Beginning Monday and running through Nov. 5, a television commercial backed by major labor unions and other influential groups aims to convince voters that holding a constitutional convention would be too expensive.

Preserve Our Hawaii, a new political action committee that has the support of the state’s largest union, the Hawaii Government Employees Association, had as of Friday purchased more than $64,000 worth of airtime on KITV and KHON to show a 30-second commercial titled “Drive Home.”

Featuring a woman driving home on Oahu streets, a voice-over tells viewers that our roads have potholes, that public buildings are in disrepair and that empty lots sit where affordable housing could be built.

“And you will be asked if the state can afford another $55 million to hold a constitutional convention,” the narrator says. “Really? Where’s that money coming from?”

The ad, produced by the agency Core Group One, concludes: “Don’t be ConConned. Vote ‘no’ on the constitutional convention.”

Watch the ad here:

The ad is simple, direct and clear, but it doesn’t cite a source for its $55 million ConCon price tag.

Peter Adler, a Honolulu mediator who convened a ConCon Salon to examine a possible constitutional convention, said that the 1978 ConCon cost of $2.5 would in today’s dollars be $9.4 million. A 2008 estimate by the state said a ConCon could cost anywhere from $2.3 million to $11.1 million, while a Legislative Reference Bureau report that same year said the cost could range from $7.5 million to $48.8 million.

This is the third TV ad to appear this month focused on the two statewide ballot questions before voters Nov. 6.

On Oct. 1, the Affordable Hawaii Coalition, a new PAC backed by big bucks from the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, begin airing two TV ads opposing the constitutional amendment (ConAm) ballot question that asks voters if the Legislature should be given the power to levy a surcharge on real investment property to help public schools.

No pro-ConCon or ConAm ads have aired, allowing the “no” forces to define the issues early and often.

Similar to the ConAm ads, which do not mention what the surcharge would pay for, the ConCon ads do not explain what a ConCon might do.

A screen shot from Preserve Our Hawaii’s anti-ConCon TV ad.

Some supporters, for example, argue that a ConCon could result in elected delegates — with subsequent voter approval — amending the Hawaii Constitution to limit the terms of state legislators and create a statewide initiative process. Some detractors warn that laws supporting Native Hawaiians and environmental protections could be eroded.

Like the ConAm ads, the ConCon ad wants voters to believe that a constitutional conventional will be costly to taxpayers.

Preserve Our Hawaii is also supported by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii but has many more supporters, some with considerable political chops, suggesting that more anti-ConCon efforts may be in the works.

In addition to the HGEA, they include the Hawaii State Teachers Association (which supports the ConAm), the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, the Hawaii State AFL-CIO, the ILWU, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 50, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, Hawaii LECET (Hawaii Laborers and Employers Cooperation and Education Trust), United Public Workers and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

A screen shot from Preserve Our Hawaii’s anti-ConCon TV ad.

Also standing with Preserve Our Hawaii is the ACLU HawaiiHawaii’s Thousand Friends and the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

These groups represent business, labor, individual rights and environmental preservation.

“Preserve Our Hawaii is made up of a group of very diverse organizations that may, at times, take opposing stands on different issues,” HGEA Communications Officer Caroline Sluyter said in an email Sunday. “However, all of these organizations believe that Hawaii’s Constitution is one of the best in the nation and that to completely open it up in a constitutional convention is too risky, especially in the current political climate.”

It was not clear as of Friday whether any PACs will emerge to support a ConCon.

Civil Beat’s Blaze Lovell contributed to this report.

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.

You can also comment directly on this story by scrolling down a little further. Comments are subject to approval and we may not publish every one.

About the Author