WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard raised $3 million in three months to help bolster her campaign for president, but she still lags far behind much of the 2020 Democratic field.

Unlike other candidates in the race, Gabbard kept her fundraising totals under wraps until the Federal Election Commission deadline on Tuesday.

While the haul is the best yet for Gabbard — it’s twice the amount she raised in the second quarter — her total falls short when stacked against other candidates who most would consider relevant at this point in the race.

EW Center Hearing Rep Tulsi Gabbard.
Tulsi Gabbard continues to raise cash in her campaign for the presidency. But she’s still lagging far behind the frontrunners. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

So far Gabbard has raised $9 million for her campaign, with $2.5 million coming from her congressional campaign bank account.

Compare that to frontrunners, such as Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, who pulled in more than $172 million between the three of them since the beginning of the year.

Lower polling candidates, such as Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke, also raised more money than Gabbard.

The FEC reports show Gabbard spent about $300,000 more than she raised during the third quarter, leaving her with about $2.1 million in cash.

Among other expenditures, Gabbard reported paying $128,000 in payments to website and digital management firm, Northwest Digital, based in Stehekin, Washington, a remote wilderness area in the Northern Cascades.

That was in addition to the $259,000 Gabbard had paid the company and owner Kris Robinson from January to July. Civil Beat reported on the puzzling expenditures to Robinson in September.

Robinson, like Gabbard, is affiliated with the Science of Identity Foundation, an offshoot of Hare Krishna that former followers have described as a cult.

‘She Should Have Resigned’

While Gabbard focuses on the presidential bid, Hawaii state Sen. Kai Kahele continues his quest to replace her in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kahele announced his candidacy for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in January, just one week after Gabbard made her presidential plans known.

So far Kahele has raised more than $501,000 in his quest to oust Gabbard, who has not yet said whether she will run for re-election if she loses out on the Democratic nomination for president. About $102,000 of Kahele’s money came in the third quarter of 2019, according to FEC records.

Sen Chair Kai Kahele asks State Auditor Les Kondo about possible Mauna Kea audit.
State Sen. Kai Kahele wants to replace U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in Congress. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kahele got significant financial backing from donors in Hawaii, including several people who are well-known lobbyists.

For instance, George “Red” Morris, the president of Capitol Consultants has donated thousands of dollars to Kahele’s campaign as have his lobbyist colleagues Bruce Coppa and Blake Oshiro.

Other familiar names include Walter Dods, who was the campaign chairman for the late-U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, and Colbert Matsumoto, a well-connected businessman who used to serve on the board of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

Kahele, who’s a Hawaiian Airlines pilot and combat veteran serving as a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard, has already received the endorsement of three former governors – John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie.

He also has the endorsement of Honolulu City Council Chairman Ikaika Anderson, who was Gabbard’s colleague on the council before she decided to run for Congress.

In an interview with Civil Beat, Kahele said he was pleased with his campaign’s fundraising efforts so far. He said he was also encouraged by a recent poll that found half the voters in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District want someone other than Gabbard representing them.

“We passed the half a million mark in nine months, and for somebody who’s running against an incumbent member of Congress that says something,” Kahele said. “We’re well on our way to the type of campaign that we plan to run.”

Kahele’s pitch to voters is simple — he’ll show up for work.

He points to the 140 votes Gabbard missed so far this year while running for president, which equates to about one in four. He said the votes represent the 750,000 or so people living in the district. 

So when Gabbard skipped out on votes that ultimately provided $4.6 billion in emergency funding to address the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, Kahele said, it wasn’t just Gabbard who was  absent — it was her constituents as well.

“The people in Iowa and New Hampshire know Congresswoman Gabbard better than the residents of CD2 know Congresswoman Gabbard,” he said. “If she was going to take a year off to run for president she should have resigned. She should have given someone else the opportunity to do the job that she’s taken a year off not to do.”

Gabbard, who was participating in Tuesday’s presidential debate in Ohio, did not respond to Civil Beat’s requests for comment.

Still No Challengers For Case

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case, who represents urban Oahu and does not yet face a challenge for his seat, reported raising just under $71,000 in the third quarter of 2019, largely from political action committees.

Case limited his expenditures to about $17,000, money that mostly went toward a Washington, D.C.-based fundraising consultant, Eckert & Associates, which boasts a number of current and former House members on its client roster, including Mark Takai, Hawaii’s former U.S. representative who died in 2016.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case still doesn’t have a primary challenger in CD1. Courtesy: Governor's Office

Some of Case’s notable donors include his sister, Suzanne Case, who is the head of the Hawaii Department of Natural Resources, and Randall Roth, a University of Hawaii professor who’s best known as an opponent of Honolulu’s $9 billion rail project and the co-author of “Broken Trust,” a book that detailed mismanagement, fraud and political manipulation at the Bishop Estate.

Honolulu Police Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan also donated to Case’s re-election campaign as did Nan Shin, whose company Nan Inc. is a major federal contractor in Hawaii and does a lot of work on rail. Of the $71,000 Case’s campaign raised, more than $41,000 came from political action committees, including those representing unions, defense contractors and hoteliers.

Case, who sits on the House Appropriations and Natural Resources committees, also received money from PACs representing the League of Conservation Voters, the Blue Dog Democrats Coalition and Walmart.

Neither of Hawaii’s senators are on the ballot in 2020.

Sen. Brian Schatz isn’t up for election until 2022. According to his campaign’s FEC reports, he raised about $343,000 during the third quarter of the year and has more than $3 million in the bank.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, meanwhile, won another six-year term in 2018 and her seat won’t be on the ballot until 2024. Records from the FEC show Hirono’s campaign raised more than $106,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30, and that she has nearly $896,000 in cash on hand.

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