BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Pacific Resource Partnership, also known as the Hawaii Carpenters Union Market Recovery Fund, has filed a motion in U.S. District Court to transfer the libel and slander case filed against them by former Gov. Ben Cayetano from state to federal court. (see the PRP Hawaii motion transfer to the case to federal court )
The 11-page motion, filed November 19, argues the case is intertwined with labor contracts that are governed by the Labor Management Relations Act.
Cayetano filed the lawsuit against the Carpenters Union, PRP Hawaii, its director John White, its board members and advertising agency after PRP spent $3 million on attack ads and push polls trying to ensure Cayetano was not elected mayor.
Cayetano may oppose the motion to transfer the case from state to federal court. He said Tuesday that he was still reviewing the case.
Cayetano’s attorney Jim Bickerton, a partner with Bickerton Lee Dang & Sullivan, said the U.S. Supreme Court through its controversial decision known as Citizens United allows unlimited amounts of money to be used in campaigns to attack candidates, so the federal court may also be the best place to fight the issue and address some of the fall out.
After leading in the polls by nearly double in the August Primary Election, Cayetano lost the mayor’s election by about 20,000 votes to former city managing director Kirk Caldwell.
Construction unions targeted Cayetano because he opposes the city’s $5.2 billion elevated steel on steel rail project, while Caldwell supports it.
The ads made a wide variety of accusations against Cayetano, including that he knowingly took illegal campaign contributions when he was governor of Hawaii. Cayetano and the state’s former Campaign Spending Commission Director Robert Watada said those allegations are false.
Pacific Resource Partnership made other accusations against Cayetano, including that he was soft on crime, and that he laid off state employees while cutting government services.
Cayetano’s lawyers, including Bickerton and Michael Green, argue “Until defendants started this campaign of falsehoods, Gov. Cayetano enjoyed an excellent reputation. As a two-term governor who ended his term with a surplus and a wide range of achievements, he is respected as an administrator. More importantly, because he has always tried to do what he believes to be in the public interest and say ‘no’ to powerful special interests who seek more than their fair share of the pie, even those who disagree with him have always recognized that he is a person of independence and integrity.”
Bickerton said earlier that the source of the money spent on the all out campaign against Cayetano is “mysterious”, but they have traced the money to a group of wealthy general contractors “who expect a big piece of the billions of dollars that will be spent by taxpayers if rail is built.”
Bickerton, who is seeking a jury trial, said the lawsuit will help uncover which contractors give funds to PRP Hawaii and paid “big money for big lies.”
None of the defendants in the lawsuit have been willing to comment.
Cayetano said earlier he is not just filing this lawsuit for himself – it is for others who might want to run for office but don’t want to tolerate this kind of advertising war being waged against them – and he is willing to take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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Ssee the 30-page Complaint against PRP here