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  • Cayetano: PRP Super PAC Broke Federal Election Law

    · By Nick Grube

    Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano is taking his fight with the Pacific Resource Partnership to the Federal Election Commission, and this time he’s dragging U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono into the mix.

    Cayetano filed a complaint with the FEC last week alleging that Schatz’s chief of staff, Andy Winer, and PRP’s executive director, John White, violated federal campaign spending law related to super PACs during the 2012 election cycle.

    Former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano has taken his fight with PRP to the FEC.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Winer, a well-known political operative, worked with PRP on its takedown of Cayetano, when the former governor ran for Honolulu mayor in an effort to kill the city’s $6 billion rail project. At the same time, Winer was an advisor to Hirono’s successful U.S. Senate campaign and a strategist for the Hawaii Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign.

    Cayetano’s complaint states Winer’s involvement with PRP may have been inappropriate under federal law and should be investigated by the FEC.

    Winer, however, says he did nothing wrong and wrote in an email that the complaint is “frivolous on its face, and I am confident that it will be dismissed.”

    Candidates are not allowed to coordinate with super PACs but Winer worked for PRP while the group spent more than $61,000 on mailers in support of Hirono. The PRP also spent a similar amount backing President Barack Obama.

    In June 2014, Cayetano settled a defamation lawsuit against PRP, which forced the group to issue a public apology in the

  • Denby Fawcett: Digging Up Dirt and Opposition Research 101

    · By Denby Fawcett

    Hawaii’s candidates for governor and the 1st Congressional District may be too squeaky clean and Boy Scout-ish for any dirt to emerge about them in the upcoming election.

    It is difficult to imagine Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Ige — whose friends say the most scandalous thing he ever did was to “toilet paper” friends’ cars in college — involved in anything salacious.

    Or to imagine goodie-goodie Republican congressional candidate Charles Djou staggering down a Chinatown street after drinking too many mango margaritas at the Pig and the Lady.

    An image from one of several ads the Pacific Resource Partnership ran to attack former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2012.

    Screen shot

    Or born-again Catholic GOP contender Duke Aiona hanging out with a “lady of the night.”

    Or to envision Democratic congressional candidate Mark Takai, a war veteran and avid family man, running a gambling ring in Aina Haina.

    Not going to happen.

    “They are boringly clean,” says political analyst Neal Milner, who is a columnist for Civil Beat. “They are making for a very dull election.”

    Whether the candidates are dull or not, Hawaii voters should be prepared for negative attacks as the election gets closer and view the attacks skeptically.

    Most of Hawaii’s political campaigns — if they have the money — are digging deep and using what’s known as opposition research, or “oppo,” in the hopes of finding information to cast their opponents in a negative light.

    Oppo researchers hunt for a politician’s character flaws, but more routinely they gather information about the

  • Hidden Super PAC Money Comes to Light in Campaign Spending Reports

    · By Nick Grube

    Newly released campaign spending data show the Pacific Resource Partnership did not report more than $360,000 in expenditures during the 2012 election.

    Almost all of that money — about $260,000 — went to three consultants who were instrumental in taking down former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, who was running for Honolulu mayor on an anti-rail platform.

    The consultants include U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s current chief of staff, Andy Winer, local public relations firm Hoakea Communications and Stanford Campaigns, an Austin, Texas-based opposition research firm.

    As a super PAC, the Pacific Resource Partnership was able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.

    PRP, an advocacy group for union carpenters and contractors, updated its financial reports after the the Hawaii Campaign Spending launched an investigation into payments made to these consultants. Those reports were amended and filed in early September, according to the commission.

    Civil Beat first reported in June that the consultants were heavily involved in PRP’s political attacks on Cayetano, yet did not appear in any of the group’s payment records kept by the state Campaign Spending Commission.

    The commission launched its investigation into PRP’s political action committee the following week.

    Campaign Spending Commission attorney Gary Kam said he will recommend a fine for PRP for omitting expenditure information from its reports. He hasn’t decided how much that penalty should be because he is still reviewing the case.

    “I am pursuing an investigation,” Kam said. “It is not completed yet.”

    When candidates or a political action committees don’t report all contributions or expenditures for a given

  • Hawaii Candidates Need to Sign the ‘People’s Pledge’

    · By Barbara Polk

    With the primary elections behind us, forums and sign waving for candidates for the November elections are already underway.

    And many of us in the public are cringing at the expectation of being inundated by advertising for or against candidates, sponsored not by the candidates but by funds provided to Super PACs from secret donors operating “independently” of the candidates. (Remember all the negative ads in the 2010 Honolulu mayor’s race?)

    The Supreme Court 2010 rulings in Citizen’s United vs. the FEC and other cases opened the floodgates of money attempting to influence elections and gain influence with the politicians who are elected.

    The Supreme Court’s decision on the Citizens United case open the door to virtually limitless campaign donations by funding groups as long as they don’t coordinate with candidates’ campaigns.

    Flickr: DonkeyHotey

    This year, as Republicans work to hold the U.S. House of Representatives and gain control of the Senate, as well as capture as many governorships as possible, and as Democrats are equally committed to preventing this, we may expect to see a much greater influx of money into Hawaii elections than we have previously seen.

    Is there no way to stop this?

    Perhaps there is. In 2012, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, pioneered what has come to be called “The People’s Pledge.” They agreed to make charitable donations from their campaign funds equal to half of any money spent for advertising on their behalf by “independent” outside groups. Their

  • Tunnel Vision? Not When It Comes to Honolulu’s High Stakes Rail Project

    · By Nick Grube

    City officials don’t plan to change the $5.26 billion project’s alignment despite concerns raised in federal court.

  • Former Hawaii Gov. Cayetano Says He’ll Appeal Rail Ruling

    · By Nick Grube

    Cayetano also questions authenticity of Inouye’s last letter to Abercrombie.

  • Civil Beat Poll – Cayetano Peaks, Caldwell Surges

    · By Michael Levine

    UPDATED Former governor still leads but edge in Honolulu mayor’s race has narrowed.

  • Off the Beat: New Low In Political Ads

    · By The Civil Beat Staff

    PRP’s “pardons” attack on former Hawaii governor goes way over the top.

  • Will A New Law Mean Federal Funding for Honolulu BRT?

    · By Michael Levine

    Camp Cayetano says proposed rapid bus system qualifies as fixed guideway.

  • Civil Beat Poll – Unwavering Rail Opposition Gives Cayetano Lead

    · By Michael Levine

    Former governor up 51-42 in Honolulu mayor’s race.

  • Cayetano’s Transit Plan: Back to the Future

    · By Chad Blair

    Honolulu mayoral hopeful shifts campaign focus from anti-rail to pro-BRT.

  • Caldwell Against Gov’s Natatorium Plan, Cayetano Wants More Info

    · By Alia Wong

    Honolulu mayoral hopefuls discussed Natatorium and other issues at a Kokua Council forum.

  • Cayetano: Bus Rapid Transit ‘Sweeping the Country’

    · By Anita Hofschneider

    Hawaii mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano said there’s a national transportation trend toward buses rather than trains.

  • Ben and Kirk Talk Journalism And, Of Course, Politics

    · By Chad Blair

    Honolulu mayoral candidates give high school students advice on transparency and skepticism through the context of rail.

  • Accused of Corruption, Mitsunagas Punch Back With Radio Ads

    · By Michael Levine

    UPDATED Pro-Cayetano contractor wades into Honolulu mayor’s race.