Union-backed Workers for a Better Hawaii also purchased video of Caldwell that it has been using in its own ad that aims to convince voters that former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano is not the best candidate for Honolulu.
Some of the Caldwell footage in the ad is that same as that found in PRP’s most recent TV spot that lauds him for being trustworthy while at the same time targeting Cayetano for accepting illegal campaign contributions and being associated with pay-to-play politics while governor.
Although these correlations continue to raise questions about whether any campaign finance laws have been shirked — everyone involved denies this — the ads also highlight the influence of outside money in the Honolulu mayor’s race.
This influence is only expected to grow as the election nears, especially considering recent developments.
Cayetano supporters are now in the midst of forming their own independent expenditure committee to compete with PRP and other outside groups. This would allow those supporters to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money so long as it didn’t coordinate with Cayetano’s campaign.
But even this wades into murky territory.
The head of the new independent expenditure committee is Walter Heen, a former appellate court judge, who recently resigned as a chair of Cayetano’s campaign. University of Hawaii law professor Randy Roth and anti-rail megaphone Cliff Slater are also involved with the new committee, which can also be considered as Hawaii’s version of a super PAC.
On Monday, Heen told Civil Beat he hopes the group will be up and running in the next few days. It currently has a website, SaveOurHonolulu.com that is still under construction, and cannot yet accept donations.
Cayetano tapped out many of his donors in the lead up to the August primary in hopes of gaining more than 50 percent of the vote and avoiding a runoff. Those contributors can now give money to the new independent expenditure committee and help Cayetano catch up to PRP.
“We feel that we can add more to the message regarding Cayetano and regarding Kirk Caldwell than what has been exposed up until now,” Heen said. “I think the public has become disillusioned with PRP’s program and have found that their ads have been less than truthful and we intend to expose the truth.”
Cayetano has not kept secret his displeasure of PRP’s tactics. Neither have some of his biggest donors, particularly Dennis Mitsunaga, who bought radio ads attacking the PRP’s executive director, John White.
Heen said it’s too soon to say what SaveOurHonolulu.com’s first ad will be, but he said with the election quickly approaching, the group is “under the gun.” Cayetano has said before that he expects to be outspent 10 to 1.
Meanwhile, there are still questions about the origin of Caldwell videos that have appeared in PRP’s latest attack ad.
Caldwell’s camp has been surprised by the resurfacing of the footage, saying it comes from his 2010 mayoral campaign and that he has not authorized its use. This stance has not changed, even with that footage now appearing in a Workers for a Better Hawaii commercial supporting Caldwell.
But while PRP has been tight-lipped about the origin of the Caldwell footage — a spokesman said it was “commercially available” — Randy Perreira, the head of the Hawaii Government Employees Association that is heavily involved with Workers for a Better Hawaii, has been more open about where the group got the Caldwell videos.
“The Workers for a Better Hawaii ad for Kirk Caldwell uses the footage as well, but we purchased it,” Perreira said. “The footage was purchased from the person who shot the video … We paid $1,000 a minute for five minutes.”
Perreira said he did not know the name of the person or company that provided the footage.
Unlike PRP, Workers for a Better Hawaii is not an independent expenditure committee, meaning the group’s money trail isn’t tracked as closely by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
Workers for a Better Hawaii does, however, spend a lot of money advertising in the mayor’s race. This requires the group to file an electioneering communication report with the commission.
According to those filings, Workers for a Better Hawaii has spent nearly $400,000 in support of Caldwell since July.
Those filings also show the group has received contributions from HGEA, the International Union for Painters, the Hawaii Committee on Political Education, AFL-CIO, and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, which shares an address with the Hawaii Carpenters Union.
PRP is a consortium of the carpenters union and local contractors. Jim McCoy, a spokesman for PRP, said the group did not want to comment further on the videos. He also said PRP did not want to comment on the formation of a pro-Cayetano independent expenditure committee.
The Campaign Spending Commission electioneering communication reports also show that Workers for a Better Hawaii spent its money with Honolulu-based firms, Laird Christianson Advertising and Chun & Yonamine Advertising. Caldwell’s campaign also uses Laird Christianson Advertising.
PRP, meanwhile, is using the same film production firm Caldwell used in 2010. So far PRP has spent more than $2 million on advertising during this election.