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Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate for governor, has a unique media platform that his opponents don’t enjoy.
The radio time and print-online space deliver Hannemann to lots of households, radios and computers in the state, keeping the former Democrat’s name prominent in the public sphere.
And it’s all legal, according to the state Campaign Spending Commission.
“The columns and radio show are OK — that’s his job,” said commission attorney Gary Kam, who pointed to an advisory opinion from 2000 on candidates employed in local media and 2010 Hawaii Administrative Rules on candidate contributions.
If Hannemann were to use his program or column to campaign, Kam said he would either have to pay the paper or the station for the time or report the expense as an in-kind contribution from the paper or the station on his campaign spending reports.
The Hannemann campaign declined to comment for this story. Calls to Leilani Williams, the general manager of KKOL, were not returned.
“The columns and radio show are OK — that’s his job,” said Gary Kam of the Campaign Spending Commission.
We did hear from MidWeek, however.
“Mufi is compensated for his columns, which are well-written, informative and among our best-read, according to surveys,” editor Don Chapman said via email. “Mufi is just one of several politicians who contribute to MidWeek, including in our MidWeek Islanders.”
Chapman sent along a list of contributors to Windward Oahu, Central Oahu and West Oahu Islanders that included 16 elected officials — among them, state Sen. Will Espero, Rep. Cynthia Thielen and Honolulu City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine.
Among those who Chapman did not mention are regular MidWeek contributors David Chang, the former chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party; Jerry Coffee, who has previously run for office; and Bob Hogue, a former legislator.
So, there is a history of elected officials contributing to MidWeek. The question is whether we need to revisit our current laws on candidates who work in the media.
Hannemann’s MidWeek column, called “Island Matters,” is of particular of interest, as he frequently uses the print and online space to affectionately recall his years in elective office.
Take a look at portions of three recent columns, each published after Hannemann officially filed to run for governor on June 3:
I applaud the City and County of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii, which are following through on plans that stemmed from a task force I commissioned as Honolulu mayor back in May 2009. I accepted the findings back then made by a 16-member task force to demolish the historic site and build two groins in order to create a beach, and restore/rebuild the arches inland. …
I would like to personally acknowledge again Collin Lam (my former deputy director at the city’s Department of Design and Construction) who chaired the Waikiki Natatorium Task Force, and all the community members who laid the groundwork with the help of city and state officials and consultants for the plan that is being lauded today. …
It all began with the late David Pinkham Kaiana Eldredge II, aka “Pop,” who started the passion back in Lahaina in the 1920s. …
“Grandpa was a young kid who enjoyed playing baseball with the older generation. As an adult, he began what was known today as the Manoa Little League,” says Duane P. K. Eldredge of Pop, who was the sole coach for all the teams in Manoa during the ’50s, and was known to have put in blood, sweat and tears to build the Manoa Valley District Park all by himself. The elder Eldredge also was affectionately called the “Mayor of Manoa.”
He passed away a few days short of his 90th birthday back in April 1997, the same year that the district’s City Councilman Andy Mirikatani and I introduced a resolution naming the facilities at the park in honor of Duane’s grandfather.
Today, young athletes and Hawaii sports fans enjoy a 30-acre recreational facility that has one baseball field and three softball fields.
Of 1991’s Hurricane Iniki, Hannemann wrote: “I recall visiting Kauai as the state DBEDT director when Gov. John Waihee tasked our department with taking the lead in evacuating the thousands of stranded tourists. …”
Hannemann later refers to recent efforts of the four counties to update their hurricane response plans and procedures: “I am pleased to see these upgrades, as well as the improved working relationship among the Department of Homeland Security, federal government and state and local governments. This was a push that we started back in 2007 during my first term as mayor … We were totally committed to the city’s preparedness efforts, and alerting the general public in a timely manner during emergencies was our utmost concern.”
The photo accompanying the hurricane column features Mel Kaku, who was the director of the city Department of Emergency Management when Hannemann was mayor. Kaku previously worked for Hannemann as director of the city’s Department of Transportation Services.
Hannemann’s radio work became an issue when he ran for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District seat in 2012 and two of his opponents raised concerns about the oldies pop-and-rock music program.
Tulsi Gabbard, who eventually won the race, told Civil Beat in October 2011 that it was inappropriate for Hannemann to continue the show after announcing his candidacy.
In June 2012, two months before the Democratic primary, another CD2 opponent, Bob Marx, said he would ask KKOL for equal time.
As it turned out, Hannemann, who told Civil Beat that he paid an undisclosed amount to air his program, canceled his show June 9 of that year, five days after he officially filed to run.
In that regard, he was in compliance with Federal Communications Commission regulations requiring candidates to give up their airtime once they are officially certified — or else their opponents qualify for equal time.
Hannemann’s radio show does not appear to veer into the political. For example, the promo for the June 7 program, as stated on the Vote Mufi Facebook page, was all about “feel good sounds” from Shalamar, Sade, the Chantels, Donovan and Jigsaw.
“Gonna do a shout out to Prince and Tom Jones on their birthdays today and we got 808 artists Iva Kinimaka and the Krush to take you down memory lane,” the promo promised.
That’s a very different use of radio then, say, Jeff Davis, who is seeking the Libertarian Party nomination for Hawaii governor.
Davis, who calls himself “The Solar Guy” because he runs a photovoltaic panel business, has a program, “Hawaii’s Tomorrow,” that runs from 5 to 6 p.m. on KGU 760 AM and is rebroadcast on the weekends.
Davis pays for his show to run, and he not only regularly directs listeners to his campaign website, but for the past few weeks he has been using the program to cast a spotlight on homelessness in Hawaii.
Davis is offering “celebrity sleepovers” to those willing to spend the night with homeless folks in Kakaako. A 5-minute clip on YouTube shows Davis doing his radio show and sharing tents with homeless people, many of them children.
So far, the local media has largely ignored Davis.
But then, he’s not a former mayor of Honolulu who has been in politics since 1986.
• 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.