William Aila, deputy director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, has the most cash on hand in the race for three at-large seats at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, but not by much.

Aila has $5,346, while former state Sen. Pohai Ryan is close behind at just under $4,000.

There’s not much money being spent on OHA races compared to other statewide seats. But the election comes at a critical time for the semi-autonomous organization that’s dedicated to Native Hawaiians.

Over the past year, the organization has been wrought with infighting and ethics scandals. A state audit earlier this year suggested OHA leaders may not be meeting their fiduciary duties to spend trust funds properly for the benefit of Native Hawaiians. The agency is currently being investigated by the state Attorney General’s office.

Here’s what the race looks like so far based on campaign spending reports submitted this week. The filings submitted Thursday cover the period from Jan. 1 through June 30. Reports for four of the 15 candidates were not available online Friday.

Money In The Bank

Aila is the former head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. His donors include current OHA chief executive officer Kamana’opono Crabbe and former Democratic congressman Ed Case who is running again for Congress this year.

Several current OHA trustees have been clamoring to get rid of Crabbe in the wake of a highly critical audit of OHA released in February. The election could determine whether there are enough votes for him to remain CEO.

Other contributors to Aila include former OHA trustee Haunani Apoliona; attorney Paul Alston who represents OHA; lobbyist Bruce Coppa and Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. Also among his donors are Colbert Matsumoto, chairman of Island Insurance, and the campaign committee for Maile Shimabukuro, a state representative from West Oahu.

Ryan is a former Democratic state senator and the former director of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. She’s received money from local unions representing iron workers, electricians and plumbers. Her supporters also include Sen. Kalani English from Maui and Sen. Michelle Kidani from Mililani.

Few Are Fundraising

Even though there are 15 candidates running for three at-large seats. only five of them reported raising any money so far. Makana Paris, Aila, Ryan, Brendon Kalei’aina Lee and Landen D.K.K. Paika each raised thousands.

Paris is a research analyst at the Iron Workers Stabilization Fund who also is president of the Prince Kuhio Hawaiian Civic Club. His donors include his employer as well as unions representing industrial and commercial painters, electricians and hospitality workers. He also received money from business executives like Richard Fernandez, vice president of AECOM and attorneys such as Denver Coon of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel.

Lee was the chairman of the 2016 Native Hawaiian governance convention known as the aha that formulated a constitution for a Native Hawaiian government. He’s got the support of OHA chairwoman Colette Machado, who gave him $500.

Spending and Debt

The top spenders for OHA at-large seats were Paris, Aila, Ryan and Lee. Incumbent trustee Lei Ahu Isa didn’t raise or spend any money this year. Nor did Faye Hanohano, a former state representative.

Paris spent most of his money on campaign events and supplies. Aila spent more than $6,000 on advertising with the Kalaimoku Group for video production and air time. Ryan’s expenses include advertising, office supplies and traveling to the Big Island. Lee spent more than $1,000 in travel expenses for his wife to attend a Democratic convention in May.

None of the current OHA board members who are running for re-election spent any money this year. Both John Waihee IV and Rowena Akana have the biggest deficits.

Akana reported being in the red $1,180 in January and owing $17,800 in loans by June, despite not spending any money yet this year.

Waihee started the year with $241.20, reported a $22,000 loan and ended up with a $21,758 deficit. He also reported zero expenditures over the past six months.

Paris doesn’t have any loans but reported more than $7,800 in unpaid expenditures for fundraising events and campaign paraphernalia.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

We appreciate gifts of any amount

When you give, your donation is combined with gifts from thousands of your fellow readers, and together you help power the strongest team of investigative journalists in the state.

Every little bit helps. Will you join us?

About the Author