Former Gov. Ben Cayetano escalated his battle against the political action committee that opposed his unsuccessful anti-rail 2012 mayoral campaign by filing a federal complaint alleging campaign law violations by the current chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and others.
In his complaint to the Federal Elections Commission, Cayetano alleged that in 2012 Andrew Winer, who is now Schatz’ chief of staff, had a conflict of interest because Winer simultaneously coordinated Pacific Resource Partnership’s campaign to defeat Cayetano while Winer also served as senior advisor for U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, who received more than $60,000 from PRP for her successful campaign.
Winer also worked for the Hawaii Democratic Party’s Coordinated Campaign at the time, according to Cayetano’s complaint.
Winer’s work with Hirono was a “clear and real obvious violation” of election laws against coordinated communications regarding independent expenditures, Cayetano told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Monday.
In his complaint, Cayetano also asked the FEC to investigate whether PRP spokesman and treasurer John White “violated Federal Election laws and regulations by employing Winer as its political consultant at the same time PRP spent $61,069.04 for expenditures in support of the Hirono campaign and while Winer worked simultaneously on Hirono’s campaign as its ‘senior adviser’ and as ‘strategist’ for the DP Coordinated campaign. If true, it is believed PRP and White violated Federal laws and regulations and that FEC should take appropriate action.”
In 2012, Cayetano came out of retirement to run for mayor, promising to reject the $5.2 billion rail project if elected.
He faced then-Mayor Peter Carlisle and former state representative and city managing director Kirk Caldwell, who both supported rail.
Cayetano beat Carlisle and Caldwell in the primary election and faced Caldwell in a run-off in the general election.
Caldwell had the support of both PRP, Cayetano said, as well as the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, whom Cayetano said declared publicly that “it would take World War III” to kill rail.
PRP, Cayetano said in his complaint, “spent nearly $4 million on attack ads” against him.
After filing a defamation lawsuit against PRP, Cayetano received a settlement that included a letter of apology in the form of a half-page on two consecutive Sunday editions in the Star-Advertiser.
The public apology was the first of its kind in Hawaii politics since statehood, Cayetano said.
In November, the state Campaign Spending Commission referred Cayetano’s complaints against PRP to the city Prosecutor for possible criminal violations, but Cayetano said the case is now being considered by the state Attorney General.
Cayetano’s complaint to the state Campaign Spending Commission alleged that PRP deliberately concealed Winer’s role as the organization’s political consultant and failed to mention Cayetano’s name as the object of PRP’s expenditures, which Cayetano said is required by state law.
On the same day the Campaign Spending Commission voted 3-1 to send Cayetano’s complaint to the city Prosecutor for possible criminal prosecution, the commission also refered a separate complaint by the commission’s director, Kristin Izumi-Nitao, against PRP to the city Prosecutor for not reporting $86,000 in expenditures in PRP’s support of Caldwell.
After Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate in December 2012 to replace the late-Sen. Daniel Inouye, he chose Winer as his chief of staff. Cayetano said Winer’s U.S. Senate ethics disclosure report in 2013 for the first time revealed that Winer worked as a consultant for PRP from 2011 to January 2013 and had been paid $131,258.
“It should be noted that Winer, an attorney, is a seasoned political consultant as he has been involved in numerous political campaigns, including past DP coordinated campaigns,” Cayetano wrote in his complaint. “As such he is familiar with federal election law and regulations.”