WASHINGTON — Hawaii’s congressional candidates want your money, but most of them won’t tell you exactly when and where they’re asking for it.

In a recent Civil Beat request to 11 Hawaii campaigns for U.S. House and U.S. Senate,
just three candidates provided lists of fundraising events that they have held since filing their statements of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission.

At the heart of the issue is this question: Who is giving the most to help get Hawaii’s candidates into office, and what does that tell us about whose interests Hawaii lawmakers truly represent once they get there?

A recent Civil Beat poll found that Hawaii voters believe our state’s congressional delegation pays more attention to donors than to voters.

Five candidates — including two incumbent congresswomen — declined to share information about fundraising events, and three candidates say they have not yet held any such events.

The transparent minority: 2nd Congressional District candidates Mufi Hannemann and Esther Kiaaina, and U.S. Senate candidate Ed Case. All three are running as Democrats.

Those who are keeping their lips sealed include former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, and Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, who are running for the Senate. Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and her 1st Congressional District re-election challenger, former GOP Rep. Charles Djou1, also wouldn’t answer. The same for Honolulu City Council member Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, who is challenging Hannemann in the 2nd Congressional District primary.

Gabbard is the lone candiate in that race who declined to share information about her fundraising events. Two other candidates in that congressional race said they haven’t yet held any fundraising events so had no information to give.

Attorney Rafael del Castillo, a Democrat, said that he has “folks ready to have fundraisers” for him across Oahu, on Maui, on Molokai, on Kauai and on the Big Island in 2012. Another Democrat, Hilo attorney Bob Marx, told Civil Beat that his campaign plans to have three or four fundraisers in 2012 but that he has “not determined the date, time or location.”

A spokesman for Republican Senate candidate John Carroll said that his campaign is “just getting started fundraising in a serious way,” and that Carroll planned to hold fundraising events in the islands in 2012.

Why So Secret?

It appears that when it comes to disclosing information about where and how campaigns get their money, the majority of Hawaii candidates for U.S. House and Senate are satisfied with meeting — but not necessarily going beyond — their required obligations.

Candidates are required to file quarterly reports to the Federal Election Commission detailing donations from individuals and political action committees. Individual donors who give at least $200 in a calendar year are required to give their names, addresses, occupations and the date and amount of their donation to be included on candidates’ reports to the FEC.

“Our campaign takes these FEC regulations very seriously,” said Corrie Heck, deputy communications director for the Lingle campaign, in an email to Civil Beat. “We respect and appreciate that this information is made available to the public and the media. However, specific information regarding the schedule and private locations of individual fundraising events are sensitive data to each campaign.”

A spokesperson for Gabbard’s campaign told Civil Beat that “everything will be listed on our FEC reports,” and that the campaign was too busy to provide “additional information at this time.”

Spokespeople for the Hanabusa, Hirono and Djou campaigns declined to comment.

The public relies heavily on quarterly campaign finance reports to gain an understanding of the kinds of supporters a candidate has. The reports provide details about which special interests are backing a given candidate.

Campaign finance reports may offer hints about when fundraising events may have taken place: A long list of California donors who all give to a certain campaign on the same date might suggest that the candidate held a fundraiser in the Golden State, for example.

Campaigns often tout their grassroots support, but tend to clam up when it comes to talking about the money they raise outside of Hawaii.

The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation has set up a website devoted to culling and sharing information about when and where candidates are holding fundraising events.

According to the foundation’s Party Time website, here are some of the fundraisers that Hawaii candidates held last year:

Candidate Date Location Requested donation
Colleen Hanabusa2 March 30, 2011 Hotel George, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $5,000
Colleen Hanabusa May 3, 2011 Johnny’s Half Shell, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $5,000
Colleen Hanabusa June 21, 2011 Hotel George, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $5,000
Mazie Hirono3 March 30, 2011 Phoenix Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $5,000
Mazie Hirono June 16, 2011 21st Century Townhouse, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $5,000
Linda Lingle Dec. 8, 2011 The Monocle restaurant, Washington, D.C. $500 – $5,000
Linda Lingle Dec. 8, 20114 The Monocle restaurant, Washington, D.C. $1,000 – $2,500
Linda Lingle Nov. 9, 2011 NRSC5, Washington, D.C. $500 – $2,500

But even resources like these don’t have complete information. For instance, the site did not list all of those candidates’ fundraising events, and didn’t have any information on the other Hawaii congressional candidates.

Other websites will occasionally reveal information about Hawaii candidates’ fundraising plans: Like a San Francisco fundraiser for Hirono Sept. 18, 2011. And rival campaigns leak information about opponents’ out-of-state events.

Civil Beat wanted a comprehensive list of all fundraising events, provided by each candidate. So far, here’s a glimpse at what Case, Hannemann and Kiaaina shared about their fundraisers and their plans for such events in 2012.

Ed Case’s Fundraising Events

Case said he has had three formal fundraisers since he filed his statement of candidacy last spring. But the former congressman didn’t include events that are technically not fundraisers, but that might still bring in donations.

For example, on Oct. 6, Case participated in a Washington, D.C., “meet and greet” breakfast hosted by TechAmerica. Attendees learned about Case and his campaign for U.S. Senate but were not required to donate to attend — still, the event led people to give Case money, he said.

“Three October East Coast events (two in DC and one in Boston) were more accurately meet-the-candidate events,” Case said in an email to Civil Beat. “We didn’t ask for and expect contributions to attend, although I did ask for support at the events (in addition to introducing and discussing my candidacy) and did receive some contributions as a result.”

Case said he also hosted a “meet and greet” in the Bay Area in November, and several such events across Hawaii.

“We’ve had various campaign events in Hawaii and some on the mainland which were not fundraisers, although sometimes contributions were made at or after the event,” Case told Civil Beat. “I’ve hosted or participated in some events in DC, Boston and the Bay Area, but primarily throughout Hawaii.”

In other words, a “fundraiser” to Case means a campaign event for which a contribution is explicitly advertised and expected. Here’s a look at the fundraising events Case said he has had thus far:

Date Location Requested Donation
May 2011 Washington, D.C. $250 – $2,500
October 2011 Hilo, Hawaii $500
Jan. 5, 2011 Honolulu, Hawaii: The Pacific Club $500

Mufi Hannemann’s Fundraising Events

The Hannemann campaign provided a list of six fundraisers that the former Honolulu mayor has held since he filed his statement of candidacy last fall.

A campaign spokesman made sure to point out that fundraising events complement other fundraising efforts like direct telephone calls, in-person meetings, emails and direct-mail letters.

Date Location Requested Donation
Sept. 27, 2011 Honolulu $100 – $5,000
Oct. 12, 2011 Saipan, Northern Marianas $100 – $5,000
Oct. 19, 2011 Washington, D.C. $100 – $5,000
Nov. 29, 2011 Washington, D.C. $100 – $5,000
Dec. 8, 2011 Los Angeles $100 – $5,000
Dec. 13, 2011 Honolulu $100 – $5,000

Campaign spokesman Justin Gruenstein said Hannemann has not yet finalized any 2012 fundraising events.

Esther Kiaaina’s Fundraising Events

Esther Kiaaina told Civil Beat that she has held three organized fundraisers since filing her statement of candidacy last fall.

Date Location Requested Donation
Sept. 22, 2011 YWCA: Honolulu $250
Oct. 24, 2011 Hunan Dynasty restaurant: Washington, D.C. $50 – $500
Dec. 7, 2011 Marriott hotel: Tumom, Guam $250

Looking to 2012, Kiaaina says she is projecting holding 15 to 20 fundraising events in Hawaii, one in Guam, one in San Francisco, one in New York and one in Las Vegas.

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