Jesse Unruh, speaker of the California Assembly from 1961 to 1968, is credited with coining the phrase, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” … For better or worse, mostly worse I think — money is seen as the life force and energy behind politics and elections.
While election and campaign spending laws do place limits on the amount someone can donate to a candidates campaign, the primary regulatory tool in place is mandatory disclosure. Every dollar given to a candidate and every dollar spent by a candidate is required to be disclosed to the public via the State Campaign Spending Commission reporting schedule.
The most recent reports are in and provide some interesting information. All candidates who either are presently serving in office or have active campaign accounts, were required to file updated reports by July 31, 2019.
The State Campaign Spending Commission website provides a treasure trove of interesting information and lists virtually all campaign expenditures and contribution (over $100) made by every candidate, in every state and county election. Interested students of politics and/or competing candidates doing opposition research, can have a field day with this stuff.
As of July 31 each of our local political figures reported having available in their campaign bank accounts, the following balances as the net amount of funds available to their campaigns.
• Sen. Ronald Kouchi who is also of course the Senate President: $172,752
• Rep. Nadine Nakamura, District 14 – North Shore to Kapaa: $46,966
• Rep. James Tokioka, District 15 – Wailua Homesteads to Puhi: $23,296
• Rep. Daynette “Dee” Morikawa, District 16 – Koloa to Kekaha: $15,853
• Mayor Derek Kawakami: $61,943.73
• Council Chair – Arryl Kaneshiro: $51,409
• Council Vice Chair – Ross Kagawa: $10,438
• Councilmember Aurther Brun: $7,211
• Councilmember Mason Chock: $2,730
• Councilmember Felicia Cowden: – $2,649 (minus)
• Councilmember Luke Evslin: – $701 (minus)
• Councilmember KipuKai Kualii: $17,261
Note: Every candidate listed above is up for reelection in 2020, except Mayor Kawakami.
Interesting to also note the amounts in the campaign accounts of former councilmembers and mayoral candidates: Mel Rapozo: -$3,351.29 (minus) and JoAnn Yukimura: $5,691.71
Note: The above information only includes funds raised by the candidates (candidate committee) as reported by the Campaign Spending Commission, and does not factor in Political Action Committee (PAC) or Super PAC funding that is reported separately by the PACs themselves.
The numbers speak for themselves. Normally the size of a candidates “war chest” is a clear indication of strength and motivation. However, in a small community money is somewhat less important as “everyone knows everyone,” but still having a solid campaign balance remains an important factor when campaigning in hotly contested races.
In my experience, a credible Kauai Council and House campaign may cost between $30,000 to $45,000. Incumbents with strong name recognition and good reputations, and who already have yard signs and banners — can of course run strong campaigns for less. If they make up for it with hard work, going door to door — new candidates can be successful with leaner budgets but still must purchase yard signs, banners and basic advertising.
Other interesting fundraising trivia:
The vast majority of contributions that are made to Senate and House candidates, come from “outside the district” and consist of amounts in excess of $100 coming from individuals and organizations with business before the legislature. For example of the approximately $80,000 raised by Senator Kouchi in the most recent period, only $600 came from donors giving less than $100 and donors with Kauai addresses constituted less than 2% of the total listed. This phenomenon is typical of most, if not all state legislative seats.
The two individuals who control the two most important committees in the Hawaii state Legislature, and arguably together control the state budget, are of course also the Legislature’s most prolific fundraisers.
Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Donovan Dela Cruz: $644,750.93
Chair of the House Finance Committee Sylvia Luke: $373,122.53
Please explore the numbers yourself! It is easy to peruse the various categories and see exactly who is giving money to who, and also what the candidates are spending the money on.
The steps are simple: Go to the main web site http://ags.hawaii.gov/campaign/ – then to “Candidate Committee’s”, then “View Reports and Fundraiser Notices” and then “Candidate Contribution and Expenditure Reports and Organizational Reports” – from there simply search by the candidates name, click on the candidates name, and then click on “view report” which will be on the first line marked “disclosure”.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.