“Money is power.” It’s an old saying that often holds true in politics. Maui is famous for a few politicians who get elected, but spend next to nothing on their campaign. As for their fellow candidates, do campaign contributions and endorsements buy influence?
Let’s look at some of the common blocks of political donors on Maui and see who they’re backing. All information is based upon public reports posted on the State Campaign Spending Commission Web site, up to September 18, 2010. More up-to-date information will not be available until October 25. Unfortunately, some candidate information cannot be easily tracked because candidates fail to file legally required reports.
CONSTRUCTION UNIONS, REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY AND PROJECT DEVELOPERS
The players: Maui Contractors Association, A&B, Maui Land & Pine, land owner reps, Goodfellow Bros., Real Estate Association, Carpenters Union, other construction unions and construction trade supply businesses.
Notable contributors: Hawaii Carpenter’s Political Action Fund, ML&P PAC, A&B HI PAC, Hawaii Laborers PAC, Ledco Construction, Charlie Jencks, Rojac trucking, various resort realty business owners, development consultant (and former Councilmember) Howard Kihune, Ken Ota and other industry supporters.
Big beneficiaries: Longtime incumbent state legislators, several Mayoral candidates, especially Randy Piltz and Alan Arakawa. Council candidates: Don Couch, Alan Fukuyama, Mike Victorino, Joe Pontanilla, Mike White, Bill Medeiros and Gladys Baisa.
Analysis: While both the construction/real estate industry and Chamber of Commerce/business community endorse Alan Arakawa for Mayor, and their Council slates are very similar, they have radically different views on the state legislature races. Construction interests are not looking to rock the boat, while the Chamber is supporting most Maui Tea Party candidates.
Although their industry voice is supporting Arakawa, a number of major developers with ongoing or pending Maui projects have contributed to Charmaine Tavares’s campaign: Stanford Carr, Kaanapali Land Co. (Kaanapali 2020), Charlie Jencks (Wailea 670), Grand Wailea Hotel, Maui Lani Golf course LLC, ML&P PAC, Ulupalakua Ranch, Kent Smith. Around $35,000 in support for Tavares comes from Honolulu-based engineering and construction firms.
VISITOR INDUSTRY: ILWU LOCAL 142 AND MAUI HOTEL & LODGING ASSOCIATION
The players: Castle & Cooke PAC, ILWU PAC and some vacation rental businesses, Maui Hotel & Lodging Association and their members. Some visitor-oriented businesses.
Notable Contributors: ILWU PAC, Individual B&B owners and marketers. Castle & Cooke PAC. In-kind donations from local hotels and activities to chosen candidates.
Big beneficiaries: State legislature incumbents, Mayor Tavares and Council candidates White, Riki Hokama and Victorino.
Analysis: ILWU appears to do the heavy lifting here; Maui Hotel PAC has $1,600 and no donations listed. Castle & Cooke PAC has donated only to Tavares and Hokama. As of mid-September, ILWU has spent $38,000 on direct donations to 2010 statewide candidates, plus $51,000 on election support expenses like radio ads, survey research, polling and phone banking and setting up an advocacy organization called “Workers for a Better Hawaii.” They are the go-to guys for printing costs for candidate brochures and fundraiser tickets, have given regularly to the Tavares campaign and generously support Maui’s Democratic legislative team. ILWU’s Council favorites for 2010 are Victorino, Pontanilla, White, Danny Mateo, Hokama and Fukuyama.
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE UNIONS AND APPOINTED COUNTY STAFF
The players: HGEA, UPW, SHOPO, Firefighters Union, appointed County department heads and deputy directors.
Notable contributors: HGEA and Tavares administration staff members.
Big beneficiaries: Tavares.
Analysis: For local races, the support of the employee unions seems to be more about people power than money. HGEA, the largest union, donated to Tavares, but no Council races. SHOPO (police officers) donated only to the Tavares and Victorino campaigns.
The government employee unions, ILWU (visitor industry workers’ union) and Hotel Trade Association all publicly endorse Tavares for Mayor, and a similar slate of legislative and Council candidates. What their members think is anyone’s guess. As expected, Tavares appointees have given generously to her campaign.
A few differences in the two blocks who support Tavares for Mayor: UPW and HGEA public employee unions endorsed Joe Bertram for House District 11, as did ILWU. The Hotel and Lodging Association gave their support to his Republican challenger, George Fontaine.
SHOPO endorsed Bob Carroll for the East Maui council seat. The other unions endorsed the incumbent, Medeiros. UPW and HGEA both gave no endorsement in the West Maui Council seat, where Elle Cochran placed first in the primary. ILWU and the hotel association still back Cochran’s opponent, Fukuyama. UPW endorsed Matt Mano for the Lanai Council seat, while all others endorsed Hokama.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND OTHER BUSINESS INTERESTS
The players: Active Chamber members include The Maui News, large landowners, visitor oriented businesses, developers and many retail businesses and professional services.
Notable contributors: Teena Rasmussen (Chamber PAC chair), Dorvin Leis, former Maui Weekly owner Joe Sugarman, various beach activity business owners, Goodfellow Bros. partners, developers Charlie Jencks, Jesse Spencer and David Goode, Sandhill View LLC, TVR and B&B owners, Ulupalakua Ranch, Jerry Cook (Jeco Air conditioning), attorneys Tom Welch and Patrick Wong.
Big beneficiaries: Piltz, Arakawa, White and Couch.
Analysis: The Chamber did not endorse in the primaries, but many Chamber members individually backed candidates challenging Tavares. Chamber members also gave generously to non-incumbent Council candidates, including White, Couch and Fukuyama.
The Chamber broke with the pack to endorse Carroll and Mano for Council seats over incumbent Medeiros and former incumbent Hokama. They endorsed Baisa and Pontanilla, who have uncontested races, but were silent about Mateo’s uncontested Molokai race.
The Chamber registered a protest vote with its legislative slate, giving its support to Republican challengers organized under the Maui Tea Party banner. Representatives Joe Souki and Angus McKelvy (who shared the endorsement with Republican challenger, Ramon Madden) were the only Chamber-endorsed incumbents for the state races. No PAC funding came with endorsements.
MAUI TEA PARTY
Players/notable contributors: Republican Party of Maui.
Big beneficiaries: Most local Tea Party-backed candidates are running on a tight budget.
Analysis: The Tea Party has a full slate of state legislature candidates. They are endorsing Council candidates in three of the six contested races who have pledged to slash government payrolls and ease or eliminate regulations. Three Tea Party-endorsed Maui candidates—White, Couch and Arakawa—have brought in their own funding from development and business interests. Couch and White have also had local businesses donate a substantial amount of goods and services. State House challenger Fontaine has gotten support from the Goodfellow family, other local businesses and the Linda Lingle campaign committee. The Tea Party favorites in the remaining races are mostly self-financed, with help from the local Republican party, family and friends.
‘OHANA COALITION MAUI
Players: Non-partisan coalition of voters and community organizations. Volunteer steering committee is made up of farmers, small businesses, educators and other professionals. Endorsements are consensus-based.
Notable contributors: OCM-supported candidates usually turn to family, friends and business associates. Most double numerous small donations with public matching funds. Some OCM-supported candidates, like termed out incumbent Jo Anne Johnson and South Maui incumbent Wayne Nishiki, run campaigns on minimal budgets, while others, like state Sen. Shan Tsutsui, have access to conventional candidate funding sources, such as unions and local PACS.
Big beneficiaries: Council candidates Elle Cochran and Kai Nishiki.
Analysis: OCM looks at candidates’ positions on a wide range of economic, social and environmental issues. They also track past voting records, or public advocacy, and campaign finance records. OCM tends to support candidates who are independent of Maui’s big money interests, but the group has endorsed mainstream incumbents.
To view contribution reports, go to www.hawaii.gov/campaign