Defend Hawaii Now, the new outside group whose pro-Colleen Hanabusa ads started running last week, has been fined $3,000 by the Campaign Spending Commission for not filing the required paperwork with the state.

Commission officials levied the fine against the new super PAC on Thursday — just two days before the primary election, according to the commission’s associate director, Tony Baldomero. The fine covers more than $150,000 in last-minute contracts to run television and print ads supporting Hanabusa’s bid to unseat Gov. David Ige.

The group’s ads started running July 30 on KITV, KFVE, KHNL, KHON and cable stations – about a week before Defend Hawaii Now filed its organizational report with the commission. The super PAC, backed by prominent contractor and longtime political donor Dennis Mitsunaga, still hasn’t filed the required electioneering reports for those advertising contracts.

Neither Mitsunaga nor the group’s listed treasurer, Ernie Moritomo, could be reached for comment Friday. Defend Hawaii Now’s surprise influx of cash is part of a larger, last-minute spending blitz by candidates and outside groups alike as they try to sway voters ahead of Saturday’s crucial primary.

The carpenters union superPAC, Be Change Now, has spent an additional $405,000 in the last week to support Colleen Hanabusa’s campaign for governor and Lt. Governor candidate Josh Green. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Be Change Now, the local super PAC funded by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, has poured an additional $405,000 into the race in the past week or so to support Hanabusa and Sen. Josh Green’s bid for lieutenant governor.

That’s on top of the $2.9 million that the politically powerful labor group had already spent.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii State Teachers Association has joined with the state’s local hotel and hospital workers in the race’s final days to help Ige. Spending reports show that HSTA contributed $50,000 to AiKea UNITE HERE last week, part of that super PAC’s latest, $80,000 advertising push supporting Ige’s reelection.

Gov David Ige gestures Nature conservation gubernatorial forum held at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Gov David Ige has benefitted from final week campaign spending by the Hawaii State Teachers Association and the union representing hotel and hospital workers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Both Ige and Hanabusa have further boosted their campaign coffers in the home stretch. Ige reported collecting $84,400 in donations toward his campaign, while Hanabusa reporting collecting about $120,000.

Hanabusa also held a last-minute campaign fundraiser Thursday. That’s after her campaign had reported having about $110,000 in cash on hand as of July 27, compared to Ige’s $341,000. Hanabusa, however, benefits from more outside super PAC spending.

Some of those groups’ backers have bristled at media coverage. On Thursday, Honolulu attorney Sheri Tanaka sent both Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now nearly identical letters on behalf of Mitsunaga claiming that the news reports contained “a number of false statements” — but not specifying further.

“On a going forward basis, please get your facts straight so that you do not make any additional false reports,” Tanaka wrote. She could not be reached for comment Friday.

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