Hawaii Democrats Charge Candidates $500 a Minute to Address Convention

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Candidates running as Democrats in Hawaii this year must pay $500 a minute to address party delegates at the annual convention this week.

So far, only one contender — U.S. Senate candidate Mazie Hirono — has accepted the fee. She'll speak for eight minutes Saturday at the Sheraton Waikiki, setting her back $4,000.

It won't hurt her campaign much; she had $1.6 million in cash on hand for her 2012 race, according to her most recent campaign finance reports.

But her primary opponent, Ed Case, who had only about $211,000 on hand, said he has better uses for his limited resources.

Case expressed bewilderment at a press conference Tuesday that his party would not allow top candidates for office to address the party faithful, as has been customary. Two years ago, the top candidates for governor, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House addressed the delegates.

But party spokesman Chuck Freedman told Civil Beat that the money will be used to offset the costs of the three-day convention, which begins Friday. The pay-to-speak fee is "something new" for Democrats, he said.

"We've got way too many candidates this year, and we need the revenue," he said, adding that the fee only applies to what's known as the "rally" portion of the convention.

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