Super PACs funded by groups based on the mainland have spent more trying to influence the Hawaii governors race since the Aug. 9 primary than the candidates have themselves, according to the latest filings with the state Campaign Spending Commission.
The public got its first look Monday at just how much cash the most active of these independent expenditure committees have put toward saturating the airwaves with ads targeting Democrat David Ige and Republican Duke Aiona.
Two super PACs in particular have set the pace, spending a combined $3.2 million to sway voters before the Nov. 4 general election.
Hawaii Forward — funded by the Democratic Governors Association and AFSCME, the nation’s largest public services employees union — has spent $1.46 million to help Ige win. His own campaign, meanwhile, has spent $830,000 since the primary and $1.42 million during the election.
The American Comeback Committee, which gets its money from the Republican Governors Association, spent $1.8 million to aid Aiona. His campaign has spent $1.21 million this election, $780,425 since the primary.
The campaigns for Ige and Aiona receive much of their money from individual contributors who live in Hawaii, many of whom are retirees, lawyers and business owners. Aside from the types of political action committees supporting them and the overall amounts raised and spent, other differences are less apparent.
Aiona, known for his strong religious views, receives a bigger slice of his campaign funds from Christian leaders. Almost three dozen pastors and ministers have donated $8,630 to his campaign since the primary and $21,130 so far this election.
Waianae Assembly of God minister Jeff Yamashita has given his campaign $5,600 and First Assembly of God senior pastor Klayton Ko has donated $1,000.
Aiona also received money from the heads of companies, like B&C Trucking President Verne Santos and Wiring Solutions President Dan Tetsutani who each gave his campaign $1,000.
Ige, who has been in the Legislature for the past three decades, received a lot of help from colleagues and former politicians.
State Sens. Roz Baker, Donovan Dela Cruz, Ron Kouchi, Donna Mercado Kim, Clarence Nishihara and Michelle Kidani each contributed at least $1,000, and that’s not to mention the House reps who kicked in cash like Angus McKelvey and Della Au Belatti. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano and his wife have donated a combined $11,000 and U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono gave Ige’s campaign $6,000.
While Ige’s biggest campaign contributions have come from left-leaning political action committees, developers, lawyers and people like University of Hawaii Professional Assembly Executive Director JN Musto, who had supported Gov. Neil Abercrombie in the primary, Ige is touting his small contributors.
“We have worked hard and received support from many new individuals and organizations,” he said in a press release Monday evening. “It’s reassuring to know that our campaign is continuing as it began, with the majority of our contributors giving $100 or less.”
Ige defeated Abercrombie in the primary by a shocking margin, but his cash disadvantage was even larger at almost 9-to-1 in favor of the incumbent. Abercrombie spent more than $5 million in his unsuccessful effort to win the Democratic primary.
Ige now qualifies for matching public funds because this reporting period, which covers Aug. 10 to Oct. 20, he received 1,704 contributions under $100, putting him over the required $100,000 aggregate.
Both Ige and Aiona spent the bulk of their campaign contributions on advertising, which has remained generally positive unlike the hit pieces coming from super PACs.
One notable expense in Ige’s report was paying back $70,000 in loans to himself, a family member and his campaign manager, Keith Hiraoka, that he desperately needed in the primary. It’s interesting that his campaign chose to do so given the tight race against Aiona and lack of any requirement mandating the money be repaid so soon.
Ige had $509,013 cash on hand at the close of the reporting period. Aiona, who has no debt and has not had to take out any loans, had $146,440 on hand as of Oct. 20.
Aiona’s campaign has not commented on the latest campaign spending reports.
In response to a specific question Monday about an expense for “campaign consulting” with WatkinsB LLC, based in Arlington, Virginia, his campaign spokeswoman, Dawn O’Brien, said Tuesday that Bryan Watkins, owner of the political and digital consulting firm, was retained by the campaign “to offer strategic political advice and guidance.” The campaign has spent $28,000 with the firm.
Monday marked the first time that Hawaii Forward and the American Comeback Committee have had to file a finance report with the Campaign Spending Commission because both became active after the primary and the state had no additional filing deadlines between then and now.
In reviewing their reports, one notable difference emerged in the types of ads — in support of a candidate versus opposition to a candidate — that the two groups have spent their money on.
Other than one expenditure — $62,624 on a mailer in support of Aiona — the American Comeback Committee has spent virtually all of its money on ads attacking Ige. Hawaii Forward, by contrast, has been more evenly split, with some ads supporting Ige and others attacking Aiona.
The American Comeback Committee has paid for ads denouncing Ige, a longtime state senator, for considering an increase to the general excise tax in 2011. And Hawaii Forward has financed ads reminding voters that Aiona, a former lieutenant governor, opposes abortion rights.
The RGA has formed similar PACs in other states to influence gubernatorial races. In Idaho, the Republican Governors Association Idaho PAC and the American Comeback Committee Idaho PAC have spent more than $500,000, according to a Northwest Public Radio story on Monday.
RGA is funded by the Koch brothers, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, hedge fund company Elliott Management, insurance companies like BlueCross/Blue Shield, oil companies such as Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks campaign spending.
The DGA receives its money from some of the same sources, including Wal-Mart, AstraZeneca and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. But its top contributors are AFSCME, the NEA, the Teamsters Union and telecommunications companies like Comcast and AT&T.
Political analysts have said the deadlock in Congress has led super PACs to spend more on gubernatorial races this election because the heads of state seem more capable of effecting change.
Other super PACs have spent sizable sums on the Hawaii governors race, but not nearly as much as Hawaii Forward or the American Comeback Committee.
The National Education Association Advocacy Fund, which gets its money from teachers unions, spent almost $300,000 on TV ads opposing Aiona.
And the union-funded Workers for a Better Hawaii PAC spent $72,984 on TV ads in support of Ige. The group gets its money from the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the state’s largest public worker union, and the Hawaii Committee on Political Education, which is funded by the AFL-CIO.
The other two candidates in the Hawaii governors race — Hawaii Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff Davis — did not attract the attention of super PACs. Neither is expected to have much of a chance at winning, based on recent polling.
Civil Beat’s last poll, published Monday, gave Ige a six-percentage point lead over Aiona. Hannemann was in third, trailing Aiona by 23 percent. Just 6 percent of people polled said they would vote for Davis.
Hannemann has raised another $110,175 and spent $194,845 since the primary. His campaign had $90,933 on hand as of Aug. 20, although he has $82,103 in unpaid expenditures.
Davis has raised $4,072 since the primary, bringing his total haul to $5,463. He spent $472 since the primary and had $3,840 cash on hand as of Oct. 20.
Hannemann and Ige both filed affidavits to voluntarily agree to campaign expenditure limits of $1.5 million. They are the first candidates for governor to do so since Linda Lingle did in 1998.