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PAC spends $2.8M in advertising, mainly against Cayetano

Much of the pro-rail Pacific Resources Partnership's money goes to TV and radio

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 11:57 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012

The tab for the advertising campaign by the Pacific Resource Partnership Political Action Committee this election season has topped $2.8 million, with nearly all of it going to the pro-rail group's effort to defeat mayoral candidate Ben Caye­tano.

The PAC spent just less than $1.2 million from Aug. 12, the day after the primary election, until Oct. 22, according to PRP's filing with the state Campaign Spending Commission on Tuesday.

That amount does not include $445,654.19 in unpaid expenditures reported by the PAC. PRP spent $1.2 million through the primary election.

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed corporations, labor unions and other "non-candidate" organizations to spend an unlimited amount of money to support or oppose a political candidate, so long as there is no communication or coordination between the PAC and the candidate. Experts attribute the decision for the explosion in ads in several key campaigns.

Honolulu's mayoral race is considered a key battleground because the city's $5.26 billion rail project may be hanging in the balance. Caye­tano has vowed to stop the project if elected, while rival Kirk Caldwell has promised to keep it going. Most of the state's labor unions back rail.

Pacific Resource Partnership is a trade name for the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program Fund, a partnership of the Hawaii Carpenters Union and the trade contractors that use unionized workers. Funding comes from the contractors who contribute based on the number of hours worked by unionized employees.

A large portion of the expenditures were payments made to television and radio stations for advertising. But PRP also spent six figures on "surveys, polls and voter lists" — paid out to mainland research firms — as well as for "field outreach payroll, benefits and taxes" through Hono­lulu-based staffing companies in addition to other "employee services."

Most of the expenditures are specifically tied to the mayor's race, although some, more recent expenditures dealt with "Big Island races."

PRP officials declined to comment on the report.

Cayetano last week sued PRP for defamation, alleging its advertisements against him are distorted and false.

The lawsuit focuses on ads that allege Caye­tano kept campaign contributions for personal gain, accepted contributions from contractors for contracts and accepted illegal contributions. Other ads have expressed support for Caldwell.

Some other PACs that have been active in the mayoral race:

» Workers for a Better Hawaii spent about $700,000 in ads backing Caldwell and opposing Caye­tano. The PAC gets all its funding from the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters.

» spent about $155,000 in ads supporting Caye­tano and opposing Caldwell. Hono­lulu businessman Robert Iwa­moto donated $100,000 to the PAC.

» Defend Truth, started by retiree Milton Hiro­hata, has run about $81,000 in ads supporting Caye­tano and opposing Caldwell. Its largest contributor has been Windward businessman Joe Pickard, who donated $40,000.

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