Money from special interest groups and their political action committees has begun flowing into the race for Hawaii’s next governor.

Super PACs, known as independent expenditure committees in Hawaii, are free from limits on donations to candidate campaigns and can spend unlimited sums to support or oppose a candidate.

The most recent attack comes from Victory Calls 2022, run by two businesswomen. The group has spent upwards of $33,000 on television ads that call into question Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s credentials as a doctor, according to contracts on file with the Federal Communications Commission.

Television ads paid for by Victory Calls 2022 question Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s credentials as a doctor. Screenshot/2022

Victory Calls’ top donors have also donated to Vicky Cayetano’s run for governor, but Cayetano has said she has no connection to the PAC.

The 30-second TV ad features actors Tony Silva and James Roache, the local comedy team known as Da Braddahs. Silva, dressed in hospital scrubs, is driving a car when he hits Roache, who is crossing the street.

Roache begs Silva to “Take me to Queen’s, I’ve got to see Dr. Green.” To which Silva replies that Green is not board certified.

The ad then goes on to list Queen’s Hospital, Kapiolani Medical Center, Straub and the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center with the words “Doctor Green NOT Board Certified” above.

Hawaii Lt. Govenor Dr. Josh Green gestures as he speaks at the Aloha Free Clinic in Honolulu, HI, on Thursday, July 2, 2020. (Ronen Zilberman photo Civil Beat)
Lt. Gov. Josh Green lacks board certification in emergency room medicine, which isn’t required to practice. Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2020

Green doesn’t practice at any of those hospitals. Since taking office, he’s worked shifts at the small Kohala Hospital on the Big Island.

“The fact that patients can’t see him here (on Oahu) has nothing to do with him being board-certified or not,” said Jerry Van Meter, a retired orthopedic surgeon and past president of the Hawaii Medical Association.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Van Meter’s name.

Board certification isn’t necessary to practice in Hawaii. Van Meter said doctors need two things to practice in the state: a current medical license from the state board and credentials from the hospital in which they are practicing.

Doctors are required to undergo periodic reviews of their practice every two to three years to be re-credentialed by their hospital. Most board certifications only require tests every eight to 10 years, according to Van Meter.

The health insurance company University Health Alliance lists Green as holding a board certification in family medicine on its directory.

He lacks a certification in emergency room medicine though. About 40% of emergency room doctors aren’t certified in that specialty, according to the American Board of Physician Specialties. The board, however, urges doctors to attain that certification “for the benefit of their own careers, the emergency room staff, and the public.”

Van Meter said it’s not uncommon for older doctors like Green to have a specialty in one area before switching to emergency medicine, which is a newer specialty. Van Meter said the advertisement is concerning in the way it portrays board certification.

“I’d hate for people on the Big Island, who see him on his shift, to think that they are getting substandard care,” Van Meter said.

Another ad headlined “Does Character Still Matter (Part 1)” ran recently in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It brings up a $300 fine the state Ethics Commission gave Green in 2016 for failing to disclose rental income while serving in the Senate.

The ad also reminds voters of another episode involving Green in the Senate in 2012, where the then-senator asked the City and County of Honolulu to settle a bill with a medical organization that had made donations to Green’s campaign, the Star-Advertiser reported at the time.

The print ad ends with mention of Green’s side gig in the medical field and flights his security detail is required to take whenever he goes to the Big Island to work shifts. Over the last year, Green earned between $100,000 and $150,000 through his company, Green Health International. Green would be required to give up his sources of outside income if he is elected governor.

Victory Calls’ Donors Support Cayetano

Each advertisement disclosed the top three donors to the PAC. They include Daniel Delbrel, an executive chef at the Sheraton hotel in Waikiki; Wallace Tsuha, a retired electronics executive; and local producer Charlyn Masini.

Tsuha’s only political donations came this year with $3,000 to Vicky Cayetano’s campaign.

Tsuha refused to discuss the new PAC or why he donated to it other than to say: “I believe that the State of Hawaii needs improvement in a lot of areas. I believe Vicky can do it.”

Masini is a past campaign manager for former Gov. Ben Cayetano, Vicky Cayetano’s husband. Since 2012, she has contributed $5,584 in monetary donations and other services to various campaigns. She recently donated $2,500 to Vicky Cayetano’s campaign.

Asked why she donated to the PAC, Masini said: “I believe that Hawaii has a lot of challenges ahead, and I know that Vicky is prepared and able to address a lot of those issues.”

Vicky Cayetano speaks at a press conference held near Nuuanu Elementary School. Cayetano proposed her priorities of her campaign.
Supporters of Vicky Cayetano have also donated to a super PAC targeting her opponent, Josh Green. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Masini later said that she doesn’t know if the PAC supports Cayetano or not. She said she was approached by the PAC’s organizers before donating to them, and did so without knowing how her money would be used.

“I just know that I donated to the PAC and not much more,” she said.

Delbrel donated the maximum amount allowable — $6,000 — to Vicky Cayetano’s campaign. He also gave $3,500 to Ben Cayetano’s campaign for Honolulu mayor in 2012. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

The super PAC’s only listed phone number goes to a voicemail box for Christine Tooher, who is listed as the treasurer for Victory Calls. In a text message, Tooher said she is currently out of state, does not make decisions on advertising and only handles bookkeeping for the PAC.

Nutter, the PAC chairperson, did not respond to messages left at the PAC’s email address.

More information on how much money the PAC has on hand, who has donated to it, and how much money is spent won’t be known until August, when the PAC is required to file disclosure forms.

Meanwhile, Green has benefited from some super PAC support this year. HiVISION 2020, which is backed by the plumbers and pipefitters union, has spent $63,000 on radio ads running through August supporting Green and Sylvia Luke, who is running for lieutenant governor.

The PAC with the most money at the moment to spend is Be Change Now with $7.8 million on hand. It’s backed by the construction industry and is the same group that stepped in last election to help propel Green into his current position.

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