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Super PAC donations draw criticism

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho raised concerns about the influx of super PAC money in the race to be Hawaii's next lieutenant governor during remarks in the rotunda of the state Capitol on Tuesday. Carvalho is one of five candidates in the Democratic primary for the lieutenant governor's seat.

The remarks were a thinly veiled attack on the $1 million that union-backed super PAC Be Change Now has spent on behalf of state Sen. Josh Green, the leading contender in the race. The political action committee is financed by the influential Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters.

"Over the last weeks there's been a large number of people statewide who have pulled me aside, called me, reached out to people in our campaign in reaction to all the recent news regarding super PACs. It's been very distracting," Carvalho told reporters, citing news headlines. "The common question to me, to us — because of all this news: Does our vote count?

"First of all, I want Hawaii to know that, yes, your vote does count. Very much so," Carvalho continued, as he urged people to vote.

Carvalho said he didn't know why Be Change Now had poured so much money into Green's campaign.

The flood of support, perhaps the most that has ever been spent in a Hawaii lieutenant governor's race, has perplexed political observers. Some lawmakers have speculated that it is really political retribution against state Sen. Jill Tokuda, another candidate, who clashed with the pro-rail union over a rail bailout package in the Legislature last year. Other political observers say it could be a way of establishing influence over Green early, as the lieutenant governor's office can be a springboard to the governor's office.

As a super PAC, Be Change Now can raise unlimited funds but can't coordinate with any campaign. Officers of the super PAC said in a Honolulu Star-Advertiser editorial Tuesday that they support "candidates who share our local values and will fight for what all residents want: good-paying jobs, homes they can afford, a quality education for their children, access to healthcare, and having the safeguards in place to protect our precious and fragile environment."

Other candidates in the race also have raised concerns about the super PAC money. Kim Coco Iwamoto issued a statement last week saying these "corporations expect a payout in return for their investment," and urged voters to "show them your vote is not for sale."

Sophie Cocke
Honolulu Star-Advertiser


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