From the Kennedys of Massachusetts to the Cases of Hawaii, it’s commonplace for politically minded family members to help each other out during election time.

The family of Honolulu City Council member Tulsi Gabbard has been especially involved in her race for the 2nd Congressional District.

Her father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, has contributed the maximum $5,000 allowed under federal law to her campaign.

Gabbard formerly served on the City Council and ran unsuccessfully in 2004 against U.S. Rep. Ed Case for the seat his daughter now covets.

The candidate’s mother, Carol Gabbard, has given her daughter $4,811 and served off and on as her campaign treasurer. She formerly served on the Hawaii Board of Education.

Three other Gabbards — Jai ($2,500), Vrindavan ($5,000) and Bhakti ($2,579) — have made healthy contributions, as has the candidate herself ($18,074) to her own campaign. When donations from others close to Gabbard — like uncles and aunts, even her ex-husband — are factored in, it exceeds $66,000, or about 18 percent of her total take.

In addition to getting money from her family, however, Gabbard has also received donations from government officials and executives involved in the energy industry.

They include current Public Utilities Commissioner Michael Champley and former PUC Chair Carlito Caliboso.

Also giving money are Henk Rogers (Blue Planet Foundation), Jeff Kissel (The Gas Co.), Ted Peck (Kuokoa Inc.) and Constance Lau (Hawaiian Electric Industries).

Perhaps not coincidentally, Sen. Gabbard is chair of Senate Energy and Environment, where he has a high-profile, influential role regarding state energy policy and legislation.

Should Tulsi Gabbard manage to defeat her half-dozen or so Democratic opponents on Aug. 11, she will likely receive fresh contributions from many of these same sources for the general election — which at this point does not feature a Republican candidate.

“I am very fortunate to have a large ohana of family and friends and I greatly appreciate their support,” Tulsi Gabbard told Civil Beat in an email Friday. “They have placed their trust in me because they know that I have the leadership skills, fresh ideas, and the spirit of selfless service that are so badly needed in Washington, D.C.”

A Family Affair

Who Tulsi Gabbard gets money from is important, especially given the large chunk of it that has come from individual donors.

Of the $356,000 that Gabbard raised through Dec. 31, more than $300,000 came from individuals. Only Gabbard opponent Bob Marx received a greater proportion of cash from individuals — but in his case the bulk of it came from himself.

Gabbard’s ability to attract big bucks — she trails only former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the CD2 contest — is also unusual given that she has never run for federal office and is relatively unknown. She’s also only 30 years old.

It’s not out of the ordinary for industry executives, government officials and other politically akamai folks to give money to politicians — quite the opposite.

Gabbard has received support for her congressional bid from Sharon Weiner, the DFS Group executive and member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority; Jim Ireland, director of Honolulu’s Emergency Services Department; well-known attorneys Rick Fried, Ivan Lui-Kwan, Jim Stone and Lorraine Akiba (who was just appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the PUC); Victor Kimura of Kyo-ya Management Co.; and entertainer Danny Kaleikini.

Contributors like Dennis Mitsunaga, head of architectural, engineering and construction management firm Mitsunaga & Associates — another Gabbard contributor — gives a lot of money to a lot of candidates, including the governor.

But “green” energy companies have been particularly supportive of Gabbard. In addition to those mentioned earlier, they include top executives with Pacific Biodiesel, BioEnergy Hawaii, Environet and Sun Electric.

It is friends and family of the Gabbards, however, that are the most consistent and generous of donors.

Other contributors include Nancy Cardinet ($2,500) and Walt Cardinet ($5,000) of San Jose, Calif., who are related to Carol Gabbard; Gabbard’s ex-husband, Eduardo Tamayo ($520); and former campaign manager Devin Bull ($5,000) and his wife, Kunti Bull ($5,000).

Besides her mother, other treasurers listed in Gabbard’s campaign reports with the Federal Election Commission are Robert “Rock” Riggs (who also gave $754 and is Sen. Gabbard’s office manager) and Talia Tamayo Khurana, who appears to have contributed under the name Talia Khurana ($5,000).

Talia Tamayo Khurana is related to Eduardo Tamayo; Gabbard’s FEC filing also lists a contributor named Vikram Khurana ($5,000).

A Daily Kos Critic

Meanwhile, a contributor to The Daily Kos is also following Gabbard’s money trail, and he has his own observations to share.

The website is a politically liberal blog that claims 2 million visitors per month and 300,000 registered users.

In his series of articles, contributor Xenocrypt also illustrates how Gabbard has received sizable contributions from friends, family and associates of her father. He goes further, linking many of those contributors to donations given to Mike Gabbard’s 2004 congressional run and Republican Rick Reed’s 1994 challenge to U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye.

Xenocrypt explains that he wrote his articles about Tulsi Gabbard because he believes it is important to know whom a politician answers to — i.e., contributors. He is concerned that Gabbard is too closely associated with her father, morally and financially.

Tulsi Gabbard told told Civil Beat last month that her views have evolved since her father was active in the fight to ban same-sex marriage and later civil unions in Hawaii. Tulsi Gabbard says she now supports civil unions and gay marriage, and she opposes the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Xenocrypt is self-described as “26, Dem, Dude seeing a dude” with ties to the East Coast. He brings up Mike Gabbard’s alleged connections to Chris Butler, who runs a Hawaii organization called Science of Identity.

Butler calls himself Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa and claims lineage to “yoga spiritual masters” known as the Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya — also known as Hare Krishnas.

“Certainly, no one should be assumed to share the political views of their parents,” Xenocrypt writes in his first article. “But Tulsi Gabbard’s political connections to her father go far beyond the family relationship. Despite her recent claims to socially-progressive views, the identities of her staffers and donors make much more sense as the products of a conservative family network than as the products of conventional ideological organizations.”

It’s not clear what the connection is between the Gabbards and Butler — Tulsi is Hindu, Mike is Catholic — though it has been the subject of news reports and Internet chatter ever since Mike Gabbard first gained local attention leading the successful 1998 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.

Gabbard and her campaign manager did not respond to Civil Beat’s questions about the Daily Kos articles, including ones that asked about connections between Butler and Mike Gabbard.

Whatever the connection, it hasn’t impeded the political rise of either Mike or Tulsi Gabbard.

Gabbard also said this in her email to Civil Beat:

As with many people, loving my parents doesn’t mean I agree with them on everything. I am pro-choice. I want to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, and I support the Respect for Marriage Act. As a combat veteran, I supported and successfully implemented the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in my Army Guard unit. And most importantly, I want to create an economy where every American can succeed.

About the Author