POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2010
U.S. Rep. Charles Djou yesterday brought out a group of small business owners who support his message of trying to reform a "fiscally irresponsible" Congress, while his opponent Colleen Hanabusa called him "hypocritical" for preaching fiscal restraint after spending $156,000 of taxpayer money during his first few weeks in office.
With less than a week to go before the general election, the candidates for the 1st Congressional District are fine-tuning their messages . Meanwhile, both can expect more attack ads from mainland groups interested in the outcome of the race.
Yesterday , the National Republican Congressional Committee committed $88,000 in new money toward ads against Hanabusa, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added $67,000 for ads against Djou. American Crossroads, the political action committee of GOP operative Karl Rove, this week also put $76,000 toward ads against Hanabusa.
Hanabusa lobbed the first volley yesterday morning, with a post on her campaign Facebook page critical of Djou's use of U.S. House members' franking privilege. Franking allows members of Congress to use government money to communicate with constituents, usually in the form of newsletters, mailers or automated telephone calls.
"Another example of Djou's hypocrisy," the post stated. "He believes Congress is fiscally irresponsible but he can spend, spend, spend. To tell voters how to contact him (and he has same office phone number as when Pat Saiki & Neil Abercrombie held that position), he spent more on average than anyone else in the House. A whopping $156,000 in 37 days -- more than 1 million pieces of mail."
According to the Statement of Disbursements posted by the U.S. House for the second quarter of 2010, Djou did not post a line item for franked mail costs, but under a category for "mass mailings distributed via (Postal Service) and/or mass communications distributed via other means," he listed $156,203.96 for 1,031,402 pieces of mail since taking office May 25. He averaged 4.2 pieces of mail per household in the district at a cost of about 64 cents each.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono listed $29,131.26 for franked mail and $91,304.54 for mass mailings totaling 369,499 pieces. Her average was 1.4 pieces of mail per household at a cost of 35 cents each.
Djou has staunchly defended the use of the mailings and automated phone calls as a means of staying in touch with the district and soliciting input on important issues.
"I am an effective congressman and she cannot stand it," Djou said. "This is what a good, effective congressman does, which is respond to constituents. I went out to make sure that the constituents can reach me and more important to figure out what the priority of the districts are."
Djou also noted that Hanabusa, during one of their debates, said she would do away with franking if elected.
"That means that if Colleen Hanabusa gets elected, she will not respond to any constituents," he said.
"That is irresponsible and that's wrong."
Hanabusa campaign spokesman Richard Rapoza said she supports scaling back franking privileges, but added she would use the franking privileges responsibly.
Djou, meanwhile, called attention to the plight of small businesses in Hawaii, a group which he says has been affected most by the fiscal "irresponsibility" of Congress.
"Congress has refused to pass any tax rates for 2011, creating great havoc for small business owners and reducing job growth and job creation in our community," Djou said.
Among those speaking on Djou's behalf yesterday was Jack Schneider, owner of JS Services, an employee leasing company. He says uncertainty over tax rates and whether the Bush tax cuts will continue has left his business with a high degree of uncertainty.
"Therefore, I don't know what kind of equipment I can buy or not buy because I don't know what kind of funds I have to keep in reserve and how much am I going to have to pay or not pay," he said. "If you have a stable tax base -- you know what's coming down the pipe -- great, you can adjust to it. But if you don't know, you can't adjust."
Hanabusa supports extending the Bush tax cuts for the middle class but allowing them to expire for wealthier Americans.
Rapoza noted Djou voted against the Small Business Jobs Bill, which ultimately passed and allowed six Hawaii businesses to immediately obtain loans totaling $1.7 million and creating 63 jobs.
"That's money that goes directly back into our economy," he said.
Djou said the Democrat-proposed jobs bills he voted against would have raised taxes and that the benefits are too narrow.
"While certainly there are a few small businesses that have been helped by it, on the whole it hurt our economy," he said. "It goes back to the fiscally irresponsible behavior of our Congress."