WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign reported raising $1.95 million during the first quarter of 2019, placing her well behind the rest of the Democratic field that includes heavyweights like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.

Even South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg out-raised Gabbard, pulling in a reported $7.1 million.

Monday was the filing deadline for presidential candidates to report how much money they’d raised and spent in the first quarter of 2019.

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announces her run for president at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard raised nearly $2 million for her presidential campaign. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

And while many shared their numbers before the actual reports came due to the Federal Election Commission, the Hawaii congresswoman played hers close to the vest.

The FEC reports show Gabbard raised just over $1 million from small donors giving less than $200. Much of the rest — about $882,000 — came from itemized donations of $200 and above, meaning contributors would have to share their names and business affiliations.

Both of Gabbard’s parents, Mike and Carol Gabbard, gave their daughter $2,800, which is the maximum contribution for the primary.

Gabbard also transferred $2.5 million into her presidential account from her congressional campaign committee.

The FEC reports show Gabbard spent about $1.2 million on the things one might expect of a presidential candidate — travel and hotel expenses in early primary and caucus states, such as New Hampshire and Iowa, campaign management services and advertising.

Gabbard also paid her husband, Abraham Williams, who is her campaign videographer, about $1,800 for his services.

The FEC reports show Gabbard had nearly $2.8 million in cash on hand at the close of the reporting period March 31.

Gabbard’s campaign treasurer and spokeswoman Erika Tsuji did not respond to Civil Beat’s request for comment.

Gabbard kicked off her presidential campaign with nearly $2 million cash in her congressional campaign account.

That money was left over from her ambitious fundraising efforts in the years following her first election to Congress in 2012.

In the 2014, 2016, and 2018 election cycles, Gabbard pumped millions of dollars into her war chest despite the fact she didn’t face any serious challenges from other Democrats or Republicans.

The congresswoman also spent large sums of money despite the dearth of electoral competition. Those efforts allowed her to expand her fundraising base and craft the well-curated image she’s now presenting on the national stage.

Still, Gabbard, 37, has struggled to find her way in a field that could include upwards of 20 candidates, many of whom have higher profiles, deeper pockets and longer resumes.

Gabbard has campaigned largely on the need to pull the U.S. out of what she describes as regime-change wars so that the country can start spending that money on domestic issues, such as Medicare-for-all.

She’s also had to apologize for her past virulent views about the LGBTQ community and same-sex marriage as well as answer for her secret trip to Syria, where she met with the country’s president Bashar al-Assad, who many consider a war criminal.

Even the official launch of her campaign started with a sputter as she parted ways with two of her top consultants just as she announced her candidacy.

Gabbard, however, persevered and earlier this month announced she received enough donations to qualify for the Democratic debate stage in June.

‘I’m Not Afraid To Take On Anyone’

Last week, Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele, a Hawaiian Airlines pilot as well as a major in the Hawaii Air National Guard, boasted of raising $250,000 from 3,231 donors in the first quarter of 2019.

By any measure that’s an impressive haul for a first-time federal candidate who could be challenging one of the state’s most popular politicians if she abandons her presidential bid and runs for her own seat again.

But Kahele says he could have done better if he’d kicked off his candidacy sooner.

“We officially launched on Jan. 21, and if I had those 21 days back I think it could have been $300,000,” Kahele said.

Chair Kai Kahele gestures during water rights hearing with left, Ways and Means chair Donovan.
Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele feels good about how much money he’s raised so far in his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who’s running for president. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Much of Kahele’s money — about $195,000 — came from donors giving his campaign more than $200, meaning their names, address and business affiliations are listed in the reports.

Kahele also received $8,700 from three political action committees, including the Hawaiian Airlines PAC.

Other PACs contributing to Kahele’s campaign are those affiliated with the Bank of Hawaii and Service Corporation International, which provides funeral and cemetery services.

Gabbard said she swore off PAC contributions in 2017, something that has become en vogue, especially among progressive Democrats running for president.

What the FEC filings make clear is that Kahele is picking up support — at least financially — from some of the state’s most influential business leaders and power brokers.

Kahele is already endorsed by former Hawaii governors John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie, all of whom are honorary co-chairs of his campaign.

Among his donors are developer Stanford Carr, shipping magnate George Pasha, of the Pasha Group, and Alicia Moi, president and CEO of Hawaii Gas.

Top lobbyists, including George “Red” Morris, John Radcliffe, Bruce Coppa, Melissa Pavlicek and Blake Oshiro, whose firm Capital Consultants of Hawaii is a mainstay in island politics, are also on the donor list. 

Other notable names are Walter Dods and Crystal Rose. Dods is the former chairman of First Hawaiian Bank and was U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye’s campaign chairman. Rose, meanwhile, is a real estate lawyer, and trusted campaign advisor for U.S. Rep. Ed Case.

Leaders in the Native Hawaiian community have also thrown their support behind Kahele, who is part-Native Hawaiian.

Three current Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees, Lei Ahu Isa, Robert Lindsey and Colette Machado, have donated to his campaign, as have two past members, Peter Apo and Oswald Stender.

A handful of local politicians have also given Kahele money, including state Sen. Michelle Kidani, Rep. Chris Todd and Hawaii County Councilman Aaron Chung.

Kahele says he’s appreciative of all the support and hopes that it leads to an even better financial showing in the next fundraising quarter.

He said at this point he considers himself the only person in the race for the Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District because Gabbard has been busy running for president. He added that she’s also appeared “noncommittal” when pressed about her future plans for the seat.

“I’m definitely not afraid to take on anyone who desires to serve the district,” Kahele said. “I know my sole focus is going to be representing the people of CD2 in Congress. It’s not going to be running across the country and trying to get on the national news networks.”

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