UPDATE: County of Maui clarified that this was a refund.
Unsuccessful Maui County Council candidate Ka’ala Buenconsejo reports a campaign donation from the County of Maui in the amount of $325 on 06/09/2014 . Say what?! County of Maui has become pretty corrupt under its current Mayor and 2014 Council Chair Gladys Baisa made no bones about her support of Buenconsejo, but donating taxpayer funds to a political campaign seems rather outré even for this administration.
One hopes this is simply an error on the part of this first-time candidate.
‘Gov. Cayatano argued that White and PRP had shown “a pattern of disrespect and contempt” for campaign spending laws.’
The Advertiser article primarily focuses on two complaints. Gov. Ben Cayatano’s complaint contended that PRP began scheming to defeat his campaign for Honolulu mayor prior to filing their PAC papers and did not report substantial expenditures. A second complaint brought forth by Campaign Spending Commission executive director alleges more payments that were not reported. Even more charges are on their way according to the Advertiser:
A third complaint filed last week by commission staff against PRP was deferred until next month, to give attorneys additional time to review it.
“We were concerned that the issue was arising under repetitive circumstances — that it wasn’t just one case, but we have two or three on the docket,” G. William Snipes, commission chairman, said after the meeting. “We were concerned that they were repetitive, that they were substantial sums of money involved and we thought it warranted further investigation.”
An allegation similar similar to Gov Cayatono’s comes from Maui where 18 months after it ended operations, a PRP contribution appears on Forward Progress backed Maui County Council candidate Ka’ala Buenconsejo‘s.
Buenconsejo reported a contribution of $1,712.51 from PRP for “Campaign Consulting” on 06/30/2014 – 18 months after PRP supposedly disbanded in January 2013.
Since Forward Progress, PRP, and HCMRPF are all run by the same person, John White, one wonders who exactly paid for Buenconsejo’s “campaign consulting”. Forward Progress? If so, that is most certainly proof positive of illegal coordination.
Forward Progress poured approximately $377,000* into the Buenconsejo in an unsuccessfully attempt to take down Sierra Club backed incumbent, Elle Cochran. Their campaign included radio ads, a blizzard of mailers and a smear campaign against Cochran.
The PRP, Forward Progress, HCMRPF hui seems to be created to circumvent campaign finance laws.
Click to enlarge
*Note: Calculated by adding expenses attributed to Buenconsejo plus one-third expenses attributed to Buenconsejo and two other candidates plus one-half contributions attributed to Buenconsejo and one other candidate plus unattributed expenses that could be reasonably attributed to Buenconsejo.>
Last year John Oliver mocked Joe Souki and the entire House for determining that Joe Souki who was employed by the American Chemistry Council to derail the Styrofoam ban, didn’t have a conflict of interest. (See 9:06)
That conflict of interest may have provoked laughs on a comedy show but it turned serious this year when Souki appointed Clift Tsuji as chair of the House Agricultural Committee.
In 2013 the House leadership fight between the Say faction and the “Dissidents” or more liberal faction led by Speaker Souki was resolved by courting Republicans and appointing them to vice chair positions. This year apparent defections from the Say faction meant that Souki could win the leadership fight without going to Republicans. One result of this was the former Say supporter, Tsuji’s chairmanship of the House Agricultural Committee.
This year will see a pitched battle between the counties and the Big Six chemical companies on state pre-emption of county ordinances regulating chemical and GMO experiments, buffer zones for agricultural spraying, disclosure of what chemicals are being sprayed and bans on GMOs.
The battle is heating up. In January Kaua’i passed a buffer zone and disclosure ordinance which Dow, Syngenta and DuPont immediately challenged in court. Dow and DuPont number among Speaker Souki’s employers. No unseemly conflict of interest there, right?
The first judge ruled in favor of Dow, DuPont and Syngenta saying that state law pre-empts the counties on pesticide regulation, citing HRS 149A which establishes a comprehensive framework of pesticide disclosure and rules. Groups are appealing.
Then Big Island passed a GMO ban and wound up in court also.
Last week Maui passed a GMO moratorium. This is essentially a ban because it requires that no more GMOs be planted unless they are proven safe – something that, despite the chemical companies’ frequent assertions, probably can’t be done. Certainly the $7.9million in PAC money that Dow and Monsanto spent on Maui to defeat the initiative would hint that they have doubts about being able to prove safety. Dow is Speaker Souki’s employer.
In a twist, supporters of the Maui GMO Moratorium jumped the gun and sued the County to be involved in rule making citing Mayor Arakawa’s antagonistic comments toward the initiative. A few days later Dow and Monsanto filed to stop the ordinance from being implemented.
In 2010 the Biotechnology Industry Organization honored Clift Tsuji and Calvin Say with their BIO Legislator of the Year award saying:
“Speaker Say and Rep. Tsuji have been vocal proponents of agricultural biotechnology, its economic and fiscal contributions to the state, and the potential of genetically engineered crops to help feed the world,” said Fred Perlak, HCIA president. “For the good of the state, both of these individuals have worked effectively and tirelessly to minimize policies that might negatively impact this vital industry.” [emph added]
So Kaua’i, Big Island and Maui county won’t be looking for any help from the House Agriculture Chair for removing state pre-emption over pesticides and GMOs.
And Speaker Joe Souki should be in line for a big bonus from the American Chemistry Council.
How effective were PACs in Hawai’i races? Here’s the run down.
Highest funded PAC in Hawai’i history at $7.9 million dollars: Citizens Against the Maui County Farming Ban (a front group for mega-corporations Monsanto and Dow) spent $362 for each “no” vote they got, and lost. The GMO Moratorium Initiative in Maui County passed 50% to 48%. Monsanto and Dow aren’t giving up, though. They announced they are suing to stop implementation of the initiative.
American Comeback Campaign (Republican Governors) spent $1,799,662 against David Ige and lost. David Ige beat Repubican Aiona by 49% to 37%. 12 points.
The Democratc Governors got in the act with Hawaii Forward and spent $1,459,908 against Duke Aiona. They won which is to be expected in a predominantly Democratic state.
Forward Progress (funded by the construction industry and developers) spent a million dollars mostly on county council races on Maui and Big Island trying to unseat councilmembers who got in their way with pesky zoning laws and developement regulations. Here’s a rundown on the races they poured money into with mixed results – losing one more than they won.
Maile David won.
Brandon Elefante won.
Mike White won. (He was trailing Mike Molina in the primary prior to Forward Progress’ mailers)
Ka’ala Buenconsejo lost.
Joe Ponantilla lost.
Ron Gonzales lost.
Tiffany Edwards-Hunt lost.
Maui Timeshare Ohana Political Action Committee got into the Maui election, piling on in excess of half a million dollars for some of the same candidates as Forward Progress on Maui: Buenconsejo lost, White won and Pontanilla lost. Batting .33 – good in baseball but not so good for a high-spending PAC.
National Association of Realtors Fundspent $2 million supporting what looks like the guaranteed winners and mostly power centers in the Lege. Their only loss was Malama Soloman who Sierra Club targeted as their priority to eliminate this election – as they successfully targeted Pono Chong and Mufi Hannemann for anti-environmental positions in previous elections. We suspect the Realtors were trying to buy access to the more powerful players in the Lege who were slated to win, rather than trying to influence the election. Oops! They should have checked whether they were backing someone the Sierra Club had in their sights first!
Roz Baker won
James Tokioka won
Henry Aquino won
Gil Keith-Agaran won
Jill Tokuda won
Joe Souki won
Scott Saiki won
Sylvia Luke won
Malama Solomon lost
Local Food Coalition primarily funded by venture capitalist Ulupono Initiative spent half a million dollars successfully convincing people to pass Con Amend #2 which removed the requirement that land owners put their parcel into Important Ag Lands prior to being eligible to get a state bond issue for their operation. Oh goody! Now developers like A&B can get state-backed bonds for “ag” infrastructure and turn around and develop the land.
I suspect Brandon Lee of Ulupono Inititative might disagree since it is unlikely that a small farmer hui who can’t get a bank loan would successfully get a bond issue. Ulupono is the creation of E-Bay billionaire Pierra Omidyar and is a venture capital company.
That’s the run-down on PACs who spent half a million dollars or more. Looks like they nudged the results but were not entirely successful – especially once it was made clear to voters how much money they were spending.
This points out the importance of the Campaign Spending Commission and making sure that we get both a reporting date prior to absentee voting and another one a few days prior to the election date. While the legislature is tweaking dates, perhaps they can invalidate rule 06-01 which allows the multi-million dollar noncandidate committee Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program Fund (a slush fund for the construction corporations and developers) to get away with not disclosing it’s donors. HCMRPF was the sole donor to Forward Progress.
Outspent $7.9 million dollars to $60,000, Maui County citizens showed that community organizing can triumph over corporate PAC money and passed the GMO Moratorium 50% to 48%. The initiative asks the chemical companies to do an environmental study showing safety of their operations prior to being allowed to plant any new GMOs.
Monsanto and Dow spent $174 for each of the 45,356 voters in the election. Or $362 for each ‘no’ vote. This is more money than has ever in the history of Hawaii elections been spent on any race including statewide governor or U.S. Senate races.
It was a long journey to get this initiative on the ballot – the first time that any group was able to gather the onerous 20% signatures of registered voters voting in the last election.
Then Monsanto and Dow ran nonstop ads against the initiative calling it a “Farming Ban” even though only 1% of Maui farms grow GMOs – one coffee plantation, a small farmer growing GMO corn in Kula plus Monsanto and Dow.
It looked like Monsanto and Dow would overwhelm public opinion with their nonstop TV ads on every station until the Campaign Spending Disclosure came out a week before the election and voters realized that these two billion dollar corporations had spent almost eight million dollars attempting to buy the election.
The revelation that the entire “No” campaign had been funded by Monsanto and Dow and the astounding amount by which it was funded had a profound effect on voters. Early mail-in and walk-in votes were counted on the first readout. Many of these votes were made prior to the $7.9 million disclosure and showed the GMO Moratorium losing by 10 points. Then as the election day votes came in from the voters who had become aware of the huge amount of money that the two chemical corporations had spent the tide turned.
Hawaii is ground zero for GMO and associated pesticide experimentation. These corporations are able to buy most of the politicians which is why the counties of Kaua’i, Maui and Hawai’i have all passed county ordinances restricting these chemical companies and their GMO/pesticide experiments. Chemical/GMO companies have been issued more open air EPA experimental permits in tiny Hawai’i than any other state in the union.
Ironically these two companies have been claiming for years that there are “thousands of studies proving their safety”. The Maui GMO Moratorium simply asks them to do an environmental assessment proving safety. One has to wonder why they would pay $8 million to defeat this rather than to gather these studies and have them ready to present in order to lift the moratorium.
Dr. Lorrin Pang (one of the five individuals bringing forward the initiative and the Maui Public Health officer) said,
“Now they’ll sue us. But we’ll use it as an opportunity to educate.”
Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE) analysed Con measure 4 in detail and came out with a statement advocating a no vote.
This plan would take the money that once was available for junior kindergarten and transfer it from the public system into the private preschool system.
Writing for FACE, Mary Weir pointed out that private preschools are concentrated around areas where parents are more affluent and can afford to pay for private preschool. Thus taking public funds away from public schools to subsidize attendence at these private preschools gives a larger benefit to the more well to do parents.
In today’s Hawaii, when most working families hold down two jobs, this is unaffordable, and there is simply no time in the day for many parents to add a side trip to a different neighborhood in order to drop off and pick up their preschoolers.
She points out that we could take the same money without a constitutional amendment and pay for public preschools and asks why this is not being discussed instead.
No constitutional amendment is needed to expand quality preschools in public schools. So why isn’t a plan for expanding the number of public preschools even on the table? Public schools accept all children, they’re accessible to all children
In advocating a no vote she talks about the well-funded campaign in favor of the measure,
I don’t doubt their sincerity and genuine love for children, but I do doubt their willingness to include the well-being of blue collar and lower income families in their plan.
You folks on all the islands wondered about all those TV ads against the “Maui Farming Ban”. Who the heck was this group, “Citizens Against the Maui Farming Ban”? And where are they getting the money to paper over our TV stations with their ads?
Not to mention why would 9,000 people sign an initiative to ban farming? (Obviously the PAC name is as misleading as its ads)
Campaign disclosure is out and, as suspected, Monsanto and Dow are the funders of “Citizens”. And wow baby! Did they fund it! $7,896,163 worth!
As of the filing date, Monsanto and Dow had spent a total of $6,335,083.
Interestingly some of that money was paid to Support Agriculture Coalition Committee of Aiea for “Professional Services”. We were unable to find any information on this company nor any registration with the Hawaii Department of Consumer Affairs.
After denying (by implication) that he was doing PR for Monsanto and Dow, we find out that Tom Blackburn-Rodriquez & Associates got a big chunk of change from them…over $16,000. Another active pro-GMO facebook poster and failed state House candidate, Christy Gusman got $3,483. This would seem to reinforce the theory that Monsanto and Dow are paying people to comment on social media.
Contrast this to the amount of money that the YES on the GMO Initiative people raised. “Maui Citizen’s Initiative for a Temporary Moratorium on GMO Crop Cultivation” got $52,422 this reporting period all but one from regular residents of Hawaii. $5,000 was donated by an individual in Colorado. They spent $55,342 on their mailer and radio ads.
We knew Citizens United was going to drown out voters’ voices with unlimited corporate cash but this seems a little excessive. The ratio of Monsanto cash to Hawai’i voters’ cash is 150 to 1.
Measures which could prevent campaign PAC surprises like this
Add another filing deadline a week prior to absentee ballots going out. The Monsanto-Dow PAC was allowed to operate for two months (starting at the beginning of September) without disclosing who was funding nor how much was being spent.
Untroduce transparency by requiring that the top 3 donors to the PAC be disclosed on any ad.
Fred Malek was one of the original – and worst – Dirty Tricksters of the Nixon era:
He worked in the Nixon administration to root out civil servants and replace them with Nixon supporters. He was specifically tasked with politicizing departments of the government and handing out illegal political patronage. He claimed that a “Jewish cabal” was undermining Nixon at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and hunted them down by looking for people with “Jewish-sounding names” and driving them out of their jobs. Read more ›
Previously we talked about Karen Chun’s complaint against the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Fund (HCMRF) noncandidate committee which is the sole donor to the superPAC, Forward Progress. Forward Progress has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat neighbor island council candidates who are in favor of good planning and who want to regulate GMOs and pesticides.
HCMRF has hidden its donors by filing contribution disclosures indicating that it has donated the money to itself.
A second complaint against Forward Progress which concerned lack of candidate names will be dismissed as the names were listed but apparently a system problem produced the blank column.
The complaint against HCMRF (Forward Progress’s sole donor) will be heard on Wednesday, Oct 22 at 10am, Conference room 204, 235 S. Beretania St, Honolulu. The agenda also includes two complaints by Gov. Ben Cayatano against Pacific Resources Partnership (PRP), the precursor PAC to Forward Progress and also one of HCMRF’s superPACs. Read more ›
The Grassroot Institute, a 501(c)3, was founded in 2001 by Libertarian Dick Rowland. It’s goals include advocating for individual liberty, free markets and limited government. According to Civil Beat, it is a member of the State Policy Network, a national group that opposes unions and promotes “free market” philosophy. Perennial OHA candidate Kelii Akina is president and CEO.
The stated goals of the organization are to prevent federal recognition of the Hawaiian nation and to repeal the Jones Act. In fact they quote a conservative Heritage Foundation piece calling Hawaiian recognition “Balkanization”. Read more ›