When Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Inouye died unexpectedly last month, he was — by his own account — planning to run again for the Senate seat he’d held for nearly 50 years.
Two weeks before he died, in what appears to be the last interview he gave to a reporter, Inouye told Civil Beat that he had no plans to give up the seat and would run again in 2016. “I made an announcement several months ago, and I intend to keep that unless a truck runs over me,” the 88-year-old Inouye said then.
That intent to campaign again, even at age 92, could be seen in his campaign treasury. When he died, Inouye had more than a quarter-million dollars in his main campaign account and another $50,000 in his leadership PAC, a political action committee he called DANPAC.
Paul Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said that it’s now up to the officers of Inouye’s campaign committees to disburse the funds.
“The money is actually in the possession of the candidate’s principal campaign committee,” Ryan said.
Political campaign committees are typically incorporated as nonprofit organizations under the law, with officers who are legally responsible for the actions of the organization, even when the candidate is still alive, Ryan said.
“At the end of the day, the folks who were assisting Mr. Inouye in running the committee prior to his death continue to be legally responsible for disposing of the funds and shutting down the committee,” Ryan said.
Inouye’s campaign treasurer has for years been Calvert G. Chipchase III, a well-known Honolulu attorney.
The campaign finance director is Dale Snape, the CEO and general manager of Wexler & Walker Public Policy Group in Bethesda, Maryland. Snape is a lobbyist whose web page begins with a laudatory quote from Inouye.
Chipchase said Thursday it’s not yet been decided exactly where the money will go.
“It’s really too early to tell,” he said. “No decisions have been made.”
Chipchase said Snape is really the guy who will make the decisions but that “certainly some of the money is going to be used to wind down the senator’s office and packing things up and sending them back to where they belong.”
Federal law allows the money to go to other candidates and political committees in accordance with contribution limits, as well as to charity. Chipchase says he’s sure some of the money will go to those kinds of things.
As of Sept. 30, the latest report on file with the FEC, Inouye had $268,454 left in his main campaign account. There were no loans outstanding.
Chipchase didn’t know how much of that money might have been doled out to other candidates in advance of the Nov. 6 election but he didn’t think Inouye had made many contributions to others at that late stage of the election cycle.
The next report is due Jan. 31.
A report filed Nov. 28 for DANPAC showed $54,730 in that account. In October and November, the PAC spent about $10,000 on fundraising services and accounting services.
Then on Dec. 27, Chipchase filed a new statement of organization for the leadership PAC that removed Inouye’s name from the organization.
“It reflected the fact that it’s no longer a leadership PAC to reflect that there’s no longer a leader,” Chipchase said.
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at email@example.com or call her at 808-377-0561.