Attackers are using shady tactics
Image: Illustration Will Caron

Mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano is being falsely accused

Politics / My name has been invoked in a series campaign advertisements attacking the character of Hawaii’s former Governor, Ben Cayetano, and I am writing to set the record straight.

In media appearances over the past few weeks, I have come forward to refute insinuations that Cayetano acted improperly with regard to false name contributions that had been made to his gubernatorial campaign.

You can look at the records. His accusers are making things up.

What’s especially ironic about the current smear campaign is that it attacks a former governor who, while in office, led comprehensive reforms of Hawaii’s campaign finance system.

Governor Cayetano pushed for and enacted Act 10 (Special Session SLH, 1995), a “model law” that ultimately put an end to many of Hawaii’s rampant political corruption practices.

For example, businesses donated thousands of dollars to politicians, especially at the county level, in hopes of securing contracts, zoning and permits. We called it “pay to play”, but that was not illegal. What was illegal was “quid pro quo” where in exchange for donations companies received favors from politicians. Act 10 helped make the process more transparent so these illegal acts could be tracked and stopped.

Politicians were accepting large loans to their campaigns and not reporting where the money came from. There were “ghost” advertisements, which allowed for anonymous attack ads against a candidate, and which the law now expressly prohibits.

Political action committees (PACs), donors and other organizations had almost no detailed reporting requirements.

Because of Governor Cayetano’s enactment of Act 10:

*All noncandidate committees were required to submit detailed reports.

*Government contractors were required to report campaign donations.

*Politicians for major offices were required to file their reports electronically *so the public could access them.

*The Commission was able to invest in networked computers and an electronic filing system to make reports more accessible to the public and media.

*Campaign spending reports are now filed on-line and are immediately available for review.

With funding that came with Act 10, the Commission was able to receive complaints from the public, and hire an attorney and investigators to subpoena records, conduct audits and field investigations, and levy administrative fines.

The law helped weed out corruption. Several politicians went to prison and more than 100 contractors were fined for making excessive or “false name” contributions, which meant they illegally funneled money to politicians through family members, friends and employees. Today, state contractors are prohibited from giving donations to any candidate committees.

Misleading attack ads by PACs and groups opposing Cayetano, and favoring the construction of the city’s $5.2 billion rail that Cayetano opposes, harken back to the days before reforms were enacted. Donor lists are again secret and the public is in the dark, not knowing who the donors are behind these shady groups.

What we do know is these organizations are comprised of hundreds of contractors and developers who stand to benefit from lucrative rail-related government contracts.

In summary, I can tell you this from my experience: Gov. Cayetano is one of the most honest politicians that I know, and you can trust him.

Bob Watada served as the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission from 1994 to 2005. He lives in Oregon, but returns to Hawaii frequently.