Editor’s note: 06/01/11
As you can see in the discussion below, this Fact Check raised a question. That made me realize it would be valuable to explain further our approach to Fact Checks. You can read what I’ve written on the editorial judgment behind Fact Checks here.

The Republican national committeewoman for Hawaii recently called on her party’s supporters to provide more money to fight the 2012 campaign.

“We have to address the elephant in the room,” Miriam Hellreich, a top fundraiser for former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona‘s 2010 campaign, said at the May 14 Republican Party State Convention on Kauai. “Competing in 2012 requires raising a lot of money. We were outspent 3-1 in 2010.”

It’s fair to say that a listener would take away that her party was outspent 3-1 over the course of the year, in all races. But apparently that’s not what she meant.

Civil Beat asked Hellreich to clarify her comment. She said it was based on analysis from John Peschong, a campaign adviser for both Aiona and former Gov. Linda Lingle.

Peschong said the 3-1 figure referred to the governor’s race, and specifically the time period between the Sept. 18 primary election and the Nov. 2 general election.

“We look at campaign spending from the day after the primary election to the general election,” Peschong said. “Because then we know who our opponent is during that time frame. We raised roughly $750,000 and our belief is we were out-raised, not just by Neil Abercrombie during that period, but by the Hawaii Democrat party and his friends with the labor unions.”

Hellreich inflated Peschong’s limited comparison, making it seem like it covered the entire election year. She didn’t know whether that was the case.

However, if Peschong’s analysis is accurate, it could shed light on why Hawaii was one of a few states not to swing to the right in 2010.

Civil Beat looked at Peschong’s claim on its face, examining the governor’s race for the period between the primary and general election. It found that even if you take into account all spending on the governor’s race by candidate, party, respective governors associations and top unions, the gap between parties is nowhere near 3-1.

The Candidates

To compare candidate spending, Civil Beat will look at “Expenditures Made” reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission. There were two reporting periods between the primary and general elections.

Both governor and lieutenant governor expenditures will be compared since the race was run as a ticket, not by individuals.

The first reporting period was from Sept. 19 to Oct. 18. The second was Oct. 19 to Nov. 2. The tables below show expenditures by both Aiona and Gov. Neil Abercrombie and their respective lieutenant governor candidates, Lynn Finnegan and Brian Schatz.

Reporting Date Abercrombie Expenditures Schatz Expenditures Aiona Expenditures Finnegan Expenditures
Sept. 19 to Oct. 18 $580,502 $116,928 $597,040 $29,003
Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 $540,198 $273,043 $361,283 $196,879
TOTAL $1,120,700 $389,971 $958,323 $225,882

Looking at the personal expenditures of the candidates, Abercrombie and Schatz spent a total of $1,510,671 between the primary and general elections. Aiona and Finnegan spent a total of $1,184,205.

The Abercrombie/Schatz ticket spent $326,466 more than the Aiona/Finnegan ticket.

Party Spending

For party spending, both “Contributions to Candidates” and “Expenditures Made” reports will be used for the Hawaii Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Hawaii for the same two reporting periods.

For “Contributions to Candidates” reports, only those contributions to either the Abercrombie/Schatz ticket or Aiona/Finnegan ticket will be included in the analysis.

Reporting Date Democrat Expenditures Democrat Contributions Republican Expenditures Republican Contributions
Sept. 19 to Oct. 18 $55,177 $0 $19,399 $2,667
Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 $404,204 $0 $77,748 $2,739
TOTAL $459,381 $0 $97,147 $5,406

For party spending, Democrats spent a total of $459,381. The Republican Party spent $102,553. The Democrat Party outspent the Republican Party by $356,828.

That said, Peschong claims the Republican Party’s spending was focused entirely on former Rep. Charles Djou‘s campaign. He says no party funds were spent for Aiona or Finnegan.

But it’s impossible to say exactly where the money went. For example, in the Republican “Expenditures Made” report, the party spent $15,000 for “Postage/Mailing” on Oct. 19. Which candidate the postage and mailings aided is anybody’s guess.

Governors Associations

The Democratic Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association are independent political organizations dedicated to electing Democratic and Republican governors, respectively.

The associations are national organizations with local chapters.

To look at the spending of the Hawaii associations on the governor’s race, Civil Beat will examine both “Expenditures Made” reports as well as “Contributions to Candidates” reports for the governor and lieutenant governor candidates.

Reporting Date Democrat Expenditures Democrat Contributions Republican Expenditures Republican Contributions
Sept. 19 to Oct. 18 $12,250 $0 $472,116 $0
Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 $0 $0 $131,354 $0
TOTAL $12,250 $0 603,470 $0

The Republican Governors Association in Hawaii outspent the Democratic Governors Association by $591,220.

Peschong says the the finance reports are inaccurate. He says the Democratic Governors Association spent something closer to $200,000 on television ads in October.

But if that were the case, the finance reports should reflect the expenses.

Labor Unions

For a cross section of labor contributions to governor candidates, Civil Beat will look at “Contributions to Candidates” report for five key unions or their political action committees.

They include: The Hawaii Government Employees Association; the Hawaii Laborers Political Action Committee; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Local 1260, Local 1357 & Local 1186) Political Action Committee; United Public Workers (Local 646); and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly Union. (If there are multiple political action committees, aggregates of the numbers will be used.)

Reporting Date HGEA / Candidate HLPAC / Candidate IBEW / Candidate UPW / Candidate UHPA / Candidate
Sept. 19 to Oct. 18 $6,000 / Abercrombie $5,500 / Schatz $8,000 / Schatz $2,000 Abercrombie $6,000 / Schatz
Oct. 19 to Nov. 2 $1,000 / Schatz $0 $0 $0 $0
TOTAL $7,000 $5,500 $8,000 $2,000 $6,000

From the labor union spending analyzed, Democrats took it all. The five unions or their political action committees spent $28,500 on either Abercrombie or Schatz. Neither Aiona nor Finnegan received any money from the above unions.

Peschong told Civil Beat that unions were the “x-factor” in spending for the 2010 election.

“Neil Abercrombie’s union friends and their spending directly affected that election because they advocated for Neil Abercrombie’s election or to vote against Duke Aiona,” Peschong said. “And the amount of spending that they did dwarfed everything else that was in that race.”

Labor unions in Hawaii have a tradition of supporting Democratic candidates. They don’t always, but it’s rare if they don’t. If all unions spending was analyzed, the financial influence on the election would likely be significant and heavily favor the Abercrombie/Schatz ticket.

Adding It All Up

Looking at all of the spending from candidates to labor on the governor’s race, Democrats won the money battle. Including all of the above from the primary to the general election, Democrats and unions spent $2,010,802 compared to Republican’s $1,890,228.

The Republican Governors Association provided a significant boost for Aiona and Finnegan.

As stated, it’s likely if all union spending was calculated, Democrats’ financial advantage would have been more prominent. Additionally, if Peschong is right and no Republican Party money was spent on the Aiona/Finnegan ticket and more money was spent by the Democratic Governors Association than reported, the discrepancy would be steeper.

To reiterate, this Fact Check only examines expenditures in a tight window, from the primary to the general elections, which was the period cited by the GOP when asked about Hellreich’s statement.

Even if the Democrats’ total grew substantially during that six weeks, the final tally would still not approach the claimed 3-1 difference.