The final tallies are in, and as expected, the Pacific Resource Partnership was the top political heavyweight when it came to campaign spending in local races.
In fact, PRP spent more money on elections this year than Honolulu Mayor-elect Kirk Caldwell and former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano combined.
PRP had more than $3.6 million in campaign expenditures between Jan. 1 and Nov. 6, according to its final campaign spending report filed Thursday.
Caldwell and Cayetano, on the other hand, spent about $3.1 million between them.
Almost all of PRP’s money went to ensuring Cayetano did not take over the mayor’s office and stop the $5.26 billion rail project.
PRP, of course, wants the rail system built. The group is a derivative of the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Fund, which is a partnership between the Hawaii Carpenters Union and the contractors who hire its members.
The Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Fund was the sole funder of PRP’s political action committee.
Whether PRP’s influx of cash actually swayed voters is difficult to measure. But one thing is certain, PRP’s tactics were not ignored.
Not only did the group get criticized by local media and politicians for its negative campaign tactics, but it’s now a defendant in a defamation lawsuit filed by Cayetano.
PRP’s Executive Director John White as well as the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Fund trustees are also named as defendants.
Like PRP’s influence on the race, the public might not ever know how much money the group truly spent on making sure Cayetano didn’t become mayor.
Campaign spending laws didn’t require the group to disclose how much cash went into its I Mua Rail campaign, which advocated for rail but not a specific candidate.
When comparing PRP’s reportable expenditures to those of super PACs at the federal level, the group definitely stands out.
It’s $3.6 million in expenditures would be enough to put it in the top 25, just behind Make Us Great Again, the conservative super PAC that supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s run for the White House.
But PRP wasn’t the only independent expenditure committee throwing cash at voters during the mayor’s race.
The union-backed Workers for a Better Hawaii also spent nearly $740,000 this election cycle, with much of its money coming from the Hawaii Carpenters Union. The Hawaii Government Employees Association also gave money to the PAC.
Workers for a Better Hawaii supported Caldwell for mayor. It even ran a commercial leading up the election starring Mayor Peter Carlisle after his primary defeat, saying voters should choose Caldwell to keep rail alive.
Cayetano had some backers too.
His former campaign co-chair Walter Heen and anti-rail activist Cliff Slater started SaveOurHonolulu.com to combat PRP’s attacks on the former governor.
Another group, Defend Truth, was formed by Milton Hirohata to do the same.
Unfortunately for Cayetano, neither group was able to raise enough to compete with PRP or Workers for a Better Hawaii.
Combined SaveOurHonolulu.com and Defend Truth raised $436,000, spending almost all of it.
That does little when stacked against the more than $4.3 million PRP and Workers for a Better Hawaii spent this year, almost all of which went toward securing Caldwell’s position at Honolulu’s helm.
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