POSTED: 6:22 p.m. HST, May 18, 2012
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye has transferred more than $875,000 since January 2011 to help keep the U.S. Senate under Democratic control.
The Hawaii Democrat has much to lose if Republicans capture the Senate in the November elections. The 87-year-old is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate president pro tempore, a title reserved for the most senior member of the party in power.
While Inouye has a keen interest in the Hawaii Senate race, where he prefers U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono over former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, he has donated money and campaigned for Democratic candidates across the country. Over the past several months, the senator was in Washington state, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alaska and Nevada.
Senate Democrats and independents hold a 53-to-47 advantage over Republicans. But Democrats have to defend 21 of the 33 seats up in November, including Akaka's in Hawaii, where former Gov. Linda Lingle is the leading Republican contender.
"For more than 50 years I have witnessed the way elections can alter the trajectory of our country and I am committed to doing everything I can to keep Democrats in control of the United States Senate," Inouye said in a statement Tuesday.
In Hawaii, Democrats are using the potential for Inouye to lose power in Washington, D.C., as a theme to motivate voters behind the eventual winner of the Hirono-Case primary.
At the Oahu Democrats' convention Saturday at Aloha Stadium, Gov. Neil Abercrombie told Democrats that Hawaii could provide the "51st vote" to keep the Senate in the party's hands and help President Barack Obama if he is re-elected. The governor said Lingle, despite her professions of bipartisanship, would vote to place Republicans in Senate leadership and committee chairmanships. "Her first vote is against Hawaii and against Sen. Inouye and against President Obama, and we can not allow that to happen," Abercrombie said.
The Lingle campaign has been anticipating that Democrats would lean heavily on the Inouye theme. Lingle has said that if Republicans do take control of the Senate, Hawaii would be better served by having a senator in the majority who could work with Inouye, as Inouye partnered with U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
"For decades, Sen. Inouye often said that the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and he looked out for each others' interests when one party or another was in the majority. Since Sen. Stevens' passing, Sen. Inouye has had the advantage of sitting in the majority party, but that could change after 2012. Hawaii can have the same kind of advantage he described right here at home by having both a Democrat and a Republican senator," Lenny Klompus, Lingle's deputy campaign manager, said in an email. "Gov. Lingle and Sen. Inouye have enjoyed a good working relationship over the years, and this would continue should she win the U.S. Senate race. They have worked together on infrastructure and energy issues as well as the Akaka bill."
Inouye has transferred $600,000 from his campaign account to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the group that helps elect Democratic candidates to the Senate. The senator also contributed $6,000 from his campaign fund to Democratic candidates.
Inouye used DanPac, his political action committee, to donate about $275,000 to the DSCC and Democratic candidates across the country, including $5,000 to Hirono. The DSCC has contributed $43,100, the maximum allowed, to the Hirono campaign.