In January, in an unusual move, opponents in one of the hotest U.S. Senate races in the nation signed an agreement to curb outside campaign spending in their contest.

The pledge by Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican, and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren is intended to halt the flow of millions of dollars in advertising by super PACs and other independent groups into the Massachusetts election.

Super PACs have flourished following the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commmission decision that allowed for corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns.

“The campaigns are seeking to dissuade outside groups from pumping money into the state by forcing a financial penalty on the candidate who benefits,” wrote Politico about the Brown-Warren pact. “Under their deal, the campaign benefiting from an outside ad must make a charitable contribution worth half of the ad’s costs within three days.”

Would Mazie Hirono, Ed Case and Linda Lingle be willing to sign a similar pledge in the Hawaii race for the U.S. Senate?

“Yes,” say they two Democrats competing in the primary.

“No,” says the Republican who will face one of the Democrats in the general.

That’s just one of the key differences that emerge in Civil Beat’s candidate surveys of the Senate candidates. Eight of the 11 people running for the seat answered them, including the top three contenders.

The questions address a range of critical issues, such as how to fix the national debt and deficit spending, how to keep federal funding flowing into the state and whether the Senate should do away with arcane rules like the filibuster that limit debate and kill legislation.

Hawaii’s next U.S. senator has a good chance of serving in Washington for at least a generation and to assume the mantle of senior senator.

Filling Inouye’s Shoes

Here’s what Hirono, Case and Lingle have to say about signing a pledge to reject super PAC money.


I would support an agreement similar to that signed in the Massachusetts Senate race, where outside spending has significantly decreased since Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown signed their contract. With the Republicans set on winning here in Hawaii and taking control of the U.S. Senate, we can expect to see millions more from these conservative groups in the coming months if we don’t take these steps to keep special interest money out of campaigns. Our campaign may be outspent by these Republican mainland super PACs, but their agenda is not our Hawaii agenda and we will not be outworked.


Yes, I’m willing to sign an agreement with Mazie Hirono like the Massachusetts Senate candidates’ Peoples’ Pledge to keep outside third party organizations that have expanded dramatically since Citizens United from trying to buy Hawaii’s Senate election out from under Hawaii voters. Citizens United has only worsened the spreading grip of special interest money and influence on Washington, D.C., and accelerated the corrosive and even outright corruptive ties between special interest lobbying and campaign contributions, the election and reelection of Members of Congress, and Member votes and other efforts on earmarks and other issues. In this deepening morass the American people are almost wholly excluded, not surprisingly resulting in some of the lowest approval ratings for Congress in our history. …


I would not. I believe that individuals and groups have the right to support me or oppose me, and I would not presume to tell those who support me or who oppose me not to fully act on their views. At the same time, I object to advertisements—whether they are from independent expenditure groups, PACs or candidate — which contain knowingly false claims and personal attacks against candidates. Political speech, whether it be in the form of advertisements or other types of advocacy, must be protected, but this speech should be both factual and civil.

Note that Case said he would sign a pledge with Hirono but said nothing about Lingle. In his answer to Civil Beat, Case said he didn’t expect Hirono to agree to a pledge “as her campaigns have depended heavily on mainland and special interest funding.”

As for Lingle, she is probably aware that the super PAC money raised and spent thus far in the 2012 election has been mostly on behalf of Republican candidates.

One other observation gleaned from the candidate surveys: While Hirono, Case and Lingle are running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka, the winning candidate will also one day replace Daniel K. Inouye as Hawaii’s senior senator.

Filling Inouye’s shoes, however, is quite another matter.

Asked how they would work to continue funding important projects in the islands, as Inouye has done for decades, Hirono emphasized how she has worked closely with Inouye, Case stressed how he would not depend on Inouye’s while Lingle didn’t mention Inouye at all.

Read the full candidate responses here:

Five other candidates also answered our survey questions. You can read those here:

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