The governor’s race moves to Pittsburgh (Can we keep it there?)

I’m finding it hard to get too bothered by the flap over Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s side trip to Pittsburgh for a campaign event while in Washington on city business.

The Piitsburgh event, first reported by KHON-TV, was sponsored by a rail consultant and billed as a fundraiser for Hannemann’s campaign for governor, with donations of $500 to $5,000 suggested. Several Pittsburgh Steelers attended.

Both the mayor’s office and his campaign office initially said they weren’t aware of the side trip and his public schedule was unclear on what he was doing and when. Questions were raised about whether required notifications were filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Hannemann tried to put the controversy to rest by saying he viewed the event as a “meet and greet” and wouldn’t accept any of the donations. He told KHON:

“With respect to event in Pittsburgh, in my view although it was a fundraiser, I saw it more of a meet-and-greet, to be able to touch base with folks who have known me since college, and with the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of my favorite teams. No donations collected that evening, and I’m not coming back to Honolulu with contributions, nor will I accept any contributions from that fundraiser.”

But the rival campaigns of Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona weren’t going to let him off that easy.


“The people deserve answers to many questions including: Was the trip to D.C. necessary or was it designed just to get to Pittsburgh while piggybacking on official city business? Why was there no proper notice to the Campaign Spending Commission? Why was the wrong date listed in the fundraiser’s filing? Why did an official city release say the mayor was meeting in D.C. when he was actually campaigning in Pittsburgh?”

GOP Chairman Jonah Ka’auwai:

“The Honolulu Mayor has used taxpayer dollars to advocate for the reckless rail transit project, he raked in more than $200,000 from donors linked to government contractors in the last six months of 2009, and now he’s raising big money from consultants seeking rail contracts. While he’s whacking the rail transit piñata for all the goodies he can get, he’s raising property taxes and increasing fees on just about every other service the city provides.”

It bothers me that transit donations are figuring so big not only in Hannemann’s campaign, but also in that of his preferred successor as mayor, city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, and City Council members.

It makes you wonder if the $5.3 billion project is being carried out for the benefit of the taxpaying public or for private interests who stand to make big money off of rail.

But plenty of rail donations are being collected right here in Honolulu, and I don’t see it as a major special concern that the mayor went to Pittsburgh to get some. All of the major candidates have held Mainland fundraisers.

The suggestion that Hannemann used a city trip to Washington mainly to get to a campaign event in Pittsburgh appears rendered moot by the fact that he brought home his long-delayed federal approval of the rail EIS; obviously, the mayor had legitimate city business in Washington.

The Campaign Spending Commission can sort out any questions about event postings and notifications, which seem relatively minor as far as potential violations go.


I have more thoughts on rail and politics in my column in today’s Star-Advertiser, “Mayor uses rail failings as boost to governor bid.”

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3 Comments on “The governor’s race moves to Pittsburgh (Can we keep it there?)”

  1. charles Says:

    Much ado about almost nothing. Duke has had dozens of fundraisers on the mainland and I’m sure Neil has had more than a few.

    That said, if Mufi says he won’t accept any money from this event, what happens to it? Clearly, it was a fundraiser and I’m sure they didn’t serve only fruit punch and popcorn.

    The way around it would be to have the contributors mail the check to Hawaii and it then becomes an unsolicited contribution that just appeared.

  2. WooWoo Says:

    If the question is “How is this Pittsburgh fundraiser any worse than the rail donations already flowing into Mufi’s coffers?” the answer is that it isn’t. But this doesn’t make it kosher. As I’ve said before, the Legislature created a monster when it gave Mufi the ability to tack on .5%. The bill should have been entitled, “A bill for an Act to create a Mufi Hanneman election fund.”

    Here is a cool video that explains how Mufi wins and we all lose. Dave Zetland is a talented Berkeley economist that writes often on water economics.

  3. Michael Says:

    We have mission failure dealing with Rail.

    Recently on the News, It seems the teapot is calling the kettle black. Shoddy work by the governor. hanneman is cutting his chances of getting rail by angering lingle. NO,NO, NO!

    Best he stay as mayor cause he is thinning his chances of winning as governor. I may have to side with Lt. Governor Aiona on Cancer screening which he suggested. lingle just passed the bill.

    It seems hanneman like the wind, blew it. Too bad he cannot rain dance.

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