Two Hawaii groups representing venture capitalists and other investors are tussling over dueling endorsements they’ve bestowed on candidates for governor.
The oldest group, the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, backed Democratic former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie in late July, a few days after he, Democratic former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona participated in an HVCA-sponsored debate.
In early August, another group formed, called the Venture Capital Association of Hawaii. On Thursday, it announced its support for Hannemann .
That prompted the president of HVCA, Bill Spencer, on Friday to question the validity of the new group.
"It appears to be suspicious that an organization would start up a few days after we endorse Abercrombie and try to confuse voters," Spencer said in an interview.
He insisted that the new organization was not a splinter group created by unhappy HVCA members.
But that’s exactly how the Venture Capital Association of Hawaii was formed, said its acting executive director, Larry Harmon.
He said disgruntled HVCA members were perturbed by the procedures used to endorse Abercrombie, adding that the debate was "a giant dog and pony show." Further, he contended, HVCA may have violated its articles of incorporation by backing and contributing to the former congressman.
"It is not some secret, nefarious front for the Mufi Hannemann campaign," Harmon said of his group.
Abercrombie, Hannemann and three lesser-known contenders will meet Sept. 18 in the Democratic primary. Aiona and Honolulu lawyer John Carroll will vie in the GOP primary. The victors meet in the Nov. 2 general election.