By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org
HONOLULU — Oh, the things Hawaii politicians buy with their campaign cash.
A new Nissan Pathfinder, two power saws, tickets to a trendy nightclub and a full-sized male mannequin. Those were some of the pricier — or more unusual items — found in the campaign spending reports of Hawaii lawmakers.
Rep. Romy Cachola, D-Kalihi Kai, spent $30,000 for the Nissan Pathfinder he bought in 2008 from New City Nissan in Honolulu. Since then, he’s spent campaign money at least three times a week for fuel. And then there’s the insurance, maintenance and registration.
The Pathfinder, Cochola said, “is purely for campaign use.”
“I felt the campaign needed a bigger car such as the Pathfinder, to accommodate signs, supplies and other campaign paraphernalia,” Cachola said. “For personal use, the family uses our Lexus car, which is a pretty small car.”
Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee, D-Kaneohe–Kunia, spent $759 on extended power saw from Aloha Power Equipment “for sign/banner construction.” It’s the second major power tool he bought with campaign funds in recent years.
“The Hawaii Administrative Rules 3-160-42 outline campaign related expenses and Hawaii Revised Statutes 11-302 (1) (A) and 11-381 A (2) justify the purchase of campaign related machinery and tools as well as define equipment used for campaign purposes,” Hee, who has accumulated a record $440,000 in campaign fund, said in an email.
Hawaii’s state campaign spending laws allow lawmakers and candidates to purchase virtually whatever they desire as long as the items are used for their campaign. If the asset is also used for personal gain, the campaign fund must be reimbursed.
Both Hee and Cachola maintain they checked with the Campaign Spending Commission to ensure their purchases were acceptable.
However, Gary Kam, the general counsel for the Hawaii state Campaign Spending Commission, said he’s never had a candidate or elected official call to vet a purchase beforehand.
“I am not aware of any calls from we received from candidates to vet purchases,” Kam said. “I have never had a question like that posed to me.”
Kam said candidates are not required to get their purchases approved by the campaign spending staff, because they should know to keep the use exclusively to campaign related activities or reimburse the campaign for the personal use of the asset.
Rep. Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa-Whitmore Village, invested $209 from his campaign warc hest on a full-sized male mannequin.
“The mannequin was purchased at the downtown Macy’s clearance sale to be used when I sign wave and with other campaign activities,” Oshiro said.
“It is a full body male figure and stands over 6 feet tall, and I plan to use various clothing styles and poses to prompt some amusement and cheer to an otherwise mundane activity.”
House Vice Speaker John Mizuno, D- Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, spent $125 on tickets to M Night Club in Restaurant Row for his staff.
House candidates are allowed to present gifts to volunteers and employees if the gifts are valued at less than $500 for the election period, Kam said.
Senate candidates can spend up to $1,000 on volunteers. Lawmakers in a statewide four-year office can spend up to $1,500 on volunteers.
Contact Malia Zimmerman at Malia@watchdog.org