Mayor Kirk Caldwell has received large chunks of cash from his own employees at Honolulu Hale as well as from those involved in major construction and development projects around town, a Civil Beat analysis of Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission data shows.

Caldwell raised almost $2.4 million between Nov. 7, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2015. Only a small percentage — about $16,000 — comes from individuals giving him $100 or less.

Many of the companies that gave tens of thousands of dollars to Caldwell’s campaign have received lucrative contracts to help build the city’s $6.6 billion rail project, which is slated to carry commuters from East Kapolei to downtown Honolulu at Ala Moana Center.

With less than six months to go before the Aug. 13 primary, Caldwell reports having $1.6 million in cash on hand.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signing the bill to extend Oahu's rail surcharge, Feb. 2. The mayor's political campaign gets lots of financial support from firms linked to the project.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s political campaign gets lots of financial support from firms linked to the rail project as well as his staff, including Transportation Director Mike Formby at far right. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Despite talk that he will face a well-known challenger — possibly Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin or former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona — only one candidate has thus far pulled papers to run against him. The Anaheim, Calif., phone number listed by that candidate, Timothy Garry, was out of service when Civil Beat tried it Tuesday.

By contrast, six candidates have already pulled papers to run for the Hawaii County mayoral seat, which will be vacant when Billy Kenoi’s term ends this year. Two of them, Wally Lau (a former county managing director) and Peter Hoffmann (a former Hawaii County Council member), have already officially filed.

Caldwell received $255,000 from donors that did not identify their employer or occupation in the campaign spending data. 

He received another $222,000 from other entities, including businesses and political action committees. This group includes businesses like Monsanto Company ($2,500) and political action committees that gave between $2,000 and up to the $4,000 limit: Hawaii Laborers, United Public Workers, Ironworkers For Better Government and Hawaii Carpenters.

Another large group of donors described themselves as “self-employed,” contributing more than $112,000 to Caldwell. It included donors like Robert Iwamoto Jr., the owner of the tourism transport company Roberts Hawaii, who gave the mayor $4,000.

The third-largest group of donors is represented by Honolulu City and County employees, and they gave a total of $84,300 to their boss.

The mayor has yet to draw a challenger in his 2016 re-election, but there are several names out there.
The mayor has yet to draw a challenger in his 2016 re-election, but there are several names out there: Duke Aiona and Ernie Martin are the two most mentioned. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

There are nearly 40 donors listed identifying themselves as Caldwell employees over the past three and a half years. They include many top aides such as Managing Director Roy Amemiya, Deputy Managing Director Georgette Deemer, Chief of Staff Ray Soon and Transportation Director Mike Formby.

It’s not unheard of for government workers to donate to the elected official who employ them. They have obvious vested interests.

Money Follows Power

The mayor has also received abundant donations from major businesses involved with projects such as the Honolulu rail line. They include Kobayashi Sugita & GodaR.M. Towill and HDR Inc.

It is not unusual for major construction firms and developers to give money to politicians. But Kobayashi Sugita & Goda has a large number of employees giving to Caldwell, including former Hawaii Attorney General David Louie and Lex Smith, a former campaign chair for Caldwell.

Other donors involved with Oahu transportation but not working for the mayor were Dan Grabauskas ($3,500) and Brennon Morioka ($3,000) of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, and Roger Mortin ($3,000) and Robert Yu ($3,000) of Oahu Transit Services, which manages TheBus.

Caldwell was acting mayor of Honolulu when he lost the special election to fill out the remainder of Mufi Hannemann's term.
Caldwell was acting mayor of Honolulu when he lost the 2010 special election to fill out the remainder of Mufi Hannemann’s term. Hannemann stepped down to run unsuccessfully for governor. Civil Beat

Other donors worth mentioning are several officials with Territorial Savings Bank who gave a total of $10,000. Caldwell is on the board of directors for Territorial, where his annual income ranges between $200,000 and $290,000. When running for mayor in 2012, he reported receiving more than $21,000 in donations from Territorial employees.

To illustrate how keen the mayor appears to be to serve another term, he spent $114,000 from July through December on his campaign. Most of it went to SMS Research & Marketing Services for surveys, polls and voter lists, and to Anthology Marketing Group for services and consulting.

Caldwell also reported spending more $20,000 during the same time period for food and beverages at The Plaza Club, Honolulu County Club and Sky Waikiki, and the Fairmont Washington, D.C.

Those are the locations of some of Caldwell’s many fundraisers — 31 since April 2013. The most recent was just last week, at 3660 On the Rise on Waialae Avenue. The suggested donation was $2,000.

City employee Contribution amount
Kubo, Carolee C. $4,000.00
Kubo, Keith K. $4,000.00
Leong, Donna Y. $4,000.00
Leong, Randy M. $4,000.00
Nakata, Gary $4,000.00
Soon, Raynard C. $4,000.00
Formby, Michael $3,600.00
Deemer, Georgette T. $3,500.00
Kubota, Tracy S. $3,200.00
Gruenstein, Justin V. $3,000.00
Nekota, Michele K. $2,750.00
Wong, Mark D. $2,700.00
Atta, George I. $2,600.00
Ho, Keith A.G. H. $2,550.00
Garrity, Mark N. $2,520.00
Rue, Harrison B. $2,520.00
Takashige, Chris T. $2,500.00
Amemiya, Roy K. Jr. $2,000.00
Bright, Clarke $2,000.00
Kahikina-Moniz, Lorita $2,000.00
Kroning, Robert J. $2,000.00
Oto, Mark K. $2,000.00
Parry, Lani $2,000.00
Kahikina-Moniz, Lorita M. K. $1,750.00
Kurokawa, Gary T. $1,750.00
Yonamine, Mark K. $1,720.00
Kajiwara, Sherilyn T. $1,600.00
Broder Van Dyke, Jesse K. $1,540.00
Lai, Po-Young $1,500.00
Ono, Myra S. $1,200.00
Dacus, Chris A. $1,000.00
Koyanagi, Nelson H. $1,000.00
Lai, Po-Yung $1,000.00
Parry, Nalani $1,000.00
Yamashita, Barbara $1,000.00
Miranda-Johnson, Melissa K. $500.00
Houghton, Timothy A. $250.00
Golojuch, Michael J. $50.00

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