Honolulu’s pro-rail business community is backing Kirk Caldwell over incumbent Peter Carlisle in the race for mayor, throwing more money toward his campaign than to either of the other candidates.

In fact, even anti-rail candidate Ben Cayetano received more financial support from this constituency than Carlisle, giving credence to the former governor’s claim that some influential community leaders are going along with rail publicly but secretly want him to be the city’s next mayor.

A review of campaign finance reports shows Caldwell collected at least $80,000 from company execs who openly support rail, their employees, families, affiliated companies and political action committees. That compares to about $14,000 for Cayetano and $8,000 for Carlisle from the same types of donors.

This cash flow to Caldwell is noteworthy considering Carlisle is arguably the staunchest rail supporter in the race. He’s said he’ll “plow forward” despite hurdles, while at the same time criticizing Caldwell’s attempt to find a middle ground in the campaign to “build rail better.”

“He says that he’s in the middle,” Carlisle said of Caldwell in a recent interview with Civil Beat. “So what he actually plans to do is a mystery.”

Carlisle has also struggled in general to raise money for his campaign, which is unusual for an incumbent. Over the past six months, he pulled in $198,000 in campaign contributions, less than both of his competitors.

Carlisle’s campaign manger, Nani Medeiros, insists the reason is that Carlisle “is not a full-time candidate and he is not spending hours and hours every day asking people for money.”

Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission reports show Cayetano is now in the fundraising lead in the mayoral race, bringing in $893,000 over the past six months. He had $614,000 left in his war chest as of June 30, six weeks before the Aug. 11 primary.

Caldwell’s fundraising, while not as prolific as Cayetano’s, also outpaced Carlilse’s. Caldwell received $511,000 in contributions over the past six months, and had $100,000 cash on hand as of June 30.

Carlisle, however, did end the reporting period with more in his coffers than Caldwell, holding onto $246,000 for the last stretch before the primary.

(Read the Inside Honolulu blog for up-to-the-minute news from the campaign trail.)

But Carlisle is not getting as much support from rail backers as could be expected.

Rail Money Headed to Caldwell

A Civil Beat analysis of contribution data from the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission shows that Caldwell pulled in far more money from individual members of the Move Oahu Forward Board of Directors and from those leaders’ employees and political action committees during the first half of 2012 than did Carlisle.

In all, company CEOs and presidents on the Move Oahu Forward board, including from Hawaiian Electric, Alexander and Baldwin and First Hawaiian Bank, gave $12,550 to Caldwell between Jan. 1 and June 30, records show.

That’s compared to $4,000 for Cayetano, who got that sum from Hawaii Pacific Health President Charles Sted, who’s also on the board, in February, before Move Oahu Forward launched its business-behind-transit campaign.

Carlisle, on the other hand, only got $500. That came from Hawaiian Electric President and CEO Constance Lau, who co-chairs the Move Oahu Forward board along with James Campbell Co. President and CEO Richard Dahl.

Lau, who could not be reached for comment, gave $1,000 to Caldwell on May 1, less than two weeks after she gave the $500 to Carlisle. She was the only member of the Move Oahu Forward board to donate to both candidates.

Move Oahu Forward as an entity has not made any campaign contributions this year. It considers itself nonpolitical.

“Move Oahu Forward is a non-partisan organization and while we advocate for rail we do not advocate for any candidate for office,” Executive Director Theresia McMurdo told Civil Beat.

A review of donations from employees of the 30-plus companies, related entities and political action committees associated with the companies and family members of the Move Oahu Forward board members — those with the same last name and address — only deepens the divide. Caldwell received $68,450 from this group versus $10,250 for Cayetano and $7,400 for Carlisle.

Caldwell’s campaign said in an email that he believes he got these donations “because they share my views on leadership and my vision to make Honolulu a better city. Basically, they believe I can do a better job than Peter Carlisle.”

Cayetano reiterated his stance that people would rather see him in the Mayor’s Office, and that his contributions from a wide-range of sources supports that. He also noted that he needs to outspend both of his opponents.

“This election is two against one, so combined they have more money than me,” Cayetano said Friday. “Plus when you add the spending of the rail proponents, whether they be PRP, Imua Rail or Move Oahu Forward and other groups, if you add all that up we’re probably going to be outspent 10 to 1.”

Earlier this month, Civil Beat reported that the pro-rail, labor group, Pacific Resource Partnership, had hit the $500,000 mark in its spending on television ads against Cayetano. He now plans to counter that with his own $600,000 war chest, leaving no guesses about his intentions to win the election in August.

“It’s all committed to our media,” Cayetano said of the $600,000 he has on hand. “We’re going to blow the whole thing — or most of it anyway — before Aug. 11.”

Cayetano can win the primary election outright if he gets more than 50 percent of the vote. If nobody reaches that threshold, there will be a runoff election in November between the top two vote-getters.

Where It Came From

Because the Honolulu mayor’s race has few implications beyond this island’s shores, the vast majority of the money for all three candidates came from donors in the state of Hawaii and specifically on Oahu.

  • Of the $860,000 in itemized donations Cayetano received, more than $801,000 (93 percent) came from Hawaii addresses and nearly $786,000 (91 percent) came from Oahu people.
  • Of Caldwell’s $499,000 in itemized donations, nearly $465,000 (93 percent) came from Hawaii people and $458,000 (92 percent) from Oahu residents or businesses.
  • Of Carlisle’s $191,000 in itemized donations, $172,000 (90 percent) came from contributors in the state of Hawaii and $171,000 (90 percent) came from those listing an Oahu address.

Cayetano also had the largest percentage — 93 percent, or $797,000 — from individuals rather than political action committees or other organizations. Carlisle got $174,000 (91 percent) from individuals and Caldwell got $380,000 (76 percent) from individuals.

One significant difference between the candidates was how much they received in small and large donations.

  • Cayetano pulled in $28,000 in donations of $100 or less, which don’t have to be itemized. But he received the maximum donation of $4,000 apiece from 112 different people or organizations during the period, representing more than half of his total campaign income.
  • Caldwell received $13,000 in denominations of $100 or less. Forty-one donors maxed out their contributions to Caldwell at $4,000 apiece in the first half of the year. Add in three previous max donors and top-level contributors represent 29 percent of Caldwell’s total receipts of $600,000 this election cycle.
  • Carlisle got $11,000 donations of $100 or less. Looking at all reporting periods since the last election, 22 contributors have maxed out for Carlisle, representing about 16 percent of his total contributions to date.

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