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Top Hawaii Republicans stressed the party’s financial woes in calling for the resignation of party chair Jonah Kaauwai last week.
The Hawaii Republican Party‘s executive committee cited a debt “of close to $100,000” in a letter to members, arguing that a change in leadership was necessary “before the Party’s financial situation as well as federal guideline violations are exacerbated to the ruination of all that has been built.”
Kaauwai resigned Monday and his role in the party’s financial condition is gaining fresh scrutiny.
But just how broke is the state GOP?
Republicans had $8,829 cash on hand as of June 30, according the most recent financial report on file with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii has a little more cushion, financially.
The Dems had $14,282 cash on hand as of June 30, according to the party’s most recent financial report. The party collected $37,567 in contributions between Jan. 1 and June 30, and spent $54,291 during the same period.
Last year, with a hot campaign season, Democrats raised significantly more cash than Hawaii’s GOP.
Republicans raised a total of $433,856 throughout the calendar year, according to an analysis of financial reports. More than half of that — $280,056 — was raised through the Sept. 18 primary.
Republicans spent $397,683 for the year and reported having $21,028 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
By contrast, Democrats raised $797,589 in 2010. Only $21,332 of that amount was collected through the Sept. 18 primary election.
The party spent $553,172 for the year, and reported having $16,796 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31.
Money wins elections, of course, and last year was indeed a tough year for Hawaii Republicans.
The incumbent lieutenant governor, James “Duke” Aiona, failed to win the governorship, and 1st Congressional District incumbent Charles Djou — the first Hawaii Republican to serve in Washington since Pat Saiki in the late 1980s — was turned out of office after a short stint.
In the state Legislature, the GOP picked up a few seats in the House but lost another in the Senate, leaving them with just one member in that chamber. Democrats maintained their overwhelming majority.
Above all, the GOP’s executive committee said, Kaauwai’s failure to put more Republicans in office was the main reason many party leaders had lost confidence in him.
However, in his resignation letter Kaauwai argued that the party under his leadership had fielded a significantly large number of candidates. Here’s how he broke it down:
• Supporting 97 candidates in the 2010 Primary Election and 12 Republican primary challenges including 7 three-way Republican primary challenges
• Filling all but 3 seats in the 2010 Election with Republican candidates; a tremendous improvement from 2008 when we had 29 seats where Democrats ran unopposed
• Winning 3 legislative races and increasing the House of Representatives from 6 to 8, ending a ten-year streak of losing legislative members
Kaauwai also said the GOP had added more than 1,000 new members, increased the number of small donors by nearly 2,000 and recruited and trained “nearly 50 candidates for the 2012 election.”
Beth Fukumoto, who replaced Kaauwai on an interim basis until the party appoints a new chair, acknowledged her predecessor’s accomplishments in a statement released Monday. She said, “During his term, Jonah worked to create a vital grassroots network within the Hawaii Republican Party.”
As for fundraising woes, the most recent GOP totals do not reflect the take from a campaign event last month that featured singer Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”).
Kaauwai said the event raised “nearly $97,000,” which he said “proves that if we all work together, we could have both finances and grassroots.”
Party leaders, who have been strapped for cash, jumped at the chance to enlist Greenwood to bring in major dollars to help them pay off the mortgage for the Oahu headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard. They hoped to raise $500,000 with this event.
Around 500 people paid at least $150 per ticket, and some paid as much as $2,500 to $5,000 in sponsorships, to attend the dinner and concert held at the stunning Koolau Ballrooms set in between the Koolau mountains and a golf course in Kaneohe.
At the party convention in May, as Civil Beatreported outgoing party treasurer Kathi Thomason literally begged for money.
“We are passing around a calabash basket,” she told members from the podium. “Take out what cash you have, commit to helping your party, we need to fundraise and to fundraise starting right now.”