Campaign cost highRepublican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle's campaign spent $37.99 for every vote she received in the Sept. 21 primary election, the most of any of the major candidates.
per vote for Lingle
Spending reports show she spent
$37.99 for each primary vote
By Bruce Dunford
D.G. "Andy" Anderson, who finished third in the Democratic primary, spent $19.99 for every vote he got; Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who won, spent $12.41; and state Rep. Ed Case, who finished second, spent $7.14 per vote.
The per-vote figures are based on the campaign spending reports candidates filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission the week before the primary.
In one case, state Sen. Brian Kanno (D, Ewa Beach-Makakilo-Waipahu) spent $49.20 per vote for 3,291 votes in his re-election campaign, defeating Honolulu City Councilman John DeSoto, whose per-vote cost was $20.61.
Lingle noted that her campaign spending targets the general election and cannot be attributed solely to the primary race.
"It's a cumulative effort, so I don't think you can look at it in isolation in the primary and the general," she said.
State Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki-Tantalus-Manoa) who has been a champion of campaign finance reform to curtail high-cost campaigns that become dependent on special interest contributions, said: "When you're paying $38 a vote, that's a little out of hand."
Schatz was among lawmakers this year who pushed for a "clean elections bill," which would have set up a pilot program for a totally public-financed Honolulu City Council race. The measure failed.
Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada, another champion of campaign finance reform, said he does not like the current system, "but I don't know if there's a better way."
"In most cases, whoever uses the most money wins in the larger races," he said.
In the latest mandatory filing on Sept. 11, Lingle reported raising $3 million and Hirono $1.1 million.
Watada said voter apathy plays a role in the situation, forcing candidates to seek contributions to pay for expensive television and newspaper advertisements to make their political pitch.
"If people really wanted to get to know the candidates, they could go the forums and community meetings, but when I go to those meetings the only people I see there are the candidates and their supporters," Watada said.
Watada's discovery of excessive contributions, primarily to Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' 2000 re-election campaign by city contractors, prompted the ongoing investigation by the prosecutor's office into possible ties between contributions and nonbid contracts.
Gov. Ben Cayetano, who spent $4.8 million to win re-election in 1998 over Lingle, who spent about $3.2 million, said, "It's never a good system when you have to spend a lot of money to get your message out."
He said it costs candidates about $10,000 for a major newspaper ad and $4,000 for a prime-time TV ad.
"As long as you've got to pay those kind of prices to get their message out, candidates are going to have to raise money," Cayetano said. "I think everyone agrees that we should fix up the kind of things that happen in campaign financing that tend to erode confidence in the system.
"But no one should be mistaken about the fact that it costs money to get your ideas out there. You can't just do it on public television, because the fact is too many people don't watch it," he said.
Lingle said simply looking at the candidates' spending reports will not tell the whole story when it comes to her race against Hirono.
"I don't think you can look at in isolation what I spent and what she spent because labor unions have already purchased a quarter-million dollars right now on television that they have booked on various (TV) stations," she said.
"The unions will come in, as you know they did in '98, with millions of dollars into the campaign, buying commercials only attacking me," Lingle said.
Lingle said she cannot see how a public-financing system would work.
"What if 50 people want to run for governor? Do taxpayers pay for 50 people? And if it's not 50 but only five, who decides who the five are," she said. "I haven't heard anyone explain a system and how it works that makes sense to me."
Schatz said House Democrats next year will propose a reform measure based on Alaska's law that puts limits on out-of-state contributions.
"We're seeing more out-of-state contributions, especially in this race," he said, pointing primarily at the Lingle campaign, which reported that half of her 64 maximum allowed $6,000 contributions came from out of state.
"We're seeing the Republican national agenda overlaid on the Lingle campaign contributions report," Schatz said. "People in Hawaii should control Hawaii's destiny."
While Lingle said she expects no more than 20 percent of her campaign funds to come from out of state, Hirono suggested it is much more.
"And I can tell you one thing, this state is not going to be bought by the millions and millions of outside dollars that she's bringing to try and win this race," Hirono said.
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