Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District is in play. Need proof?

National Republicans and Democrats have poured more than $1 million into the race in the last two weeks.

Independent expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission reveal that more than half the outside money spent on attack ads in the race this year has been spent since Oct. 15.

Since that date, the National Republican Congressional Committee has made nine different purchases totaling $342,000 in opposition to the candidacy of Democrat Colleen Hanabusa. American Crossroads, a conservative group linked to former Bush administration adviser Karl Rove, added another $180,000 to broadcast commercials like this:

The $522,000 spent attacking Hanabusa in the last two weeks represent the first time Republicans have waded into the race this year. They stayed away even as Democrats attacked City Councilman Charles Djou in the weeks leading up to a winner-take-all, mail-only special election in May. They stayed away when the attacks resumed in September and early October.

The latest Civil Beat poll, conducted Sunday night, shows the race is close, with Djou trailing by just a few points. For Republicans, holding on to the district where President Barack Obama was born would be a nice cherry on top of the nationwide gains they’re expecting on Tuesday.

Democrats also recognize the importance of the district, which has been a traditional party stronghold. They see it as a rare opportunity to go on offense. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $1.3 million this year opposing Djou — $314,000 before the special election in May and another $946,000 in the last six weeks, including $724,000 in October and $371,000 since Oct. 15.

That money has purchased TV commercials like this one:

Not all the independent expenditures in the race have gone toward negative ads. The National Rifle Association chipped in for pro-Djou mailings, and the Hawaii Republican Party bought Facebook banner search advertising. Working Families for Hawaii produced pro-Hanabusa TV and radio commercials.

In all, more than $2 million have been spent on independent expenditures since Jan. 1, records show. Those expenditures are defined as paying for communications “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate that are not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents.”

Time Frame Djou Support Djou Oppose Hanabusa Support Hanabusa Oppose Total
Before Special $11,797 $313,979 $11,158 $0 $336,934
September $0 $221,623 $9 $0 $221,632
October $48,317 $724,183 $240,973 $521,757 $1,535,231
Oct. 15-28 $42,677 $371,475 $141,003 $521,757 $1,076,912
2010 Total $60,114 $1,259,786 $252,140 $521,757 $2,093,797

Source: Civil Beat analysis of FEC filings

Those figures don’t include contributions made directly to campaigns. Through Wednesday, Djou has raised $362,231 in October, bringing his total receipts for this election cycle to $2.42 million. Hanabusa has pulled in $222,224 this month and $2.25 million this cycle.

The candidates’ pre-general election reports were filed on Oct. 21 and covered all receipts and expenditures from Oct. 1 through Oct. 13. During those 13 days, Djou raised $226,131 [pdf], more than double Hanabusa’s $112,274 [pdf]. He also outspent her in October’s first two weeks, $238,330 to $205,006. As of Oct. 13, Hanabusa held a $439,754 to $382,804 edge in cash on hand.

In the final 20 days before the election, candidates are required to file supplemental reports within 48 hours for all contributions more than $1,000. It’s been 15 days since those rules took effect; Djou has filed five reports totaling $136,100 in contributions while Hanabusa has filed 12 reports totaling $109,950 in contributions.

Date Hanabusa Djou Difference
Total raised before Oct. 1 $2,031,947 $2,059,485 $27,538
Total raised during October $222,224 $362,231 $140,007
Oct. 1-13, 2010 $112,274 $226,131 $113,857
Total raised during 48-hour notices $109,950 $136,100 $26,150
Total raised during entire cycle $2,254,171 $2,421,716 $167,545

Source: Civil Beat analysis of FEC filings

The 48-hour notices do not include expenditures or cash-on-hand updates. That data will be available in the post-general election reports, which will cover all transactions up to and including Nov. 22. The reports are due Dec. 2, according to the FEC.

DISCUSSION: Has outside money played too large a role in the race for the 1st Congressional District? Join the conversation.

Civil Beat’s Nanea Kalani contributed to this report.

About the Author