Ongoing Series { Who's Buying Political Ads in Hawaii

The Public File: Pre-Primary Ads Cost Hawaii Campaigns $5.5 Million

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Candidates and independent expenditure committees spent nearly $800,000 on ad time in the last week leading up to Saturday's primary election, according to Civil Beat's most recent review of TV stations' political files. Those purchases brought the total pre-primary election ad spending up to about $5.5 million.

U.S. Senate candidate Mazie Hirono was this week's biggest spender. The Democrat spent close to $175,000 on 488 spots that have been airing this past week on all local broadcast stations.

Some of those spots feature one-minute-long commercials, while others screen standard 30-second ads. About 30 of the spots have aired during the Olympics. One of the one-minute spots was televised during primetime Olympics programming and cost about $7,000. As of this week, Hirono has spent more than $700,000 on ad time.

Civil Beat every week has been visiting Hawaii's three broadcast stations to get copies of their political ad contracts. These documents show which candidates and independent expenditure committees have bought ad time and for how much.

Broadcast stations are required to make their political files available to the public. Affiliates of the four major broadcast networks located in the top 50 markets now have to post those files online following a Federal Communications Commission ruling that went into effect last week.

But because Hawaii's TV market is No. 71, local broadcasters can wait until July 2014 to do so. For now, only contracts made with Oceanic Time Warner Cable are available online.

Second Congressional District candidate Tulsi Gabbard was this week's second biggest spender. She spent about $142,000 on 347 spots that have been airing this week on all the local broadcast stations and Oceanic Time Warner networks such as A&E, CNN and Food Network. This is the first time the Democrat has bought spots on cable networks.

Handwritten notes on some of the documents reveal that Gabbard amended contracts from previous weeks to include some one-minute-long commercials. She also bought eight spots that aired during primetime Olympics programming and cost $4,000 each. As of this week, Gabbard has spent about $480,000 on ad time.

The Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP), a consortium of contractors and Hawaii's carpenters union, this week spent about $87,000 on 233 spots on all the local broadcast stations, many of which have already aired. Most of the pro-rail group's spending has gone toward anti-Ben Cayetano "Read Ben's Record" commercials criticizing the mayoral candidate's track record as governor.

But following Cayetano's hospitalization Monday, the group cancelled the spots that it had bought for that evening and all day Tuesday.

According to spokespersons from the broadcast stations, the Colorado company that manages PRP's media buys — Media Strategies & Research — emailed the stations' sales representatives around 5 p.m. Monday asking that they air public service announcements during scheduled spots instead. PRP did not ask for a refund.

Cayetano was released from the hospital late Tuesday. The ads resumed the next day.

As of this week, PRP has spent about $1,335,000 on ad time.

Cayetano this week spent about $45,000 on 449 spots that are set to air through the primary on KGMB and Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. Two of the Oceanic contracts entailed package proposals designated for young adult audiences. Those spots have been airing during shows like The Real Housewives on Bravo, How I Met Your Mother on FX and Snooki & JWOWW on MTV.

Cayetano spent a total of about $300,000 on ad time in the pre-primary election season.

Other Campaign Ad Spending

Here's an overview of other candidates' and independent expenditure committees' purchases:

Honolulu Mayor

  • Kirk Caldwell spent about $40,000 on 95 spots that are airing through the weekend on all the local broadcast stations. One of those spots is scheduled to air Friday during 49ers pre-season football and cost $520. As of this week, the former city managing director has spent close to $200,000 total on ad time.

  • Peter Carlisle spent approximately $37,000 on 206 spots that are scheduled to air up until the primary on KHON, KITV and a range of Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. Two of the spots are ads on KITV's website. Known as "pencil" or "hover" ads, they are slightly smaller than banners but are permanent, meaning they appear every time the server is refreshed. One appeared Aug. 7 and cost $309. The other appears Friday and cost the campaign $1,000. The incumbent mayor has spent roughly $400,000 total on ad time so far.

U.S. Senate

  • Ed Case spent nearly $70,000 on 158 spots scheduled to air through the primary on KHON, KITV, KITV subsidiary MeTV, KGMB and KHNL. About 25 of them have aired during Olympics programming, two of which played during primetime and cost $3,480 each. As of this week, the Democrat has spent about $170,000 total on ad time.

  • Linda Lingle spent about $117,000 on 249 spots that have been airing this week on KHON, KGMB and various Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. Her Oceanic contract shows that she's maintaining her cable channel, which now costs $2,500 each week. The Republican has spent close to $600,000 total on ad time this election season.

U.S. Representative, Congressional District 2

  • Rafael del Castillo spent roughly $3,000 on 82 spots on KHNL and Oceanic Time Warner cable networks such as CNN, TNT and MSNBC. The spots have been airing this week. The Democrat has spent about $8,000 on ad time so far.

  • Mufi Hannemann spent close to $70,000 on 200 spots on all the local broadcast stations and Oceanic Time Warner cable networks including CNN, FX and the Food Network. Those spots — including 18 during Olympics programming — have been airing throughout the week. The Democrat has spent about $394,000 total on ad time this election season.

  • Bob Marx spent $1,500 on five spots that aired this past week on KITV. Two of those spots ran during the Keiki Hula competitions Aug. 3 and 4.

City Council

  • Vai Sua, who is running to represent the district that includes Mililani, Makakilo and Waipahu, spent $2,000 on 10 spots that have been airing during Olympics programming. This contract marks the first time he's bought ad time, according to the public files.

State House

  • Lei Ahu Isa, who is running to represent the downtown, Kakaako and Ala Moana areas, spent $1,500 on three spots that aired on KITV this week. The Democrat has spent about $3,600 on ad time this election season.

Grand Totals

Candidates and super PACs spent about $787,000 on ad time this week. As of Wednesday, total spending prior to the primary elections was around $5.5 million. Super PACs spent about 36 percent of that money, or close to $2 million.


DISCUSSION: What do you think about this week's political ad buys?


Track the money that is rolling into Hawaii campaigns with our guide to campaign finance issues.


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Here are this week's spending reports. They are organized by candidate and independent expenditure group:

Kirk Caldwell

Peter Carlisle

Ed Case

Ben Cayetano

Rafael del Castillo

Tulsi Gabbard

Mufi Hannemann

Mazie Hirono

Lei Ahu Isa

Linda Lingle

Bob Marx

Pacific Resource Partnership

Vai Sua

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