Ongoing Series { Who's Buying Political Ads in Hawaii

The Public File: Fund for Freedom Buys 1,000 Spots As Election Draws Near

Flickr: DonkeyHotey

Super PACs' TV spending sprees may be winding down in Hawaii for the most part, but one independent mainland committee — the Fund for Freedom — is only getting started, according to Civil Beat's most recent review of the public files.

The Washington, D.C.-based group, which bought its first Hawaii ad time of the season last Wednesday, this week spent more than $305,000 on 1,158 spots that are airing on KGMB, KHNL and a range of Oceanic Time Warner cable channels including A&E and FX.

Fund for Freedom's commercial opposes Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mazie Hirono, according to its Federal Election Commission filings.

Nearly half of its money this week — more than $149,000 — went to KGMB. The most expensive spots cost $15,000 each, one of which is scheduled to air during "Hawaii 5-0" Monday. The group also paid $5,000 each for spots that are airing during "60 Minutes."

As of Wednesday, the group had spent about $365,000 total on ad time this election season.

Fund for Freedom, just like other independent expenditure committees, can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for political campaigns, thanks to the 2010 Citizens United ruling. Now, super PACs and dark money groups can feed unlimited amounts of money into elections.

In an effort to track how much money such groups are spending on influencing Hawaii's elections, Civil Beat has been visiting Hawaii's broadcast stations weekly to get copies of contracts contained in their political files. The documents show which political candidates and independent committees have bought ad time and for how much. The project is modeled after national media outlet ProPublica's "Free the Files" series.

The FEC recently set up an online interface on which stations in the country's top 50 TV markets are required to post their political files. But Hawaii's market ranks No. 71, so local stations have until 2014 to do so. Only ad time purchased on Oceanic Time Warner cable stations are accessible online.

Several local super PACs, including the pro-rail Pacific Resource Partnership, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars airing ads endorsing or opposing candidates in the state's hottest races this year, including that for Honolulu mayor and U.S. Senate.

PRP for its part has spent about $2 million airing ads bashing Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano, according to Civil Beat's most recent tally. Though the group bought the bulk of its post-primary ad time in late September, recent filings show that PRP this week spent another $36,000 on 164 spots that are airing through the general election on KFVE and various Oceanic Time Warner cable networks such as HGTV and USA.

Other Political Ad Buys

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

Honolulu Mayor

  • Kirk Caldwell spent nearly $29,000 on 75 spots that are airing on KHON, KITV, KITV subsidiary MeTV, KGMB and KHNL through the general election. As of this week, the former city managing director has spent a total of more than $149,000 on post-primary ad time. He has spent about $423,000 on ad time this election season.

  • Cayetano spent close to $115,000 on 396 spots that are airing through the general election on KHON, KITV, KGMB, KHNL and a range of Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. One is a $1,500 hover ad on KITV's website. He also paid $6,000 for a spot that is airing Monday during "Hawaii 5-0." As of this week, he has spent more than $193,000 on post-primary ad time. He has spent about $494,000 on ad time this election season.

U.S. Representative, Congressional District 1

  • Republican candidate Charles Djou spent about $87,000 on 250 spots that are airing through the general election on all the local broadcast stations and Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. Some of the most expensive spots cost $2,500 each and are airing during "Dancing with the Stars" on KITV and the "X-Factor" on KHON. He has spent about $516,000 total on ad time this election season.

  • Democratic candidate Colleen Hanabusa spent more than $84,000 on 154 spots that are airing on all the local broadcast stations through the general election. One spot is airing during the Major League Baseball World Series Monday. Hanabusa has spent about $331,000 on ad time this election season.

U.S. Senator

  • Hirono spent about $215,000 on a whopping 1,570 spots that are airing through the general election on all the local broadcast stations and various Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. One spot cost $6,900 and is airing Monday on KGMB during "Hawaii 5-0." As of this week, the Democrat has spent about $1.6 million on post-primary ad time. She has spent about $2.3 million on ad time this election season.

  • Lingle spent about $169,000 on 457 spots — in addition to a week's worth of her cable channel — that are airing through the general election on all the local broadcast stations and a range of Oceanic Time Warner cable networks. One of the most expensive spots cost $4,350 and is airing Sunday on KHNL during an NFL football game. She also paid $3,225 for a spot that aired Tuesday on KGMB during "Person of Interest." As of this week, the Republican has spent more than $1.4 million on post-primary ad time, bringing her total spending this election season up to about $2 million.

Independent Expenditure Committees

  • Workers for a Better Hawaii spent $3,800 on 14 spots that are airing the day before the election on Oceanic Time Warner cable stations such as ESPN and the Food Network. The group, whose commercial endorses Caldwell, has spent about $427,000 on ad time this election season.

Grand Totals

Total ad buys this week amount to about $1,045,000, according to Civil Beat's most recent review of the public files. As of Thursday, total post-primary TV ad spending was about $7.8 million. Total ad spending for the entire election season was more than $13.6 million. Non-candidate political committees have accounted for 34 percent of that money, or about $4.6 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:

Kirk Caldwell

Ben Cayetano

Charles Djou

Fund for Freedom Committee, Inc.

Colleen Hanabusa

Mazie Hirono

Linda Lingle

Pacific Resource Partnership

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