BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – With Honolulu’s $5.3 billion rail project stalled because of legal problems and several key political candidates wanting to kill the project all together, Pacific Resource Partnership and the Carpenters Union are launching an all out media war on rail opponents who are running for political office.
With billions of dollars at stake, Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP Hawaii) and its affiliate, the Hawaii Carpenters Union, have stepped their efforts to ensure political candidates who oppose the city’s 20-mile elevated steel rail system are not elected on November 6.
PRP Hawaii is sponsoring a new round of “push polls” against Ben Cayetano, Hawaii’s former governor who is the leading candidate for Honolulu Mayor, who has promised to kill the pricey and controversial project if he is elected.
The calls – which are designed to push negative information about Cayetano to voters – are coming from the Idaho-based Mountain West Research Center and this phone number – 231-224-2032
In a nearly 10 minute call, the pollster, reading from a script, accuses Cayetano of various misdeeds including taking illegal campaign contributions while he was governor . The pollster also asks if it the voter would be more likely to support Cayetano’s opponent, Kirk Caldwell, if Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle endorses him.
“PRP is following the same dirty tactics it used against me in the primary election,” Cayetano said.
“‘Push polls’ require first fooling the listener into believing the poll is legitimate and once the listener is hooked, the pollster asks loaded questions designed to spread rumors and falsehoods about the opponent,” Cayetano added.
Pacific Resources Partnership is also sponsoring a barrage of radio and television advertisements against Cayetano and targeting him in email campaigns that accuse the long time Democrat of “cozying up to lots of Republicans.” The mayor’s race is a non-partisan one, and voters from all political parties and political ideologies have rallied around Cayetano because they oppose the rail project and also want him to fix Oahu’s dilapidated infrastructure including sewers, roads and water systems.
“PRP has already spent more than $1.5 million in radio and TV ads smearing me,” Cayetano said. “I have confidence that the peoples sense of fairness and common sense will help them see through PRP’s dirty tactics.”
According to a publication called America’s Watch Tower, the “Mountain West Research–a group conducting polling for the Paul Hodes campaign–was fined $20,ooo for conducting this push poll ending once and for all the false notion that Paul Hodes was simply conducting “market research” and proving that his campaign was actually engaged in an illegal push poll against Kelly Ayotte.”
Attorney General Michael Delaney, following an investigation, announced “Mountain West Research made calls that fall under the state’s legal definition of push polling, but did not provide necessary disclosures required by statute.”
Delaney said those disclosures include “that the telephone call is being made on behalf of, in support of, or in opposition to a particular candidate,” that the candidate be identified and the telephone number from where the push polling is conducted.”
John White, the spokesperson for PRP Hawaii, represents some 200 contractors, many who rely on government contracts. He has refused to respond to any of Hawaii Reporter’s media inquiries about the push polls.
The organization is focusing most of its efforts and funding on getting Honolulu Mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell elected over Cayetano, but PRP Hawaii is backing other pro-rail candidates while targeting rail opponents.
Rep. Kym Pine, a candidate for the District 1 city council seat currently held by Tom Berg, has volunteers from the Carpenters Union helping her with her campaign. PRP Hawaii is also sending hit pieces out against Berg, who is an outspoken critic of the rail project.
Residents in Berg’s district received a mailer yesterday sponsored by PRP Hawaii that calls him “irresponsible” and an “embarrassment” and alleges he has a drinking problem.
PRP Hawaii is also helping other pro-rail city candidates in addition to Pine, including City Council Candidate Carol Fukunaga. Fukunaga, a state senator who lost her long-held Senate seat when two Senate districts were reapportioned into one district, is running against former Rep. Sam Aiona, who is against the current rail project.
James Hayes, a pro-rail contractor who has worked on the rail project, has PRP Hawaii’s backing as he takes on one of the rail’s biggest critics, City Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi.