Monday, May 11, 2009

Philip Morris's Campaign Generosity; Mufi Hanneman Money Glitch?

I've been continuing my voyage into the wacky, wonderful world of campaign finance. I've got a green light from the Big Island Weekly to do a story about tobacco money in local politics. And yes, local politicians have been calling for Philip Morris quite a lot, but it ain't easy to trace. Unlike, say, Anheuser Busch, which funnels its money through its own non-candidate committee, Philip Morris's money comes in sometimes under its company name, sometimes through its parent company, Altria; sometimes via its wholly owned lobbying subsidiary, Altria Commercial Services, sometimes through local lobbyists that the company hired, and sometimes through company officials. As a result, I'm having to go through every individual candidate's campaign filings to look for all the names....

In the process of doing that, meanwhile, I'm making other interesting discoveries. It's no suprise Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman's contributors include a long list of developers and lobbyists, both mainland and local, for instance--but one collection of entries particularly caught my eye. On June 19, 2007, three different partners in a Washington lobbying firm called The National Group dumped a total of $5,500 dollars into Hanneman's campaign spending fund.

State campaign spending laws limit contributions to $4000 per "person." A "person," for the law's purpose, is "An individual or any general partnership in which the individual belongs." The three lobbying partners' donation looks like a clear violation of the law. But if you're waiting for the Campaign Spending Commission to investigate, don't hold your breath. Last year, I brought a similar situation to their attention: Billy Kenoi's mayoral campaign got a huge influx of cash from various heirs of the Campbell Estate. Most of those contributions came in on the same day, and all of the heirs listed their profession as "entrepreneur" (a term used only by Campbell heirs among Kenoi's contributors--which strongly suggests that they planned their contributions together.

I asked the CSC if they were going to investigate.

"We don't go on fishing expeditions," I was told.

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