IS IT A CRIME? Former Gov. Ben Cayetano convinced campaign spending commissioners to refer his complaint against a super PAC that targeted him during the 2012 election to the prosecutor for further criminal action
Ben Cayetano

BY JIM DOOLEY – Honolulu mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell received $511,404 in campaign donations from January through June, nearly $400,000 less than fellow challenger Ben Cayetano, according to campaign figures released today.

Incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle trails badly in fundraising, posting $198,000 in receipts in the first six months of the year.

Caldwell’s report, filed this afternoon, disclosed that his campaign spent nearly as much as it took in, $485,000, and finished June with a cash balance of just under $100,000.

Cayetano spent $279,000 and had a much larger cash reserve of $613,000 at the start of this month.

The former governor received $40,000 from donors connected to architect-engineer Dennis Mitsunaga, a longtime friend, fundraiser and political backer of Cayetano. Mitsunaga gave $4,000 personally and the rest came from Mitsunaga relatives and employees.

Cayetano has campaigned largely on a platform of opposition to the City’s planned $5.2 billion rapid transit project. Carlisle and Caldwell staunchly support construction of the 20-mile elevated rail system.

Rail proponents have made much of Mitsunaga’s connections to Cayetano and the fact that the businessman was once investigated for, but never charged with, participation in “pay to play” schemes that connected campaign donations to non-bid government consulting contracts.

The names of other individuals actually found guilty of campaign spending violations appear on the lists of donors to both Caldwell and Cayetano this year.

Kirk Caldwell

Russell Figueiroa, head of the RM Towill engineering firm who was fined $50,000 for campaign spending violations in 2006, gave the $4,000 maximum to Caldwell and employees of his firm gave Caldwell another $8,000.

Michael Matsumoto, head of the SSFM engineering firm here, gave $2,000 to Cayetano and $4,000 to Caldwell.

Matsumoto was fined $303,000 for campaign violations. He also served a term of court supervision after entering a deferred no-contest plea to criminal violations. Those offenses were erased from his record after he successfully completed his court sentence.

In this year’s race for Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney, challenger Kevin Takata pulled in more money than incumbent Keith Kaneshiro, thanks in large part to a $42,000 donation from Takata’s brother Michael, a New York businessman.

Kaneshiro received $58,000 in donations and Takata reported nearly $72,000 in receipts.

Takata’s campaign manager, Don Pacarro, said state campaign laws allow immediate family members of candidates to give up to $50,000.

Takata and Pacarro are former deputy prosecutors who left the office after Kaneshiro was elected in 2010.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com