Friday, November 27, 2015         


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Firms linked to rail donate to Caldwell; lawyers boost rival

By Kevin Dayton


Kirk Caldwell's campaign for mayor benefited from a post-primary surge in contributions from contractors linked to the $5.26 billion rail project, while former Gov. Ben Caye­tano received a boost from attorneys, according to a review of the most recent campaign spending reports.

The campaign finance report covering the period from Aug. 12 to Oct. 22 shows Caldwell received more than $140,000 in political donations from current or former rail contractors, subcontractors or people associated with those firms.

A review of Caye­tano's contributions for the same period shows he received campaign donations from a variety of Hono­lulu lawyers as well as many contributors who have supported Republican causes in the past.

Notable post-primary donations to Caye­tano also included a $1,000 contribution from Nancie Cara­way, wife of Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Cara­way has donated $3,000 to Caye­tano's mayoral campaign this year.

Overall, Caldwell raised $603,000 in the 10 weeks since the August primary, and had raised $1.5 million this year for the mayor's race as of late last month.

Cayetano reported raising $339,000 in the weeks following the primary, and had raised $1.3 million for the year.

Cayetano has pledged to stop the rail project if he is elected, while Caldwell supports rail and wants to continue the project.

The city so far has spent more than $500 million on the rail project, and billions of dollars in additional city spending may be riding on the outcome of the election.

Among the most generous donors to Caldwell since the primary were employees and others linked to three of the largest rail contractors.

Employees of InfraConsult LLC, which is providing project management and other services to the city under a $33.4 million rail contract, donated more than $12,000 to Caldwell after the primary. Sharon Greene & Associates, an InfraConsult subconsultant, donated another $4,000.

Parsons Brinckerhoff, which is providing planning, engineering and construction management services under a $300 million contract with the city, was also well represented in the list of Caldwell donors.

Parsons Brinckerhoff employees, affiliates or subconsultants working on the rail project donated more than $62,000 in the wake of the August primary, according to campaign spending reports.

Companies and employees affiliated with Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. or subcontractors for Kiewit also made substantial donations to Caldwell totaling more than $30,000 since the primary.

Kiewit has contracts worth nearly $900 million to build the first 10 miles of rail guideway, and is part of the Kiewit/Kobayashi Joint Venture, which has another contract worth more than $200 million to build a rail maintenance and storage yard.

Another $11,500 in Caldwell donations were provided by Hono­lulu lawyers affiliated with firms that have done legal work for the city on rail-related issues.

The Pacific Resource Partnership PAC recently fielded television advertisements asserting that "Caldwell led the fight to ban pay-to-play." The term "pay-to-play" refers to businesses making campaign contributions in the hope that those donations will help them win government contracts.

Tom Coffman, an adviser to the Caye­tano campaign, said those kinds of campaign claims are "really begging the question" when Caldwell is accepting donations from rail contractors.

"It also underscores the fact that the law has got huge loopholes in it, and it really does need to be changed, but Kirk didn't change it," Coffman said.

Caldwell said his ability to raise funds from a variety of donors reflects the growing momentum of his campaign.

"As you and I know, people support candidates for the issues they stand on, and I'm sure there's guys supporting me because I want to rebuild our sewer infrastructure and our water system, and I think there's guys supporting me because I want to build rail and I want to build it better," Caldwell said. "That's about as much as I can say about it."

Much of the spending and advertising in the mayor's race has been by political action committees that are separate from the campaigns.

The pro-rail Pacific Resource Partnership PAC has spent more than $2.8 million this election, with most of it aimed at defeating Caye­tano. PRP is a trade name for the Carpenters Market Recovery Fund, which is an alliance between the Hawaii Carpenters Union and contractors that use unionized workers.

Cayetano has sued PRP for defamation, alleging that some of its advertisements are false and defamatory.

Other PACs that have been active in the mayor's race include Workers for a Better Hawaii, which is funded by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters. That group spent $700,000 on ads supporting Caldwell and opposing Caye­tano.

The group Save­Our­Hono­, which was supported by a $100,000 donation from Hono­lulu businessman Robert Iwa­moto, spent about $155,000 on ads in support of Caye­tano.

Another PAC, called Defend Truth, has spent about $81,000 on ads supporting Caye­tano. That PAC is backed by Windward businessman Joe Pickard, who contributed $40,000 to the effort.

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