Tuesday, January 26, 1999

Unions led donor groups
in recent elections

Political contributions by all groups
appeared to be motivated by self-interest,
a new study has found

By Richard Borreca


A new study by the state Campaign Spending Commission shows that organized labor gave more to political candidates than any other interest group.

It also shows that campaign donations by committees are exclusively tied to the economic interest of the donor.

The report, to be released today by the commission, offers the first in-depth look at campaign donations by interest groups in the commission's history.

A total of $10 million was reported by noncandidate political committees, ranging from labor unions such as the ILWU to retailers such as Sears.

The report also details the $3.5 million spent by supporters and opponents of the same-sex marriage ballot issue.

The report notes that except for the money donated by the political parties, no committee "made significant candidate expenditures" without also having a tangible link to an economic interest controlled by the elected office holders.

"These expenditures are thus presumably part of the cost of doing business in Hawaii and the expenditures represent the judgement of organizational leaders as to business investments," the report stated.

Gary Slovin, an attorney, lobbyist and former head of the state Ethics Commission, notes that he gives campaign contributions because he says he is part of the political process and feels a responsibility to help candidates.


"I don't see a lot of instances where financial contributions make a lot of differences," he adds, saying that a person's relationship with a politician is much more complex than just a donation.

"I've never had a quid pro quo contribution. I have clients that have a policy they don't make contributions and they have been very successful," he said.

Another lobbyist, George "Red" Morris, says a political contribution simply signals that you are interested in the political discussion.

"It just gives you a little recognition that you are a player. Nobody is going to sell their soul for a $500 contribution," Morris said.

Union spending exceeded spending by political parties and represented more than one-quarter of the money spent by committees, other than those campaigning on the ballot issue involving same-sex marriage, according to the report.

Private unions spent $1.2 million, while public unions spent $325,000.

Unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor Linda Lingle said one of the reasons she lost the race was the large amount of money spent by unions to defeat her.

Speaking of way the unions supported Gov. Ben Cayetano while she was left to raise and spend her own money, Lingle said: "We just don't have those kind of layers. Look at those who supported privatization, but it is a dead issue now.

"The special interests need to get involved.

"Business groups must realize that by doing nothing they are supporting the status quo," she said.

While a total of $10 million was spent in the last two years, according to the report, there was a lot more that wasn't reported, the report said.

"A cursory review of candidate filings suggests, however, that the actual amount may substantially exceed that reported by registered committees," the report said.

Business owners, officers of corporations and employees of committees that report contributions are often found to be making more contributions in their names and the names of their spouses and children.

"Although the funding of such contributions by any organization or the funding of a spouse's or child's contribution, would violate the law, there is no practical way of effectively reviewing such conduct," the report said.

Pro-development interests, such as developers, architects and engineers and the construction industry gave nearly $1 million. And another $1 million came from heavily regulated industries such as finance, insurance, telecommunications, law, health and energy.

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