Bob Watada is Hawaii's former Campaign Spending Director who cracked down on illegal campaign contributions
Bob Watada is Hawaii's former Campaign Spending Director who cracked down on illegal campaign contributions

John White and Pacific Resource Partnership launched a new radio advertisement and email/web attack on former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano on Thursday. They edited the remarks made by former Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada at Cayetano’s press conference this week to read:

“Yes, there definitely was a culture… of, if you want to get contracts with the city or state, then you had to make contributions. … Mr. Cayetano received contributions, his campaign received contributions which were over the limit. If that’s what you’re asking, yes… You had to make contributions in order to get contracts. If you didn’t make contributions, illegal or otherwise, you didn’t get contracts.”

What Watada actually said in the nearly one hour press conference was Cayetano was the most honest politician he knows, that the Commission would not have closed his campaign spending account if he’d done anything wrong, and yes there was a “pay to play culture” in Hawaii, but Cayetano’s campaign was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing as were the campaigns of many other prominent politicians who were investigated. Watada also said that candidates often don’t know they have received illegal campaign contributions because the person or company donating the money uses different names to get the money to the candidate.

At the press conference, Rep. Della Au Belatti said she was outraged at PRP Hawaii’s misrepresentation of what she and Watada said in past newspaper articles, calling it “a blatant lie and mistruth”. She had harsh words for PRP’s president John White and called on him to be honest and transparent.

“I take great offense to Mr. White and Pacific Resource Partnership Hawaii’s public statements that accuse Bob Watada and I of re-writing history by standing up for the honesty and integrity of mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano.

“First, a blatant lie and mistruth being spread by PRP’s commercials is that Governor Cayetano somehow “kept” the money his campaign committee received.  This is simply not true as you can tell by the expense report of the bills his committee paid out in running a statewide gubernatorial campaign.  Was Governor Cayetano’s committee not supposed to pay The Gas Company for utilities, the Sheraton Waikiki for facilities, or Hungry Lion Coffee Shop for food & beverages?

“Second, the quotes attributed to Bob and I to discredit us were taken completely out-of-context and out-of-time from a 2001 Commission meeting that Mr. White was not even present at.  This meeting was about the illegal actions of donors who were making excessive contributions.  Mr. White has never called Bob or I to ever discuss campaign finance reform and the very serious questions plaguing the state of political campaigns today.

“Finally, I stand by my comments that PRP Hawaii and Mr. White’s conduct is entirely hypocritical.  Their ads assert that Governor Cayetano exploited a “loophole.”  Well, they are currently exploiting a huge loophole – no, they are driving a Mack truck through our campaign finance system through a big, gaping hole that has been created by theCitizens United Supreme Court decision – and making a mockery of the ideals of transparency by their spending of over ½ a million dollars to deceive the public and distort the public dialog.”

Watada also noted that while White and his PRP group were accusing Cayetano of using a loophole to avoid repaying the $500,000 plus in illegal campaigns his campaign received when he was governor, White is actually the one using the loophole to hide where his organization’s money is coming from.

PRP Hawaii is attempting to discredit Cayetano, who has the lead in the public polls, because PRP Hawaii and its members want the city’s planned $5.2 billion elevated steel on steel rail system to be built, and Cayetano is the only candidate of the three major mayoral candidates, who has promised to stop the project.

Belatti made a point to question whether it was in fact PRP Hawaii who is involved in ‘Pay to Play’: “Who are the donors behind PRP Hawaii?  Are they receiving contracts, have they received contracts, or do they hope to receive contracts from the rail project?  Now that’s pay-to-play if the answer is yes to any of these questions.  But you know what—we won’t know any of the answers to these questions until August 1st when PRP, as a noncandidate committee, will have to file reports to disclose their donors.  Even then, we may not know entirely who the donors are if the money comes directly from PRP Hawaii’s own coffers and not directly from donors,” Belatti said.

Hawaii Reporter’s Jim Dooley reports on PRP Hawaii’s finances on Wednesday, and provides background on the organization’s ties:

“Pacific Resource Partnership is a leading pro-rail spender in this year’s election cycle just as it was in 2008 and 2010, but where the group’s money comes from is shrouded in secrecy. PRP, as it is known, is a non-profit “social organization” that combines the economic clout of the $39 million Hawaii Carpenters Union with hundreds of contractors and developers that have signed union agreements with construction trade union locals. Together, PRP and the Carpenters have spent an estimated $1.5 million since 2008 promoting rail and attacking opponents of the planned $5.2 billion rapid transit project, according to financial reports filed with state and federal agencies.

“In 2008, PRP spent more than $250,000 on pro-rail promotions and the Carpenters Union Local 745 separately spent $500,000 or $700,000 for the same purpose, according to reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission and with the Labor Management Services Administration of the U.S. Labor Department. So far this year a new PRP political action committee (PAC) has already spent more than $500,000 on television ads attacking anti-rail mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano, according to Cayetano and television station public disclosures. Details of PRP’s 2012 spending won’t be revealed until August 1, the Campaign Spending Commission’s deadline for submission of 2012  PAC financial reports.”

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