Accused of Corruption, Mitsunagas Punch Back With Radio Ads

Ian Hayhurst

UPDATED July 26 3 p.m.

A contractor portrayed by a pro-rail union group as a key cog in pay-to-play corruption is striking back in two new radio commercials.

The spots, which began airing Thursday, feature Dennis Mitsunaga and his daughter Lois. They both work for Mitsunaga and Associates, which does a variety of construction, architecture, engineering and consulting work. Mitsunaga has become embroiled in the mayoral campaign because of the company's tight friendship with former Gov. Ben Cayetano and its success securing government contracts.

The heavy response from a private citizen is unusual.

The Pacific Resource Partnership, which supports rail for the jobs it would create for members of the carpenters union and the work it would generate for contractors, has focused on the Mitsunagas as an example of why Cayetano isn't fit to be mayor. Cayetano has vowed to kill rail if elected.

PRP has not mentioned Mitsunaga by name in its commercials, but has injected corruption back into the public consciousness. A television spot said Cayetano received illegal campaign contributions, and a radio commercial earlier this month pushed the "pay-to-play" angle. On Tuesday, PRP emailed supporters with more details:

Dennis Mitsunaga was a key figure in the pay-to-play corruption that plagued Cayetano's administration as governor, who allegedly helped lead this system by shaking down architects and engineers for contributions if they wanted government contracts. Mitsunaga profited handsomely under Cayetano, securing nearly one-fourth of all State Department of Transportation projects in a one year period -- 10 contracts worth $8.65 million dollars. Today, as Cayetano's finance chair, Mitsunaga and his associates have already contributed $45,500 to Cayetano's campaign.

Read more about Cayetano's fundraising: Attack Ads Push Campaign Cash Into Spotlight In Honolulu Mayor's Race

The Mitsunagas hit back hard in the two 60-second spots, attacking PRP Executive Director John White as a "hypocrite" from Arkansas who begged them for support two years ago when he was running for Honolulu City Council.

"I hope that the people of Hawaii will not pay attention to anything else coming from this hypocrite. My name and my company was smeared by him for political gain," Dennis Mitsunaga says in his commercial. "I run a very successful and ethical engineering firm with contracts worldwide that have nothing to do with pay to play as he claims. We win contracts because we are highly qualified, and for no other reason."

Listen to the two ads, provided to Civil Beat by Lois Mitsunaga, here:

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