Honolulu attorney Megan Kau raised more money than her opponents vying to be Honolulu’s next prosecuting attorney, campaign spending reports show.

The former deputy prosecutor turned defense attorney is a first-time candidate. She took in more than 200 donations totaling over $123,000 during the most recent reporting period, July 1 to Dec. 31. She spent $39,856 so far and has $83,275 left over.

Her campaign donations bested those of Steve Alm, a former prosecutor, retired judge and probation advocate whose long career has afforded him solid name recognition among voters. Alm took in donations totaling $102,825 during the six-month period, spent $63,296 and had $39,526 left in his campaign account at the end of the year.


Among Alm’s 74 donors who gave more than $100 are several key players in Hawaii’s criminal justice world. They include the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, Honolulu Police Commissioner Loretta Sheehan and former Kauai Police Chief Darryl Perry as well as influential businessman Walter Dods and lobbyists Jennifer Sabas and Robert Toyofuku.  

Candidate Steven Alm makes his introduction in the Honolulu Prosecutor Candidate Debate 2020 held at UH Orvis Auditorium.

Steve Alm, seen here in the candidate debate last week, was outraised by opponent Megan Kau but he spent more of his campaign money last year.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Former deputy prosecutor RJ Brown raised $24,479, spent $14,423 and has $25,621, some of which is left over from earlier fundraising. 

Public defender Jacquelyn Esser is also running, pulling in $20,000 in donations, spending less than half by the end of last year.

Criminal defense attorney Tae Kim has spent most of the $1,880 he collected in donations, according to his spending report. 

At a debate earlier this week, Kau disagreed with her opponents on several points. Unlike her competitors, Kau said she is against decriminalizing drug possession because failing to charge low-level crimes has led to more severe problems.

She was also the only candidate to oppose abolishing the cash bail system and reiterated throughout the conversation that the prosecutor’s job is to enforce the laws already in place.

Candidate Megan Kau participates in the Honolulu Prosecutor Candidate Debate 2020 held at UH Manoa’s Orvis Auditorium.

Megan Kau leads the five-candidate field in raising campaign cash.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The candidates also spoke about the need to increase public trust in the office that has been rocked by scandal for years.

Current Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro has been on paid leave for nearly a year after receiving a target letter from federal investigators.

Katherine Kealoha, one of Kaneshiro’s deputies, was convicted of felony conspiracy and obstruction charges in June and has since pleaded guilty to several other crimes. She is now behind bars.

Chasid Sapolu, Kaneshiro’s chief deputy, also received a subject letter from the feds in December 2018.

Acting Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto, who registered with the state Campaign Spending Commission as a candidate, did not file a campaign spending report as of Friday afternoon. He received a federal subpoena in November.

Kaneshiro is not seeking reelection.

Voters this year will also decide whether the office, which currently has no term limits, should be limited to two consecutive terms.

Before you go . . .

During this unique election season, we appreciate that you and others like you have relied on Civil Beat for accurate, objective coverage of the candidates and their races.

Covering the pandemic has taken a lot of our collective energy. But through it all, our small team of reporters made sure you didn’t forget about electoral politics. Because we know that elections not only test society’s participation in our democracy, but journalism’s commitment to safeguarding it.

If you’ve relied on our election coverage this season, please consider making a tax-deductible gift to support our newsroom.

About the Author