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Friday, June 2, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Rep. Iris Catalani, a Democrat, gets a lei from Stan Kato
during her recent fund-raiser at St. Andrew's Priory.

Dueling for Dollars

Fund-raisers let politicians
meet supporters and, of
course, raise cash

By Richard Borreca


REP. Galen Fox scans the sky looking for clear weather, while standing outside a white tent erected in a parking lot across the street from the Waikiki Hobron Hotel, a block from Ala Moana.

The clouds are building and his fund-raiser is about to begin.

On the same evening at about the same time in the courtyard of St. Andrew's Priory, Rep. Iris Catalani adjusts the leis around her neck, smoothes her dress and moves into position to greet the guests for her fund-raiser.

The last-minute jitters, the slow-forming crowds, the sharp-eyed assistant who knows everyone and where everything is supposed to go -- these are all part of the yearly ritual of political fund-raisers.

For incumbents, this is a crucial season. The fund-raisers held now will set the financial foundation for the fall campaign.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Rep. Galen Fox, a Republican, poses with Roberta and Kevin
Chong as Phil Spalding snaps their picture. Fox's recent fund-
raiser was held on Hobron Lane.

Legislators see a fund-raiser's purpose on two levels: first, it allows them to reconnect to the community, to personally thank supporters and keep in touch with issues or problems.

On a second level, the fund-raiser is just that, a way to get money to run a re-election campaign.

At his May 10th fund-raiser, Republican Fox is watched over by Jeanne Hamasaki, a volunteer in charge of the evening's event.

"I'm not even from his district. I live in Salt Lake," she says. Hamasaki, who works at the East-West Center, "told everybody that Galen has emerged as a leader for the Republicans."

Across town, Catalani, a Windward Democrat, is aided by Trisha Nakamura, who volunteered because "Iris is a hard worker, committed to helping people and strong on women's issues."

The political fund-raiser is almost a tribal custom. Kauai Rep. Bertha Kawakami tries to attend all Democratic fund-raisers on Oahu. "It shows respect," she says.

The more pragmatic Speaker of the House, Calvin Say, holding a plate of chicken, explains, "We come here to eat."

Democrats go to Democratic fund-raisers. Republicans stay with theirs. Lobbyists and those looking for help from the Legislature go where they think it will do the most good.

'A type of advertising'

"I used to go to 10 a year," says Libby Young, a journalism and English professor at Windward Community College who lobbies every year for the school. This year, she was asking for more money so Windward could afford its increased electrical bills.

"Part of the purpose in going is if you are having trouble seeing a legislator, this might be a way to reinforce your message," Young explains. "It is a type of advertising. If you are in their consciousness, you hope they will remember you when they are making final decisions."

As his party concludes, Fox bubbles: "This is going well. Actually, it is fantastic. Who would have thought that a tent in a parking lot would work so well?"

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Food is important at any political fund-raiser. Madeleine Shaw,
above left, talks with Jennifer Lim, Rep. Galen Fox's
office manager, at a Fox event.

Catalani's party has the same down-home feeling. The food is purchased from a restaurant in the district, but friends and relatives add to the supply with homemade desserts and boiled peanuts.

Both Fox and Catalani choose to be different from most lawmakers by hosting fund-raisers after the legislative session. This year, 42 of the 76 legislators held their fund-raisers while the Legislature was still deciding on new laws.

"I believe we shouldn't mix the legislative process and fund-raiser," Catalani says. "People hired me to do a certain job and I believe they shouldn't have me splitting my time."

Fox agrees. "There is an appearance that if you give a fund-raiser during the session, you are offering people a chance to influence how you will perform," he says.

Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki-Manoa) who has campaigned on a platform of reforming fund-raising, held a fund-raiser during the legislative session and acknowledges that the possibility of quid-pro-quo contributions "does become higher, although it isn't clear what sort of relationship is indicated by the contributions."

He jokes, however, that the reason he held his during the legislative session was that he doesn't raise a lot of money, so he wanted to hold two or three fund-raisers.

Ticket giveaways

State House members run every two years, senators every four. Together, they raise millions for each election. While lawmakers are required to report total contributions, there is no record of how much of the money comes directly from the fund-raisers.

According to reports filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission, incumbents and challengers in Senate races in 1998 raised $2.5 million. House candidates raised almost $3 million for their 1998 campaigns.

In both cases, Democrats outspent Republicans, partially because there were more Democratic candidates and also because Democrats usually had to raise funds for both primary and general campaigns, while GOP candidates usually only had a general-election contest.

Bob Watada, Campaign Spending Commission executive director, notes there are many ways to maximize the return from a fund-raiser. Ticket prices, for instance, can be deceptive. A candidate usually pegs the fund-raiser ticket at $25, but then is allowed to sell those in books of 10 or even 100. Or the candidate can give away tickets, in hopes that contributions will follow.

"They know that it they give 10 tickets to a bank or other contributor, they will buy all the tickets and (the candidate will) pocket $250," Watada says.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Mochi-filled bags bear the photo of Rep. Iris Catalani.

Fund-raiser tickets sold don't necessarily correspond to candidate popularity because often a company will buy a hundred tickets, then give them away to employees.

To find the likely donors, Watada said, candidates or their aides will come to the Campaign Spending Commission to find the names of major companies or influential individuals who have a good record of donating to candidates.

"This way candidates will develop a list of people they know will give them money," Watada says.

Fox and Catalani keep their fund-raising low-key. Fox says he mailed tickets to supporters this year in hopes they would buy some. He didn't, however, track the resulting ticket sales.

"The people at my fund-raisers are mostly supporters for the district. It is not a rich selection of lobbyists, but mainly people who know me and support what I am doing," Fox explains.

Catalani doesn't send out tickets. "I just send a notice out to supporters about two weeks before," she says.

Two years ago, Fox raised $40,000, while his opponents -- one Democrat and one Republican -- picked up only $7,000.

Catalani, in comparison, had only a general election battle, but raised just $17,000, while her opponent collected $53,000.

The most raised in a four-year election cycle by a legislative candidate was the $277,005 picked up by incumbent Waipahu Democrat Sen. Cal Kawamoto. On the other end of the scale, 13 candidates said they collected no money.

How much money they raised

A look at legislative campaign fund-raising for the 1998 election:

Bullet $2,362,056: Amount raised by the 26 Democrats running for the state Senate in 1998.

Bullet $10,377: Amount raised by the five Libertarians running for the Senate in 1998.

Bullet $234,063: Amount raised by the 12 Republicans running for the Senate in 1998.

Bullet $2,091,144: Amount raised by the 75 Democrats running for the state House in 1998.

Bullet $10,377: Amount raised by the 4 Libertarians running for the House in 1998.

Bullet $902,528: Money raised by the 71 Republicans running for the House in 1998.


A Web site where you can see candidates' campaign contribution disclosures when they are filed:


The latest figures will be out after the July 28 filing deadline for money candidates collect from Jan. 1 to June 30.


Dates for Election 2000

Bullet Primary elections: Sept. 23

Bullet General elections: Nov. 7

Source: State Campaign Spending Commission

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