BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – HONOLULU – A new Nissan Pathfinder, two power saws, tickets to a trendy nightclub and a full sized male mannequin. Those were some of the pricier – or more unusual items – found in the campaign expenditure reports of Hawaii lawmakers.
Rep. Romy Cachola, D-Kalihi Kai, spent $30,000 to acquire the Nissan Pathfinder in 2008 from New City Nissan in Honolulu. Since, he has spent campaign funds as much three times a week for fuel, and put additional campaign funds toward car insurance, maintenance and registration.
Cachola said the Pathfinder “is purely for campaign use.”
“I felt the campaign needed a bigger car such as the Pathfinder, to accommodate signs, supplies and other campaign paraphernalia,” Cachola said. “For personal use, the family uses our Lexus car which is a pretty small car.”
Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee, D-Kaneohe–Kunia, purchased a $759 extended power saw from Aloha Power Equipment “for sign/banner construction.” That is the second major power tool he bought with campaign funds in recent years.
Hee, who has acquired a record $440,000 in his campaign fund, said in an email: “The Hawaii Administrative Rules 3-160-42 outline campaign related expenses and Hawaii Revised Statutes 11-302 (1) (A) and 11-381 A (2) justify the purchase of campaign related machinery and tools as well as define equipment used for campaign purposes.”
Hawaii’s state campaign spending laws allow lawmakers and candidates to purchase virtually whatever they wish as long as the items are used for their campaign. If the asset is also used for personal gain, the campaign fund must be reimbursed.
Both Hee and Cachola maintain they checked with the Campaign Spending Commission to ensure their purchases were acceptable.
However, Gary Kam, the general counsel for the Hawaii state Campaign Spending Commission, said he’s never had a candidate or elected official call to vet a purchase beforehand.
“I am not aware of any calls that we have received from candidates to vet purchases,” Kam said. “I have never had a question like that posed to me.”
Kam said candidates are not required to get their purchases approved by the campaign spending staff, because they should know to keep the use exclusively to campaign related activities or reimburse the campaign for the personal use of the asset.
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Whitmore Village, invested $209 from his campaign fund on a full-sized male mannequin.
“The mannequin was purchased at the Downtown Macy’s clearance sale to be used when I sign wave and with other campaign activities,” Oshiro said.
“It is a full body male figure and stands over 6 feet tall and I plan to use various clothing styles and posses to prompt some amusement and cheer to an otherwise mundane activity.”
House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, D- Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, spent $125 on tickets to M Night Club in Restaurant Row for his staff.
House candidates are allowed to present gifts to volunteers and employees who volunteer for the candidate if the gifts are under $500 for the election period, Kam said.
Senate candidates can spend up to $1,000 on volunteers and lawmakers in a statewide four year office can spend up to $1,500 on volunteers.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@watchdog.org