PRP formed an independent expenditure committee to launch sophisticated political attacks on former Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano, who was running for Honolulu mayor.
Cayetano wanted to sink the city’s $5.2 billion rail project, and PRP, which is a consortium of union contractors and carpenters, spent around $4 million to make sure that didn’t happen.
While PRP is once again throwing its cash around in local races — this time under the name Forward Progress — it’s the mainland money that’s fueling spending this year.
The Republican Governors Association, through its American Comeback Committee Hawaii PAC, has spent $1.8 million to try to push GOP candidate Duke Aiona into office.
Hawaii Forward, the super PAC supporting Democrat David Ige for governor, has spent just under $1.5 million. The PAC is mostly funded through the Democratic Governors Association and AFSCME, a public sector union with 1.6 million members.
The National Education Association has also pumped nearly $300,000 into the race in opposition to Aiona.
Both the Democratic Governors Association and its GOP counterpart have spent more on this race than it did in 2010, the last time Aiona ran for office
According to communication statements filed with the Campaign Spending Commission, the Republican Governors Association reported spending $931,000 in 2010. The Democratic Governors Association spent $224,000.
But super PACs aren’t just paying attention to the most high-profile elections these days.
Several well-funded operations, including Forward Progress, the Maui Timeshare Ohana and AiKea, which is funded by the hospitality workers union, are trying to influence local races as well.
These are the groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money so long as they don’t coordinate with the campaign they’re supporting.
And if you’re wondering why they get the special treatment look no further than the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which equated campaign cash to free speech.
Still, Hawaii voters are seeing a whole new classification of special interests dominating this year’s election.