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The latest attack ad from the Pacific Resource Partnership that features footage of Honolulu mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell raises questions about whether either of the two parties violated Hawaii’s campaign spending laws.
As an independent expenditure committee, PRP isn’t allowed to coordinate its political actions with candidates. Likewise, Caldwell is not allowed to collaborate with PRP even though the two share the same goal of keeping former Gov. Ben Cayetano out of the mayor’s office.
But footage used by PRP in the new ad appears to have come from Caldwell’s campaign. PRP isn’t saying where the footage came from, and Caldwell has denied any involvement.
In fact, his camp has said the footage, which comes from his 2010 bid for Honolulu mayor, was never authorized to be distributed.
Caldwell is prominently featured in the new ad, which also directs barbs at Cayetano over illegal campaign contributions and a pay-to-play culture. There are several shots of Caldwell talking on the phone, posing for pictures with a family and working inside of his law firm.
Cayetano said he usually walks out of the room when a PRP ad comes on. But when Civil Beat spoke with him about the latest ad Thursday, he noted the proximity between Caldwell and those associated with the carpenters union consortium.
He also said any collaboration between the two would go against campaign spending rules, something both PRP and Caldwell continue to criticize him about.
“That would clearly be more than irony,” Cayetano said. “That would be a violation of the law.”
The ad, entitled “Leader,” says Caldwell is a “honest man” who created the House Ethics Committee. It also says he “led the fight to ban pay-to-play.” The first word that appears on the screen in bold white letters is “Trust.”
Shortly after the bit about Caldwell, the focus turns to Cayetano and uses footage of him from a recent campaign ad.
PRP’s footage of Caldwell isn’t found in any of the videos posted on his campaign website, but still photos from those video shoots are on the site.
Many of Caldwell’s campaign videos use still images of the candidate doing various things, such as glad-handing with constituents and spending time with his family.
Some of these photos come alive in the PRP video. They’re no longer stills, but actual video footage of the same scene.
As an example, a Caldwell video on his campaign site shows a picture of him sitting at a conference table in his law firm speaking with a group of people. In a segment of PRP’s ad, the same scene is shown with the same people except this time it appears to have been shot from a different angle and also as a video.
PRP spokesman Jim McCoy said there was no coordination with Caldwell’s campaign. He said the footage was “commercially available,” but he refused to say where PRP bought the videos. He also declined to say why he wouldn’t divulge the source.
PRP Executive Director John White did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Caldwell, too, has denied any involvement with PRP or its latest ad. He issued a statement Wednesday saying his “campaign has no control of the actions of PRP or any other independent group.”
He went on to say that he is against illegal campaign contributions.
On Thursday, Caldwell’s campaign spokeswoman Glenna Wong reiterated that there was no collaboration with PRP.
“We don’t have anything to do with the advertisement,” she said. “I guarantee you it didn’t come from us. We do not communicate or associate with PRP. We have a very strict rule.”
She said the footage of Caldwell in the PRP ad “shocked” her, and that the videos are from his unsuccessful campaign to become mayor in 2010. Caldwell lost that election to current mayor Peter Carlisle.
“I don’t know how PRP got it,” Wong said. “We did not authorize the sale or distribution of that footage.”
PRP uses Denver-based Media Strategies & Research to place its ads with local TV stations. This is the same company that Caldwell’s campaign employed in 2010, according to state campaign spending reports.
A representative from Media Strategies & Research said Thursday the company does not have any involvement in producing or distributing footage and had nothing to do with this specific incident.
PRP and Caldwell have also used the same film production firm. In 2010, Caldwell used The Hamburger Company, of Washington D.C., for advertising, and this year campaign spending reports show PRP has hired the same firm to help with its video production.
[Independent expenditure committees](http://hawaii.gov/campaign/view-reports/noncandidateviewreports] can’t by law coordinate with candidates or their committees in efforts that support or oppose a candidate.
Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission General Counsel Gary Kam said Caldwell would be in violation of the law if his camp had any role in providing the content or determining the airtime of the commercial.
“If the candidate has any input, that would be considered some form of coordinated activity,” Kam said.
It would also be illegal on PRP’s end. The commercial itself would be considered a contribution to Caldwell’s campaign if he helped produce it in any way, such as providing content.
And considering individual contributions are capped at $4,000 in the mayor’s race, “any type of ad is going to be in excess,” Kam said.
But Kam said his office rarely receives complaints about illegal campaign coordination.
The most recent involved allegations that the Republican Governors Association had coordinated with Duke Aiona for the content in a commercial.
The case was resolved late last year and officials didn’t find any wrongdoing.
PRP spent $1.3 million on political ads leading up to the Aug. 11 primary, according to public filings submitted to local TV stations. Since the primary PRP has bought about $800,000 worth of TV ads.
All of that spending has come in the last two weeks.
Caldwell, meanwhile, has only spent $30,000 on TV spots since the Aug. 11 primary, bringing his total to $230,000 this election cycle.
Cayetano, who once said he expected to be outspent 10 to 1, has not spent any money on TV advertising since the primary. He bought about $300,000 worth of ads before the primary.