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 MALIA ZIMMERMANHawaii Reporter has obtained an audio copy of a “push poll” targeting Mayoral Candidate Ben Cayetano.

During a nearly 10-minute call, the pollster, who works for the Idaho-based Mountain West Research Center, is planting negative information about Cayetano, while promoting Kirk Caldwell, the city’s former managing director who is Cayetano’s opponent in the upcoming Honolulu mayor’s race.

Here is an excerpt that comes half way into the call:

“Here are a few statements – or three statements – that supporters have made about Kirk Caldwell for mayor. After I read each statement, just indicate whether this statement is convincing, somewhat, a little or not at all a convincing reason to you to support for Kirk Caldwell.

“Kirk wants our city government to provide better service to residents. He will replace aging water systems and sewer systems on time and on budget, fix pot holes, and make sure on time and more often, he will cut wasteful programs and develop more efficient ones. Is this a convincing, somewhat, a little or not at all a convincing reason to you to support for Kirk Caldwell?

“Kirk has worked with Honolulu’s emergency responders and knows what it takes to keep people safe. … As mayor, he will extend Honolulu’s policing program and make emergency services more cost effective in addition to providing faster response time. He has the support of police and fire fighters.

“Cayetano, however, whether this statement is true or not sir, Cayetano, however, pardoned more criminals than any other governor in the past quarter century, including many violent criminals. Is this a convincing, somewhat, a little or not at all a convincing reason to you to support for Kirk Caldwell?

“A woman in Waipahu and man in Hilo said Kirk has the integrity to be our mayor ….while Ben Cayetano has been involved with ‘Pay to Play.’ He was a successful businessman, worked with Sen. Daniel Inouye, and served as managing director and acting mayor of Honolulu ….

“Cayetano, on the other hand, whether this statement is true or not sir, took over $100,000 in contributions, illegal campaign contributions.

“Is this a convincing, somewhat, a little or not at all a convincing reason to you to support for Kirk Caldwell? …

Even when the person being polled said he supports Cayetano, the pollster continues to convince him to vote for Caldwell.

“I know sir that you said you are not going to support … vote for Caldwell, but just allow me to read the statements, the final statements I have for you. What do you find the most convincing as the reason to vote Kirk Caldwell for mayor?

“Kirk Caldwell has the support of public safety while Cayetano pardoned more criminals than any other governor; Kirk will make government services more efficient, while the governor has laid off public workers and cut services, Kirk has the support of Sen. Inouye, while Cayetano took illegal contributions. …

“I know, sir, you are for Ben Cayetano, but somehow I know this study we are conducting is asking what you believe, but actually sir, these are statements that are actually against him.”

This is at least the third round of push polls levied against Cayetano this election season. The push poll is conducted on behalf of Pacific Resource Partnership, Cayetano told Hawaii Reporter in an earlier interview.

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.

Cayetano is the primary target, because he promised to kill the pricey and controversial rail project if he is elected.

“PRP is following the same dirty tactics it used against me in the primary election,” Cayetano told Hawaii Reporter.

“‘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.

Mountain West Research said on its web site it is a “data collection company specializing in collection of primary data for market research companies” …. through “web Surveys, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) surveys, Computer Aided Telephone Interviewing (CATI) surveys and Multi-Modal Surveys.” But the company has received negative publicity around the country for its unconventional tactics.

America’s Watch Tower reports 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.”

Mother Jones published an article about Mountain West Research in 2010, saying Western Wats and the Mountain West Research Center have popped up regularly during competitive election seasons—frequently in conjunction with push-poll allegations.

“In 2006, democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont’s campaign reported that supporters had gotten push-polled by Mountain West during his primary challenge against Democrat Joe Lieberman. Western Wats also surfaced in the Vermont Senate campaign that year, tied to negative calls against the Senate’s only bona fide socialist, Bernie Sanders. But Western Wats really made news in 2008, when it was identified as the firm behind calls to voters in New Hampshire suggesting that Mitt Romney had dodged the Vietnam draft by serving as a Mormon missionary in France. The campaign behind those calls was never identified, though Rudy Giuliani was the leading suspect. (Ayotte, as attorney general, was charged with investigating the allegations.)

The Mother Jones article adds: “That’s not all: some of those calls in previous years may have been made by underpaid children. In April, Western Wats settled a complaint with the US Department of Labor for serious violations of child labor laws. It agreed to pay more than $500,000 for reportedly employing more than 1,400 kids under 16 (some as young as 13) to staff its call centers. Many of the kids were paid less than minimum wage. Naturally, Western Wats dismissed the complaint as mostly full of “technical” violations, but the civil penalty was among the largest ever assessed by the Department of Labor for child labor violations.”

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.

Hawaii Reporter also attempted to speak with the account executive from the Mountain West Research Company representing Pacific Resource Partnership, but the person who just calls himself “Jesse” would not disclose information about his client or tactics.

—-

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.”

Cayetano said he will file a libel and slander lawsuit today against the organizations and individuals he said are trying to undermine his campaign for Honolulu mayor.

Cayetano has retained one of Hawaii’s most well known First Amendment attorneys, Jim Bickerton of Bickerton Lee Dang & Sullivan.

The lawsuit will be filed against Pacific Resource Partnership, its Executive Director John White, its Board members, the Carpenters’ Union, which directs Pacific Resource Partnership’s actions, and Pacific Resource Partners’ advertising agency, as well as defendants who have so far kept their identities secret.

 

 

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Malia Zimmerman is the editor and co-founder of Hawaii Reporter. She has worked as a consultant and contributor to several dozen media outlets including ABC 20/20, FOX News, MSNBC, the Wall Street Journal, UPI and the Washington Times. Malia has been listed as one of the nation’s top "Web Proficients, Virtuosi, and Masters" and "Hawaii's new media thought leader" by http://www.thewebstersdictionary.com Reach her at Malia@hawaiireporter.com