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To get a feel for just how different the gubernatorial election campaigns of Neil Abercrombie and David Ige are, compare these two events:
It’s not clear who attended the governor’s fundraiser, but 11 executives from Ellison’s Oracle Corp. are listed on Abercrombie’s most recent campaign spending report. They contributed a total of $26,500 to him the same month as the fundraiser. A 12th Oracle executive gave $1,000 to Abercrombie in April. Nearly all the executives live in California; none listed Hawaii addresses.
Why would Oracle employees donate money to Abercrombie? Perhaps they are excited about his “New Day Plan” for Hawaii.
Or maybe it is because their boss Ellison owns the island of Lanai. The governor welcomed the purchase in June 2012, stating, “We look forward to welcoming Mr. Ellison in the near future.”
Ige and Abercrombie may be longtime Democratic elected officials, but they have clashed repeatedly in recent debates over leadership, policy and the direction of the state.
A Civil Beat examination of the campaign finances and spending patterns of the two candidates also reveals dramatically different politicians. It’s entirely lopsided, with the governor raising and spending millions of dollars compared to the senator’s very modest donations and expenditures.
Abercrombie has raised an impressive $4.3 million for his re-election and has $1 million in cash on hand. Compared with Ige, he has a massive fundraising advantage: Ige has raised just $322,000 and had only $92,000 in his war chest as of June 30.
The Hawaii governor has raised money by holding an unprecedented 15 fundraisers in six months. Though he raised just $883,000 during that period, he still has 10 times Ige’s cash on hand as the election enters its last four weeks.
The Hawaii governor has raised money by holding an unprecedented 15 fundraisers in six months.
By comparison, Ige has held just four fundraisers, Republican Duke Aiona has held six and independent candidate Mufi Hannemann apparently has held none. The Ige fundraisers do not include the Kahului event, as the donation level was not high enough to require its reporting to the state Campaign Spending Commission.
Abercrombie’s campaign is a large and well-greased machine, hitting up multiple sources for cash and spending it nearly as quickly as it rakes it in.
Major expenses for Abercrombie are of the kind expected in a modern professional campaign: polling and voter lists; programming, email distribution and social media outreach; campaign management and fundraising strategies; hired staff; and print, broadcast and online advertising.
The governor’s campaign has shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to experienced local firms such as SMS Research and Marketing Services and Olomana Loomis ISC, and to Strategic Outcomes LLC, a company set up by Bill Kaneko, Abercrombie’s campaign manager in 2010.
Abercrombie’s people are also keeping an eye on what online media has to say about their guy. His campaign expenses include a subscription to Civil Beat.
All told, Abercrombie spent $2 million during the first six months of the year. (The top Abercrombie vendors are listed at the end of this article.)
What it all means is that Abercrombie’s name, visage and message are all over the place, on street signs and T-shirts, in mailboxes, inboxes, in newspapers, on radio, on television and more.
Ige spent just one-eighth of what his opponent spent, or $226,000.
His biggest expenses have been to Kamehameha Schools/Colliers to rent a headquarters; to Kenton PR for campaign coordination and public relations; for website graphics, banners and yard signs; and for radio air time and production, where rates are far lower than print and TV.
Ige also spent just $2,000 for surveys, polls and voter lists, to Public Policy Polling of North Carolina. And he paid Pam Chambers Consulting of Honolulu $314 for “coaching services.”
It is not surprising that Abercrombie has a far larger war chest than Ige, or that he has aggressively pulled from it. After all, he has been raising money since he was elected in November 2010. Ige only declared his campaign a year ago.
As a sitting governor, Abercrombie also enjoys the advantage of incumbency when it comes to fundraising. It’s no wonder so many businesses (including developers) and political action committees (including labor) have thrown kala his way.
And yet, the governor’s contributions might seem less than they should be. He raised more than $4.5 million in his 2010 campaign, one in which he didn’t start raising money until just the year before.
Perhaps that is why he has reached out to mainland donors. Besides the Ellison fundraiser, two other Abercrombie’s fundraisers were held in San Francisco in early May and a fourth was held during that same week in Washington, D.C. The suggested contributions ranged up to $6,000 a head.
The governor has managed to get well-heeled mainland folks to pony up including Ron Zeff of Carmel Partners, a real estate acquisitions, development and investment firm San Francisco; George Zimmer of Montclair Venture Partner in Oakland, Calif.,; and several executives with Hartmann Studios of California, a strategy, design and production company.
Other big mainland contributors include attorney David Boise of New York, who gave $5,000. Boise is best known for being the losing attorney in the Bush v. Gore high court decision in 2000 and the fight against California’s Proposition 8 on gay marriage.
Also of note: Gerard Orozco, an executive with CH2M HILL, a Los Angeles consulting firm, has contributed $2,500 to Abercrombie so far. The agency overseeing Honolulu’s $5.1 billion rail project awarded a $46.1 million contract to CH2M HILL in late 2013 for design, scheduling, cost estimates, environmental and planning.
According to the Campaign Spending Commission, 21 percent of Abercrombie’s donations since 2010 have come from out of state. For Ige, just 3 percent of his contributions since 2012 have come from out of state; Ige did not declare his run for governor until July 2013.
Civil Beat asked the Abercrombie campaign on Friday whether it was disappointed with the recent contribution numbers and why it felt it was necessary to raise money on the mainland for a statewide race.
In an email statement, Kaneko said, “We’re very pleased with the positive response and financial support we received from the community. It is reflective of the overwhelming support of Gov. Abercrombie’s achievements in improving the economy, providing pre-school for all children, and caring for the environment. As with most statewide races, we occasionally traveled out of state to raise funds and share the vision for the future of the islands.”
Still, donor fatigue may explain why Abercrombie has sought backing from off shore resources. Hundreds of people, PACS and groups have already contributed heavily to him, maxing out at the $6,000 limit.
There are also high-profile races in Hawaii for the U.S. Senate, 1st Congressional District and the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, and there is only so much money to go around. And if Abercrombie survives the primary, he will need more money to fend off Aiona and Hannemann, who he defeated in the governor’s race just four years ago.
Aiona’s campaign raised $360,902 in the recent reporting period. Facing only nominal opposition in this year’s GOP primary, he $203,488 in cash on hand.
In the recent reporting period, 89 donors to Abercrombie reached the $6,000 limit. By contrast, Ige received six grand from just two sources: The Hawaii State Teachers Association and attorney Keith Hiraoka.
When it came to donations, Abercrombie was especially popular in the January-June period with people who work for him. More than 70 employees gave it up for the boss, no doubt hoping to keep their jobs for another four years.
They include Richard Lim and Mary Alice Evans of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism ($6,000 each for the entire cycle); Jade Butay of the Department of Transportation ($6,000) and Luis Salaveria of the Department of Budget and Finance ($6,000).
Here’s a few more: Jobie Masagatani of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands ($3,200); Pat McManaman of the Department of Human Services ($3,825); Maria Zielinsk of the Department of Accounting and General Services ($4,785); and Dean Seki and JoAnn Uchida Takeuchi of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs ($3,300 and $3,475, respectively).
And more: office staffer Anthony Benabese ($3,505); Fred Pablo of the Department of Taxation ($3,900); Joseph Kim of the Department of Defense ($4,120); Gary Gill of the Department of Health ($3,640); and Attorney General David Louie ($3,730).
Kaneko also gave generously to Abercrombie ($4,590). He is an attorney with Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing; several Alston Hunt lawyers have given money to the governor.
Ige’s contributors generally contributed much smaller amounts to his campaign and are far fewer in number.
According to the Campaign Spending Commission, 77 percent of Abercrombie’s contributions since 2010 were $1,000 or greater. For Ige, just 30 percent of his contributions since 2012 were $1,000 or greater.
Ige’s donors include several of his colleagues in the state Senate — Les Ihara, Ron Kouchi, Roz Baker and Suzanne Chun-Oakland — former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Kakaako community activist Michele Matson and Jennifer Sabas, chief of staff for the late Sen. Dan Inouye.
Ige is hoping voters notice the stark difference in contributions with his opponent, as it illustrates his “special interests vs. the little guy” theme. In a press release Thursday when the latest financial reports were announced, Ige pointed out Abercrombie’s multiple, high-end fundraisers, and his far more limited grab for money.
“Sixty-two percent or 557 individuals supported the Team Ige authentic grassroots campaign with contributions of less than $100,” state a press release.
Ige himself said, “Our campaign may be outspent but we definitely will not be outworked.”
|Shooters Film Production||$164,482.81|
|SMS Research and Marketing Services, Inc.||$117,046.94|
|Olomana Loomis ISC||$92,519.33|
|Strategic Outcomes LLC||$81,675.36|
|Clear Channel, Inc./KSSK, KHVH, KIKI||$63,308.21|
|Creative Design Hawaii||$51,561.78|
|FilmWorks Pacific, Ltd||$50,767.99|
|Promotions in Paradise||$40,088.98|
|Oahu Publications, Inc.||$37,048.17|
|New West Broadcasting Corp||$32,456.53|
|Three Point Media LLC||$30,000.00|
|Benabese, Anthony P.||$29,387.28|
|Ward Plaza – Warehouse LLC||$28,677.98|
|Hartmann, Deborah E.||$23,377.80|
|The Mellman Group||$22,400.00|
|Data Farm Consulting LLC||$21,435.71|
|SummitMedia LLC / KRTR-FM||$20,778.26|
|Pacific Media Group Maui||$19,931.00|
|Osaki Creative Group||$19,005.23|
|Ohana Broadcast Co., LLC/ KUMU KPOI KQMQ||$18,949.23|
|Pacific Media Group Hawaii||$18,763.42|
|Endo and Company, LLC||$18,115.18|
Source: Campaign Spending Commission
|Kamehameha Schools / Colliers||$34,227.69|
|Mana Means Inc.||$25,104.19|
Source: Campaign Spending Commission
— Nick Grube contributed to this report.