Cabinet Kala: who gets campaign money from top state officials


Senior state officials in Governor David Ige’s cabinet have generously contributed to their boss’ campaign and the campaigns of local officials and state legislators.

Since 2015, when Ige took office, current and former members of the governor’s cabinet have donated more than $ 189,000 to candidates for state or county positions, according to data compiled by the Commission. state campaign spending.

Ige is the primary beneficiary of these funds, having secured $ 103,000 from his appointees. The lion’s share of the rest, around $ 86,000, went to members of the Legislative Assembly, which has had a difficult relationship with the administration in recent years.

Members of Governor David Ige’s cabinet have generously contributed to political campaigns since taking office in 2015. Cory Lum / Civil Beat

Neal Milner, a former professor of political science at the University of Hawaii, said donations from cabinet members to the governor and lawmakers were not unusual.

“If there is an opportunity to donate money and the rules allow it, people donate money to those in top positions,” Milner said.

Civil Beat analyzed the political donations of more than 50 current and former heads of state departments and their deputies. All have donated money to the campaigns, except for a dozen sitting government officials.

Six of these cabinet members were appointed in the past year. They include Deputy Director of Hawaiian Home Lands Tyler Gomes, Director of Health Libby Char, Senior Deputy Attorney General Holly Shikida, Director of Labor Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, Director of Public Safety Max Otani and Deputy Director. of DPS Jordan Lowe.

Government officials who flock to fundraisers to ditch the kala for their candidates is nothing new.

In 2011, half of former Governor Neil Abercrombie’s cabinet donated money to his campaign. Abercrombie also amassed a significant portion of his cabinet’s campaign money during his tenure.

In his last year in office, former Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell also said he raised campaign funds from more than a dozen city officials.

Besides Ige, the main recipients of these cabinet donations were Senator Jill Tokuda and Senator Donovan Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz is the chairman of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, which controls the state budget and dozens of bills affecting state agencies that pass through the Legislature each year. Tokuda is the outgoing chair of the same committee.

The $ 9,300 that Dela Cruz has received from government officials over the years is only a small fraction of her total donations.

In the first six months of this year, Dela Cruz said he raised $ 65,000 for his campaign. Political action committees for local unions, lobbyists and business owners are among its major donors. His campaign has $ 871,000 in hand.

Eight state officials also donated to Dela Cruz’s campaign this year, including state comptroller Curt Otaguro ($ 500), state budget director Craig Hirai ($ 250), the Assistant Controller Audrey Hidano ($ 200), Executive Director of Agribusiness Development Corporation James Nakatani ($ 500), University of Hawaii President David Lassner ($ 250), Director of Agriculture Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser ($ 200), Bureau of Hawaiian Affairs Board Chair Carmen Hulu Lindsey ($ 300), and UH Board Chair Ben Kudo ($ 200).

Ige’s administration and the legislature have often been at odds, especially in recent years. In 2018, many high-ranking lawmakers donated to Ige’s opponent in the race for governor, Colleen Hanabusa.

The pandemic has strained this relationship further, with lawmakers and Ige often appearing to disagree over how to handle the outbreak of cases in 2020.

And last month, the legislature took the extraordinary step of overriding six of the governor’s vetoes.

Relationships strained or not, cabinet officials have always distributed campaign money to lawmakers.

Craig Hirai, the state’s budget chief, was at the top of the cabinet’s list of donors, having given lawmakers $ 20,000 since 2015, according to state data.

Hirai maximized his contribution to Ige in the run-up to the 2018 election and also contributed to the campaigns of 21 other lawmakers.

But donations do not necessarily get favors from government officials.

Hirai faced a series of Senate confirmation hearings last year before being approved by the majority of its members.


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