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, former Hawaii Governor
Ben Cayetano, former Hawaii Governor

HONOLULU – Former Gov. Ben Cayetano on Wednesday asked state Campaign Spending Commissioners to refer a complaint he filed against Pacific Resource Partnership to the Honolulu City Prosecutor for further investigation.

The commission staff recommended settling the complaint with a fine, but Cayetano convinced commissioners to reconsider.

Pacific Resource Partnership, an affiliate of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, is the organization that coordinated and sponsored the barrage of media attacks that led to Cayetano’s defeat in the 2012 Honolulu mayoral race.

PRP Hawaii spent nearly $2 million on negative advertising targeting Cayetano, and helping the pro-rail candidate, Kirk Caldwell, win election.

The advertisements alleged Cayetano was corrupt and broke the law while he was governor from 1994 to 2002.

Cayetano sued PRP and won a settlement. PRP paid $125,000 to two of Cayetano’s favorite charities and published apologies in the daily newspaper.

As a result of the lawsuit, Cayetano learned Ho’okea Communications, a company then owned by former journalists Barbara Tanabe and Jim McCoy, was paid more than $102,600 for work on the mayoral campaign. Andy Winer, an attorney and Democrat strategist who also is U.S. Senator Brian Schatz’s chief of staff, was paid $136,800.

Neither was disclosed in PRP’s campaign spending reports.

Cayetano’s complaint against PRP said the organization violated campaign laws by organizing to defeat his mayoral candidacy before filing organizational reports, failed to report related expenditures, and in its reports, omitted payments to major consultants.

The commissioners will take up Cayetano’s complaint at its November 19 meeting.

PRP is facing a second Campaign Spending Commission complaint for failing to disclose $86,000 it spent on fliers in support of the campaigns of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga and Hawaii County Council candidate Valerie Poindexter.

Unionized carpenters and independent contractors established the PRP PAC, called Forward Progress.

PRP’s attorney said Wednesday the PRP did not intentionally withhold the information.

Commissioners will revisit the complaint Nov. 19.

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