Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann defended what was to be a campaign fundraiser in Pittsburgh last week as legitimate and "all done above board," but acknowledged that mistakes in planning "cast a cloud" over the event.
"Honest mistakes were made but the buck stops with me," Hannemann told reporters yesterday outside the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, where he had accepted the endorsement of the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association.
The mayor said errors were made on paperwork and filing notices for the event, saying again he would not accept any contributions generated.
The side trip to Pittsburgh came while Hannemann was traveling to Washington to meet with federal transit officials on the environmental impact statement for the city’s rail project. Notices for the fundraiser and a news release from the mayor’s office had conflicting dates.
"I don’t want a cloud to be cast on the work that I did in Washington, D.C.," he said. "Everything else associated with that fundraiser was on my own time, was on our own personal campaign activity, and I don’t want that getting in the way."
Hannemann also tried to shift scrutiny of campaign fundraising to his chief political rivals, fellow Democrat Neil Abercrombie and Republican James "Duke" Aiona, saying both had held more mainland fundraisers.
Aiona and Abercrombie raised questions about the June 9 fundraiser, which was hosted by a former executive of Bombardier Transportation, a subsidiary of a Canadian firm that hopes to sell rail cars for the city’s proposed transit system.
Hannemann said recent fundraisers for Abercrombie did not name the person or entity sponsoring the event.
Abercrombie listed campaign treasurer Jack Endo on his fundraiser notices, which Hannemann acknowledged was legal, adding that media "should go beyond that and drill down and ask, ‘Who are the people or organizations responsible for those fundraisers?’"
Hannemann also questioned whether it was appropriate for Abercrombie to name Kelly King as one of his honorary campaign co-chairmen. King co-founded a Hawaii biodiesel company that received $3.5 million in earmarked appropriations that Abercrombie shepherded through Congress.
In a statement, Abercrombie called Hannemann’s comments "typical."
"Instead of answering the questions, he’s placing the blame on his own volunteers and pointing the finger at me and Duke Aiona," Abercrombie said. "Apparently, the only person who doesn’t make mistakes is Mufi Hannemann."
Abercrombie said Endo’s name appeared on notices because Endo handles all financial transactions, including fundraising activities.
Hannemann also raised questions about Aiona’s financial director, Miriam Hellreich, who was a top fundraiser and adviser for Gov. Linda Lingle’s campaigns. Hannemann said Aiona should be asked what role, if any, the Lingle administration has in his fundraising.
Aiona campaign spokesman Travis Taylor said, "All of our fundraising activities are above board and in full compliance with the law."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.