Politics by cheap attack

In a continuing attempt to discourage organized anonymous attack politics, I’ve been checking on a new group that’s popped up on Facebook called “Hawaii Residents Against Mufi.”

It’s run by an anonymous creator who goes by the alias “Anyone But Mufi” and says it’s “dedicated to preventing Mufi Hannemann from becoming Governor in 2010.”

It has 17 members, including state Republican chairman Jonah Kaauwai.

I sent the following message to the anonymous creator: “Would you please let me know your name so I can interview you about your ‘Hawaii Residents Against Mufi’ page and how you justify this anonymous character assassination that is dragging down politics in Hawai’i. How is this different from the Atomic Monkey site that the Hannemann campaign is taking heat for? If you want to take a stand, fine, but why not have the spine to back it up with your name?”

I received a response that refused to give give the creator’s name, saying, “This is strictly an opinionated page. If Mufi found out my real identity, he would bully around and make sure that no one would hire me for future employment.”

That’s the same lame excuse I used to get when I tried to track down similar anonymous anti-Hannemann sites during the 2008 mayoral race and transit referendum.

So I queried Kaauwai through the Republican Party, asking, “Could you please tell me who ‘Anyone But Mufi’ is so I can interview him? I’d also be interested to know how you justify lending your support to these anonymous attack sites that are degrading politics in Hawai’i? Is there any reason you shouldn’t be subject to the same criticism Hannemann chair Dean Okimoto got for being a fan of the Atomic Monkey group? Does your association with ‘Anyone But Mufi’ mean Neil (Abercrombie) can claim you as a supporter in the primary?”

Kaauwai didn’t answer me, but posted a query on the group asking, “Chris aren’t you the author and administrator of this group? Why have you gone anonymous?”

Kaauwai went on to post a video of himself warning that HB 444 will resurface next year unless more Republicans are elected to Legislature.

These anonymous sites reach few people, preach mostly to the converted and have yet to have much impact on the outcome of elections, but it’s a dishonorable form of politicking that warrants vigilant scrutiny.

Update: I received a reply from Jonah Kaauwai, who said he joined the group at the invitation of an individual he knew and assumed was named as the creator of the site.

He said he’s made inquiries about who created the site and why it was taken anonymous, which he considers “cowardly,” and will leave the group if the creator remains anonymous.

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21 Comments on “Politics by cheap attack”

  1. zzzzzing Says:

    Dave? Dave. This is just typical politics… nothing more, nothing less. Only now it’s more in the open because of social sites like Farcebook (yeah, i don’t subscribe). Let them throw dirt on each other with impunity. I’m not voting for either one so i say, “laissez les bons temps rouler” & watch the fur fly.

  2. Keith Rollman Says:

    “In a continuing attempt to discourage organized anonymous attack politics”…Then why write it up and even provide a link? Looks to me more like you’re promoting it.

  3. Keith Rollman Says:

    I have no reason to like this anonymous attack on Hannemann, or the number of others on him you mention (mostly from the same guy, who’s easily identified). But, Dave you just don’t get it. The first amendment trumps my opinion, your opinion and the opinions of your blog regulars. I offer this for the sake of perspective, and in defense of the values that I hold. I am sorry they are not universally held as Democratic Party values.

    Dave: “it’s a dishonorable form of politicking that warrants vigilant scrutiny.”

    Supreme Court: “Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.”

    ( McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission – 1995)

  4. David Shapiro Says:

    Keith, I’m a great believer in honest dissent and the Constitution and am not trying to slap handcuffs on anybody. I’m just challenging the attempts to wrap dirty campaigning in the flag of dissent.

  5. hipoli Says:

    Keith, youre the one who isnt getting it.

    Just because you can…doesnt mean you should.

    I can swear in front of a bunch of kids…but I know thats no class.

    I can have an affair on my other half….but I know thats hurtful and wrong (and would result in divorce).

    Yes, you can. But you and others shouldnt.

    Theres too much to talk about. I strongly contend that We, the collective We who are engaged in this business of politics and campaigns, should strive to elevate the conversation to something much more meaningful than Atomic Monkey and Anyone But Mufi.

    Get it?

  6. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    I agree that these kinds of websites ARE legally part of our political system. However, it’s the attacks that contain outright lies that I find very disturbing because many voters do not have access to nor the knowledge in how to use that access to confirm the statements.

    Case in point: My Sigoth is the campaign treasurer for a long-time friend who is running in a neighboring Senate district. Anonymous AND untrue statements are already circulating. The candidate now carries with him certified paperwork issued by government agencies which show that the statements are not true when he is challenged at community events.

    What about candidates whose spouses or other close family members have done something questionable? Should that information be part of the campaign? Should the candidate be held responsible or accountable for something he did not do just because it’s a family member? How does the candidate challenge those who raise these issues?

    Let’s suppose the candidate himself did something illegal such as a drunk-driving conviction 10 years ago? Or she is in a long-term relationship and has never married even though the couple have had children? What about gay or lesbian candidates? Candidates who’ve gone through bankruptcy?

    What say the regulars here?

    BTW – I am not visibly involved in any campaign during the Primary except to get people to vote for Democratic candidates nor am I supporting in any way any one candidate over another for two reasons:

    First, I am the Chair of my my District’s Democratic Party organization, and we do have a contested Primary in a number of different races. I cannot take sides nor get involved other than to provide support for both candidates.

    The second is that I work for a 501c3 non-profit and we cannot support one candidate over another. We’re holding at least three, possibly four, community service projects this election season and will be inviting all State House & Senate candidates in the surrounding areas – along with the gov/lt.gov after Primary – to take part along with their volunteers.

    The reason for doing this is that I want people who might wind up being elected officials to have at least an hour or so of boots-on-the-ground experience in one or two of the areas in which we work.

    I always make it very clear to candidates, the media, and the public which hat I’m wearing on which head.

    Therefore, please do not assume that what my Sigoth does or says during the campaign season that he in speaking for me.

    In fact, back in 2006, we supported different candidates in the Second Congressional District Primary. Each of our yard signs and our bumper stickers had the words HIS or HERS attached to them.

    Alas, neither one won, but it was fun to take an active part in the campaigns.

    CHANGE OF SUBJECT: David, mahalo for the recommendations about news websites. I’m still not very comfortable about trying to access the Internet on my iPhone because I haven’t yet mastered the art of closing down one & opening up another link.

    Although slow, I am learning. About the time Apple comes out with Version20 oof the iPhone, I should have this one under control. See, Keith, you actually have skills in something that I willbarely be able to master.

  7. Earl of Sandwich Says:

    Cap/Doc, I don’t think there’s any room for misinformation. Sure, you can do it, but like others have said, it doesn’t mean you can. The unfortunate thing about most lies is that they aren’t debunked until it’s too late. And I don’t necessarily mean after the election is over – once people hear something, it’s very difficult to get the correction out there. Personally, I think there ought to be severe penalties for those who knowingly spread misinformation.

    However, facts are facts, and whatever facts pertain to a candidate are certainly fair game. It’s up to the candidate to give his/her side of the story, and up to the voter to decide whether this makes the candidate someone for whom they would like to vote. Somewhere along the line, there comes a grey area – something you did ten years ago may be relevant, but something your wife did ten years ago before you met her may not be, or may be, or may be only in certain cases.

    Bottom line, candidates need to be as open as possible – the more they can put info out there as their own and be able to explain themselves, the more accepting the voters will be. Trying to hide something only invites problems when the opposition uncovers it.

  8. David Shapiro Says:

    Cap, you’re killing me with the iPhone. It’s like buying a Mazerati and driving 20 mph. Press the “App Store” icon. Press “Categories” at the bottom. Scroll down to “News” and press that. Press “Top free” and download a few that strike your fancy. You’ll have news galore without going near the Safari browser and won’t even know you’re on the Internet.

  9. ccpp Says:

    Dave;
    Never heard of the ABM Facebook site until you mentioned it but but not much people follow it and it is also very boring & devoid of much info. However I do agree with their general premise of the concept of “ABM”…

    I don’t know who is behind the ABM facebook site but maybe that person, or other people who anonymously post messages against an elected official might actually be a manager or higher-up working in City or State government? In that case if you out him/her, guarantee the elected leader being criticized and/or all of his friend and supporters out of revenge will make that persons life a living hell and/or lose their job. To me there is nothing wrong with criticism of an elected leaders performance, including from “insiders” who for their own survival wish to remain anonymous. However, similar to Capitol-ist I draw the line when these anonymous posters make unsubstantiated nasty personal remarks based on age, ethnicity, religious, sexual orientation, family etc. If Keith via Atomic Monkey criticized Abercrombie’s voting record while in Congress, how he is illegally using his campaign funds, or if his wife is in legal trouble (ie Duke Bainum or Fred Hemmings), etc & has evidence to back up his assertions, that is legitimate and I would be swayed by his posts, but NOT irrelevant stuff like making fun of Neil’s former ponytail or calling/implying that his wife is a witch. The best example is Malia’s Zimmerman’s expose of the legal troubles of the late Duke Bainums’ wife that the local media refused to report. After reading Malia’s writings and watching how Bainum became defensive and refused to acknowledge the story that was backed up by court records that I and others read; at the last minute I changed my mayoral vote from Bainum to Mufi.

    Capitol-ist concerns that “attacks that contain outright lies that I find very disturbing because many voters do not have access to nor the knowledge in how to use that access to confirm the statements” are unfounded as people can, and should make their own decisions on the validity of the statements. Yes, some people cannot think for themselves and behave like sheep but it is up to the candidates or others to publicly defend themselves against unsubstantiated BS. Also how they defend themselves can be just as telling as Bainum’s arrogant/defensive response of trying to brush off the very real legal problems with his wife.

    Maybe its time ALL Hawaii voters stop acting like “sheep” and actually start thinking for themselves. That includes rank and file gov’t union workers who will be directly impacted by who becomes the next mayor of Honolulu and governor of Hawaii.

  10. neilfile Says:

    Dave, your arguments about limits on free speech start to smack of moral elitism. Who makes the subjective call about when something is “dirty” campaigning” or “honest” dissent? You? Hipoli? Dante Carpenter?

    The Supreme Court rightly argues that mere humans cannot be trusted to be unbiased…and they’re right.

    Your “moral arbiter” strategy is more defensible when applied to acceptable levels of nudity or profanity on broadcast television, but becomes a one way ticket to totalitarianism when applied to political discourse.

    Dave, look at it this way…If I was the guy empowered to enforce morally acceptable blog content and you did a hatchet job on me….I might ship you off to the Gulag! Problem solved. Nobody can guarantee it’s going to be YOU making those decisions. Let’s agree that nobody should.

  11. hipoli Says:

    Oh, give me a break, Keith/Neilfile/etc.etc.

    Your crap is like pornography – we know it when we see it.

  12. Michael Says:

    Dissention among the ranks.
    Divided States.

    “Sheep” don’t jump off cliffs following a leader.

  13. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    ccpp:

    I am very familiar with how to find out information concerning people, issues, etc., but I know a lot of people who are well-educated but unfamiliar with digging through government documents. For example, they have no idea where the Campaign Spending Commission is located within the government hierarchy to find out where the physical offices are sited nor can they begin to dig through complaints against a business nor even do a search of police records & files.

    For example, a number of people on another blog dealing with UH sports had no idea of how to find a particular state board on-line in order to submit testimony on an agenda issue. Once I posted that information, it turns out that many of them were unfamiliar with the concept of Executive Sessions and assumed that all decisions would be made behind closed doors.

    Those of us who are politically akamai know how to negotiate the system and where to ask for information or for help if we don’t know how to find it. I spend at least a quarter of my time education & informing the public how to find negotiate the system and to be more effective in dealing with decision-makers.

    Most people do not know what to do so if I or some other community activitist isn’t around, then checking out someone’s background is way beyond their present abilities. Also, most people are afraid that they’ll be challenged for asking public employees for information.

    Re your comments on Duke Bainum: I was a very strong supporter of Duke and had no problem in asking him about his wife’s legal problems. Frankly, I hope my SigOth would defend me as strongly as he did his wife.

    You may have found Malia Zimmerman’s research solid enough to have switched from Bainum to Hannemann even though there was no evidence whatsoever that Duke was even involved – if I recall correctly, he wasn’t even married to Jennifer when the events took place.

    Mufi parlayed that information in ways that led to Duke’s defeat including anonymous websites, ads and roadside signs. Other kinds of social media didn’t exist six years ago.

    Wonder how mass transit planning & design would have turned out if Duke could have picked up 1,355 votes – one more than Mufi won by. In the September Primary, Mufi lost but Duke didn’t get 50% plus one vote so that’s why Mufi had an additional six weeks to do his dirty campaigning.

  14. Keith Rollman Says:

    Capitol -ist/WassupDoc,

    I would like to hear from you what evidence you have to support the following statement you made:

    “Mufi parlayed that information in ways that led to Duke’s defeat including anonymous websites, ads and roadside signs. Other kinds of social media didn’t exist six years ago.”

    I was the consultant on all advertising during that campaign and we were instructed by the candidate to “not touch” that issue. There were no ads and no websites as you describe. I know for a fact that your accusation is totally false.

  15. David Shapiro Says:

    neilfile, I’m not making any “decisions” about anybody’s free speech rights. I just expressed my opinion that this kind of campaigning is chicken. I put my name behind my opinion and folks can agree or disagree as they wish.

  16. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Almost every single morning as we drove into town from Kailua, there were large banners posted on the grassy area at the Wyle Street overpass which attacked Duke. They were put up around 5 am and taken down no later than 9 am on the same day. Once I got out of the car and went to talk to the people who were sitting in the truck at the back of the grassy area. I was told in no uncertain terms to go flock myself.

    When I brought the issue up at Bainum’s headquarters, I was told that similar banners were placed in about a dozen key locations all over O`ahu.

    I never saw them in the afternoon, but then I wasn’t going across the mountain between 3 and 6 pm.

    During that fall, I attended probably 25 Neighborhood Board meetings and another 35 or so community meetings all across O`ahu to track a subject that had nothing to do with the 2004 campaign. At many of these meetings, there were sign-holders attacking Duke outside the meeting halls and individuals passing out literature which quoted Malia Zimmerman’s articles.

    I do remember going to the unofficial website several times, but somewhere around mid-October, I stopped wasting my time as I was very busy working on a couple of other campaigns besides Duke’s. However, the URL was on the signs and on handouts as well.

    The official Hannemann campaign may not have gotten involved directly, but they knew full well who was going after Duke and approved of every move. I was told this back in September, 2004, by someone who was involved with both your official campaign and the shadow campaign. He was very, very uncomfortable about it but was told that unaffiliated campaign committees are expected to do these dirty deeds so that the official campaign could take the high road.

    I assumed and so did everyone else who was involved in the Bainum campaign that this kind of support was welcomed by the official Hannemann Campaign Committee.

    Are you telling me that you knew nothing about these banners and how they were put up and taken down on a regular basis at key highway spots? Or that related activities were going on at various community meetings?

    Duke is now dead, and it’s been almost six years since all this happened so grinding away on the 2004 campaign takes away from the current election period and how negative campaigning and attacks will escalate.

    I think it’s going to be even worse this time given the social media outlets and ubiquitous Internet sites.

  17. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    From above:

    During that fall, I attended probably 25 Neighborhood Board meetings and another 35 or so community meetings all across O`ahu to track a subject that had nothing to do with the 2004 campaign.

    This statement is not correct. It should have read:

    “During that fall, I attended probably 25 Neighborhood Board meetings and another 35 or so community meetings all across O`ahu to track a subject that had nothing to do with the 2004 Bainum campaign.”

    I was tracking two other candidates plus the cited issue coming up before the City Council.

  18. kailuaresident Says:

    Wait – Duke’s refusal to answer questions about his wife is what allowed the story (which proved out to be correct by most accounts) to spread. No candidate can control what 150,000 plus of their supporters do, and to expect them to do so is asking way to much.
    In the case of Atomic Money, Hannemann asked for it to be removed before Neil was complaining about it and before the press covered it. So if anything, you should be commending Mufi for asking his supporters to not get off message.

  19. Shaloha Says:

    I hate to quote Captain Renault from “Casablanca”, the movie: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! …”

    Dave’s position is so quaint it is almost endearing: He is shoked, shoked to find that there was and is dirty campaigning originating with the members of the Democrat party!

    Need I remind you about the Boss Tweed, the granddaddy of all Democrat criminals, the Chicago Dailey machine that produced Barak O? Hawaii is in the state it is in because the Democrats dirty campaigning. What is the news here?

  20. Michael Says:

    Why should a Captain, go down with the ship?
    He or she may not be on the bridge but if something happens, Why are they dismissed and ask to resign after Captains Mast?

  21. neilfile Says:

    Forget the blogs, Dave.

    Here’s a tip for you if you really want to do something about actual dirty campaigning. There’s a letter flying around town accusing Mayor Hannemann of all sorts of illegal and morally reprehensible behavior. It urges you to NOT contribute any more money to his campaign. It is supposedly signed by a prominent member of a large engineering firm. It is an obvious forgery…the idiots spelled the gentleman’s name wrong.

    This is not only a REAL smear, it is illegal impersonation of a well-known person and postal fraud. It obviously came from one of Hannemann’s political adversaries, let’s see if you can find out which one.


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