Top Rail Project Consultants Give Maximum To Caldwell’s Mayoral Campaign

Kirk Caldwell will be sworn in as Honolulu's next mayor on January 2, 2013
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Kirk Caldwell

BY JIM DOOLEY – Top executives and employees of the lead consulting firm on Honolulu’s delayed $5.2 billion rail project have given more than $26,000 in political donations to pro-rail mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell, an analysis of campaign records shows.

The donations, from individuals at the Parsons Brinckerhoff engineering firm, are a tiny fraction of the $1.5 million in contributions given to the Caldwell campaign this year, but are the largest cluster of donations from executives at one company, according to reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission.


Top officers of the Parsons firm – president and chief executive George J. Pierson, global chief operations officer Gregory Kelly, and chief of staff Michael Fisher – each gave the maximum-allowable $4,000 to the Caldwell campaign on September 25, according to campaign files. (The Caldwell campaign incorrectly listed Pierson’s first name as Gregory.)

Company director David McAlister gave the same amount on the same day, while other officials and employees donated the same or lesser amounts to Caldwell since then.

Company officials, including director of corporate communications Judith Cooper (who gave $500 to the Caldwell campaign), were not available for comment late today on the East Coast.

Parsons Brinckerhoff has received some $469 million to date in non-bid city consulting contracts for rail-related work.

Ten executives at another rail consulting firm, InfraConsult LLC, gave another $17,000 to the Caldwell campaign in the past two months, records show.

InfraConsult’s three managing partners have given just under $11,000 to Caldwell’s campaign this year.

The company has received $82 million in non-bid rail consulting contracts, according to the city’s rail project website.

Included in its duties is lobbying for the rail project in Washington, D.C.

George J. Pierson, president & CEO, Parsons Brinckerhoff (source:

Support for Caldwell by Parsons, InfraConsult and other rail contractors is not surprising since the other candidate in the mayor’s election, former Hawaii governor Ben Cayetano, is an avowed opponent of the massive elevated rail project.

Cayetano is a co-plaintiff in a federal court lawsuit that today won a major decision that will result in a lengthy new delay of the already-stalled project (see related story).

Construction work on the huge undertaking has already been stopped by another adverse court decision.

The consultant donations were revealed in financial reports filed Monday.

Caldwell supporters have waged a multi-million dollar advertising campaign against Cayetano that has depicted the former governor as a politician who awards consultant contracts based on campaign contributions.

Last month, Cayetano filed a defamation and libel lawsuit against Pacific Resource Partnership, financial backer of the political action committee that has financed the ad campaign against him.





  1. So my question is, do you think that these donors are supporting Mr. Caldwell to get more money or because they feel that rail projects will be good for the area and Mr Caldwell is in alignment with that feeling? A broader question is do they work at Parsons Brinckerhoff for the money alone or do they believe in helping to create an environment for people that is better and more sustainable?

    • Real environmental concerns would have planned an option-for-rail-tunnel instead of ugly pillars. The city, HART, & contractors ignorance opting for rail pillars is proof of greed.

      Nicholas Yost, an attorney representing a group of plaintiffs that includes Cliff Slater of and former Gov. Ben Cayetano, argued the current route destroys view planes in Chinatown, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).
      "The federal government's documentation, the National Register nomination, speaks of the importance of Chinatown and how this will impact it," Yost said after the hearing.
      'It seems to me you would have to extend to UH to meet the purpose of the project,' said federal judge, W. Tashima

      Read more:

  2. to those of us who ahev had our education in the real world i suggest that to find out what their motivation is for working…cut their pay. see how many stick around and put in the hours like the folks who work and volunteer at the homeless shelters, food banks and humane society where their devotion to the cause is evident. my guess is that the rail supporters are 10% true believers and 90% working stiffs who donate because they know who butters their bread. Like the big wall street brokerages…who give nearly equal amounts to either candidate. they don't care who gets elected as long as that office holder is well greased.

    please note that Parsons Brinckerhoff has received some $469 million to date in non-bid city consulting contracts for rail-related work. IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT "NON-BID" MEANS YOU SHOULD LEARN. A HALF A BILLION IS A VERY LARGE AMOUNT OF MONEY FOR "CONSULTING". if you have any question as to motivation consider that the majority of donors would probably have no interest in either candidate and if sounds like a few are not residents.

  3. Mr. Caldwell seems like a reasonably intelligent guy but what baffles me is why he continues to skew all independent facts on rail here on Oahu. Look even if Mr. Caeyatano was a one issue man and he is not many of us would see that as enough to give him the vote. Mr. Caldwell do what is best for Hawaii and her people. Then perhaps in future endeavors you may be seen as someone that can lead Hawaii in the right direction. Alas! Today you are tainted badly. It's Ben for the people.

  4. 1. So the PRP folks accuse Ben Cayetano of taking illegal campaign contributions from non-bid contractors.
    2. Kirk helps to write a law forbidding contractors with City or State contracts, bid or non-bid, and making it a felony if they do…to donate to a political campaign that involves the city or state.
    3. Kirk runs commercials bragging about "his" law to keep contractors with city-state contracts from
    donating to his and every other person's running for office .
    4. All the while contractors with city-state contracts are donating tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign and reporting this the the Campaign Spending Commission.
    5. And so….you all decide to overlook this and say…."Well Ben did it" and talk about something else?
    6. What's wrong with this picture?

  5. 2012 HONOLULU OVERTAKES FOR THE #1 CITY IN THE ENTIRE USA FOR HAVING THE WORST TRAFFIC. How many families can thrive if both parents have to work in town and commute from Kapolei each day. I am lucky that my employer allows me to leave a little earlier so that I can go pick up my kids from A+ before they close. Even then to survive I have to come in on the weekends as well just to make ends meet. I don't have any time for my kids and my eldest son is having all sorts of emotional problems and getting into lots of trouble at school. I pray that the rail is made because I would save so much time that I could devote to my family not to mention the $$ I would save instead of paying for gas to sit hours in traffic each day. There's not much sense in catching the bus either they are stuck in the traffic right next to me too! It's the time factor that is valuable to me I don't have enough time for my family now days. Please everyone consider not opposing the rail. It would be a real blessing for me and my family. I just wish that our government officals could get their act together and stop wasting all of my hard earned tax dollars on courts and controversy without getting much done. I think if we have a funding source for the rail then why not? Too many years they been talking about making rail and someone always tries to get in the way. So much wasted money and time. Awe. I can tell you that you'll never see people that will oppose rail also using and riding the rail transit. I doubt Mr. Caldwell will use the rail system although he would like to improve our lives I don't see what's so wrong about that. Why would someone support it so much If they don't plan to use it as well? To me he seems like he cares for the people. You have no idea Mr. Cayetano. None at all at how much it would help.

    • By the time the first phase of the rail is done, your kids will be grown up and have kids of their own. Meanwhile, you, your kids and their kids will be paying outlandish taxes to maintain this eye soar. Our infrustructure will fall apart because all of the money for it will be dumped into this train to nowhere. Think, the traffic isn't that bad when the universities are out, and yet the train isn't even going there. How naive it is for you to think that this 6 billion dollar monstrosity will help you and your kids.

    • As far as saving time…this train isn't going to stop outside your door. You'll still have to shuttle them there and shuttle them back and hope they'll be safe, considering they haven't even factored in the security and where the money will come from to finance the security. HPD ain't going to do it either because guess what? The City won't have the money to hire more police.
      I'm not against the rail…I'm against the lyes that have been fed to the people of Oahu. This overpriced train to nowhere will cost us all. Just so rich people can get richer…with our money!
      And could you imagine the people in the Mililani and Wahiawa? How the heck are they suppose to get to the train? Drive…thats right…there will be no bus system after they've taken the money from them too.

    • I appreciate your desires but rail is no solution. Have you read the proponents' pro forma for the rail. I guess not, because if if you had, you'd know that the train is not projected — even by its fans — to reduce today's traffic, just slow the growth of what's already bad. Meanwhile, the high-concept "2nd City of Kapolei" sits mostly fallow partly because it can't achieve critical mass because its residents still mostly commute to Honolulu.. Wanna make Kapolei matter? Wanna reduce H1 traffic for a decade? Move UH to Kapolei. Ah, but that would take what's called real leadership — instead of pretending a train is a lot more than it can or will ever be.

    • Mrs. Lokelani, you did not say whether or not you plan on riding the rail (btw your kids will be grown by the time it's built) or do you think that others will ride it hence there will be less cars on the road. Don't you think that others that live out in Kapolei (which right now is the only town that it will service)? Do you plan on dropping your kids off at school then going to the train station (going up elevators) and carrying your coffee and briefcase then standing the whole way? Then getting off the train trying not to be nauseated from stopping and going every mile or so? then when you get to "town" you will what, catch a bus or walk or cab to work? then when you finish work you will get on the rail that will stop again every mile? then get off, find your car (hopefully in one piece) then go scramble to pick up your kids from A+? really? Let's be realistic here. It doesn't sound like the rail will cost $5.6 Billion, it will likely be way more, even if we get federal funding. You probably live the closest to the beginning of the rail line, is it realistic for you to ride it even if it were hypothetically finished? is it worth the $$BILLIONS?

  6. Kirk Caldwell would not have gotten the campaign donations if BAD BEN had sign the bill into LAW. Now it came back to BITE BAD BEN.. What goes around comes around…

    • It is law george…look it up…….yes…what goes around comes back…2 U
      §11-355 Contributions by state and county contractors prohibited. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person who enters into any contract with the State, any of the counties, or any department or agency thereof either for the rendition of personal services, the buying of property, or furnishing of any material, supplies, or equipment to the State, any of the counties, any department or agency thereof, or for selling any land or building to the State, any of the counties, or any department or agency thereof, if payment for the performance of the contract or payment for material, supplies, equipment, land, property, or building is to be made in whole or in part from funds appropriated by the legislative body, at any time between the execution of the contract through the completion of the contract, to:
      (1) Directly or indirectly make any contribution, or promise expressly or impliedly to make any contribution to any candidate committee or noncandidate committee, or to any candidate or to any person for any political purpose or use; or
      (2) Knowingly solicit any contribution from any person for any purpose during any period.
      (b) Except as provided in subsection (a), this section does not prohibit or make unlawful the establishment or administration of, or the solicitation of contributions to, any noncandidate committee by any person other than the state or county contractor for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election, or the election of any person to office.
      (c) For purposes of this section, "completion of the contract" means that the parties to the government contract have either terminated the contract prior to completion of performance or fully performed the duties and obligations under the contract, no disputes relating to the performance and payment remain under the contract, and all disputed claims have been adjudicated and are final. [L 2010, c 211, pt

  7. It's amazing to think that many of the people of Honolulu cannot see what's really happening. The rail will only bankrupt this state. We don't have the population that can sustain this thing. These special interest groups are going to build this thing, take our money and hightail it outta here. Leaving us with this eye soars bill to foot.
    With the cost of living and unemployment at an all time high, be prepared to visit your kids in the mainland because if they don't make a combined annual income of $100,000 then guess what? Aloha oe!

    • I ride trains all over, in half-dozen cities every year. Every time I get on one, I turn my head skyward and thank the local taxpayers for the huge subsidies they pay so I can take a $2.25 train ride from ORD to the Loop. Years ago, I predicted that the train would require at least 20% of the budget of the City and County of Honolulu — just to subsidize. And that's what is now predicted, suggesting to me that it may turn out to be closer to 25%. Absolutely absurdly stupid. Bring on the train and the Akaka Bill and we're out of here!

  8. WE WON'T NEED RAIL IN TEN YEARS! Our people won't have to leave Kapolei because it will have become a large and INDEPENDENT city with businesses, schools, stores, government facilities and recreation. Commuting will be obsolete! Come on people: think ahead! And rail will BANKRUPT us! Only PRP will laugh at us as they go to the bank!

  9. Ben does NOT have to run for Mayor. He was a successful politician and happily retired. He came back because he found out that NOONE else would do the right thing. Unlike every other politician, Ben has NO selfish reasons for becoming mayor. The rail will be a huge financial disaster to us and our children's children, will NOT make traffic better than now, and will spoil the beauty of our Hawaii forever.

  10. I live in Nanakuli. I go to town and to get back I take the #93 bus. By the time it gets to the freeway, it is almost full, maybe one empty seat. Beautiful, everyone sitting down, Comfortable. Most have cars and are there by choice and fully realize that right in front of the bus, there are 50 cars missing. The drivers are sitting in the bus. When they get tandems and more people riding. They will have 90 cars missing right in front of them. I get to Nanakuli, in an hour. The rail ain't gonna beat that in a million years.

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