Hawaii Sen. Clayton Hee is no slouch when it comes to raising campaign cash.
But he’s squaring off with another formidable fundraiser in the Aug. 9 primary in his bid to become Hawaii’s next lieutenant governor.
Incumbent Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui has taken advantage of higher contribution limits and his time away from the daily grind of the legislative session to rake in substantial amounts of money.
Tsutsui is Hawaii’s former Senate president, and was appointed to lieutenant governor after the death of U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye in December 2012. Tsutsui was next in line to replace then-Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who was chosen by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to take over for Inouye in Washington, D.C.
According to Hawaii campaign spending data, Tsutsui has seen a significant boost in his campaign coffers since taking over for Schatz.
Between the Nov. 6, 2012, election and Dec. 31, 2013 — the end of the last campaign finance reporting period — Tsutsui had received more than $322,000 in contributions from individual donors.
That’s nearly three times what he raised during his last Senate campaign, in which he ran unopposed.
Part of the increase is likely due to higher contribution limits for lieutenant governor candidates, who are allowed to accept up to $6,000 from a single donor. State senators are only allowed to receive $4,000 from a single person or entity.
But what’s surprising about the increase is that Tsutsui was in a much higher profile position before becoming lieutenant governor.
As Senate president he held sway over key legislation, which put him in a prime position to pull in donations from special interests.
Tsutsui, however, has been getting even more money recently from key labor and business donors who often fill the coffers of multiple lawmakers every year.
For instance, some of the usual suspects who have given money to Tsutsui’s campaign include the Hawaii Operating Engineers, the Plumbers & Pipefitters, the Hawaii Carpenters Union, Alexander & Baldwin and Bank of Hawaii.
He’s also pulled in donations from some high-profile individuals, such as Walter Dods, former First Hawaiian Bank CEO and Inouye confidant, and Don Horner, chair of the Hawaii Board of Education.
Tsutsui has also gotten significant funding from his home island of Maui.
Tsutsui received support from several former colleagues as well, including Sens. Maile Shimabukuro, Donovan Dela Cruz, Roz Baker and David Ige, who is running against Abercrombie.
But Tsutsui has also gotten significant funding from his home island of Maui. Campaign spending data shows he’s hauled in tens of thousands of dollars from donors with Valley Isle addresses.
While Tsutsui’s recent fundraising success presents a challenge to Hee — who is way behind in the polls — the current lieutenant governor still doesn’t have as much money in the bank as the influential senator, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.
That’s nearly $100,000 more than Tsutsui had in cash on hand at the end of the reporting period.
Tsutsui, however, has been busy fundraising ever since becoming lieutenant governor. So far he’s already held nine fundraisers, three of which came after the last filing period ended.
Hee, who announced his candidacy in May, has only held one fundraiser in 2014. He’s only held four since the 2012 election.
His total contributions over that span are just under $173,000.
In his last electoral contest, in which he eventually beat Republican Colleen Meyer, Hee raised more than $306,000 and spent about $194,000.
Civil Beat is tracking the money flowing to candidates and campaigns for local, state and federal elections in a variety of ways. Our series, “Cashing In,” focuses on campaign finance reports filed with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission and other political spending. We’re looking at who’s giving, who’s getting and how the money is being spent.
• Stay plugged in to campaigns and candidates this election season with Civil Beat’s Hawaii Elections Guide 2014, your source for information on federal, state and local elections.