleased with the numbers as they came in."

What does this emphasis on local reveal? What does it mask? And, is Lingle's assertion correct that Akaka and Inouye raised more money outside of Hawaii than she did?

Lingle's campaign would not provide the dollar amounts on which it based its claim, but an examination by Civil Beat shows that Lingle, Akaka and Inouye all get most of their money from the mainland and that Lingle doesn't come out on top when it comes to local contributions. That doesn't mean she can't pick a set of numbers that will cast her in the best light, but what the campaign shared is not the whole story.

A comparison by Civil Beat shows that Lingle trails the senators when it comes to local individual contributions but is in the middle of the pack, just under Akaka, when it comes to overall contributions, including political action committees.

Why the Local Emphasis

Lingle's statements make it clear that she does not want to appear to be the candidate of mainland interests or individuals.

It's understandable why.

A recent Civil Beat poll found that nearly 80 percent of Hawaii registered voters said most members of Congress make more of their decisions in the interests of their biggest donors, not the residents of their state.

The poll also found that just 35 percent of registered voters said Hawaii's members of Congress make more of their decisions in the interests of their constituents.

What's Being Masked

What the emphasis on local contributions masks is the reality that Lingle (even as a non-incumbent), Inouye and Akaka all get more of their total contributions from outside Hawaii than from Hawaii residents or organizations.

Even the Lingle campaign admits that.

After all, it says that 44 percent of its money came from "generous supporters in Hawaii." That means that roughly 56 percent, or the majority, came from supporters elsewhere.

But the 44 percent figure is somewhat misleading. If her total contributions, including PACs are considered, 38 percent came from Hawaii. (Read Civil Beat's report on Lingle's PAC contributions.)1 The campaign says 44 percent, but Civil Beat reviewed every itemized contribution.2

So how does Lingle's 44 percent figure compare with Akaka's and Inouye's? Is Lingle correct that she raised more in Hawaii as a percentage of the total than either sitting senator?

Did Lingle Raise More Local Money Than Hawaii's Senators?

A widely respected national organization, the Center for Responsive Politics, ran a special data analysis for Civil Beat on Inouye and Akaka. The reason we requested a special run is that the group doesn't generally analyze the geography of PAC contributions, only individuals.

What the center's study shows is that 48 percent of Inouye's individual contributions for the 2010 election came from in state, with 33 percent of his total contributions coming from in state. The reason for the difference, just 3 percent of his PAC money came from Hawaii.

For Akaka's 2006 election, 63 percent of individual contributions came from residents of Hawaii, and 39 percent of his total contributions came from Hawaii. Again, the reason for the difference is that just 5 percent of his PAC money came from Hawaii.

The analysis was based on the entire period between elections. So for Akaka, 2001-2006. For Inouye, 2005-2010.

Lingle's team used a different approach.

The Lingle campaign maintains that it was comparing "total contributions raised during the candidates' most recent election cycles."

Campaign Communications Director Lenny Klompus said it went through the senators' campaign finance reports and compiled its own results, but he has declined to share the dollar amount totals the campaign based its claim on.

"Our campaign had throughly reviewed line-by-line PDF copy of the Federal Elections Commission, FEC 3 reports-Schedule A and Summary Report," Klompus wrote. "This is the ultimate legal, definitive and authoritative source."

He added, "The reports included both individuals and PACs, separately and combined; The reason for combining the numbers provided a more accurate picture of the total financial report."

As explained by Corrie Heck, deputy communications director in an email, "We pulled the dollar figures from the FEC reports for Senator Inouye (2009-2010) and Senator Akaka (2005-2006) and calculated Hawaii v. non-Hawaii percentages based on the reported addresses provided in those reports."

Civil Beat, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, found that when it comes to individual contributions, Lingle at 44 percent from Hawaii actually received less money from Hawaii residents than both senators. But when it comes to overall contributions, she received more of her money from locals than Inouye but slightly less than Akaka, on a percentage basis.

Candidate Type Instate OutofState %Instate %OutofState
Inouye, Daniel K PAC $40,900 $1,533,813 3% 97%
Inouye, Daniel K Indiv $1,551,045 $1,679,904 48% 52%
Inouye, Daniel K ALL $1,591,945 $3,213,717 33% 67%
Akaka, Daniel K PAC $45,365 $864,553 5% 95%
Akaka, Daniel K Indiv $835,868 $488,661 63% 37%
Akaka, Daniel K ALL $881,233 $1,353,214 39% 61%

Note: Totals for Akaka cover 2001 to 2006. Totals for Inouye cover 2005 to 2010. Source: Center for Responsive Politics

If Civil Beat had compared data for 2005 and 2006 for Inouye, as Lingle's team said it did, the results would have been different for individual donations. The authoritative national website Influence Explorer reports that 43 percent of Inouye's individual contributions in those two years came from Hawaii. Individual contributions made up 70 percent of his total contributions, with PAC money making up the rest. The site does not provide the location of PAC contributors.

As for Akaka, Influence Explorer shows that 62 percent of his individual contributions came from Hawaii and that PACs accounted for 40 percent of his overall contributions.

Based on Influence Explorer, leaving out PACs, Lingle would be slightly ahead of Inouye and way behind Akaka, when it comes to local individual contributions.

DISCUSSION: What do you think about the extent of local financial support for U.S. Senate races and how it affects elections and decisions by senators? Share your thoughts below.

  1. In response to questions from Civil Beat, a spokesman for Lingle argued that to account for a candidate's contributions PACs have to be included. "Finally, one cannot claim to account a candidate's contributions without accounting for PACs. As is fully explained in great detail by the FEC, a PAC's location is disclosed in the FEC Schedule A Reports. In a review of these reports, they will find that each PAC contributor is required by law to disclose not only their registered name and contribution amount, but also their mailing address. This mailing address must be the same principal physical address to which the PAC is registered under its FEC Statement of Organization. Therefore, these reports allow one to trace a contribution directly to the legal contributor of record (in this case, the PAC) that made a contribution to the respective candidates," wrote Lenny Klompus.  

  2. Lingle raised $266,028 from PACs, $1,445,942 from individuals donating more than $200 and $55,341 from individuals donating less than $200. Of the PAC money, $2,500 came from Hawaii-based organizations. Of the itemized individual donations, $613,236 came from Hawaii. Civil Beat could not determine the location of the donors of the unitemized contributions and credited all of them as local.  

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