Union leader accuses gubernatorial candidate, PAC of ‘smear campaign’ against Green

Ad attacks against Lt. Gov. Josh Green raises concerns.
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 7:38 PM HST|Updated: May. 31, 2022 at 10:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The head of one of the state’s largest private unions is accusing Vicky Cayetano’s gubernatorial campaign and a local political action committee of violating state campaign spending laws to attack her opponent Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

“There is strong evidence that the Cayetano campaign is illegally coordinating with the Victory Calls PAC to run a ‘smear campaign’ against Lt. Gov. Green, a violation of campaign spending law which must not be allowed to corrupt our elections,” said Chris West, president of the ILWU Local 142.

But Cayetano denied any role in the ads.

“Absolutely not. But it’s a free country. So you know, they got to do what they want to do, especially if they want to create more distraction,” she said of the complaint.

The first in the series of ads ran this month on local television stations with local comedy duo Da Braddahs attacking Green’s credentials as a board certified physician.

The second ad ran in the Sunday newspaper, accusing Green of violating the state ethics code.

In his complaint, West said he recently obtained a copy of a Cayetano campaign opposition research memo where political consultants urged the campaign to attack Green as not being board certified.

He cited that memo as evidence that the ads by the Victory Calls PAC attacking Green’s board certification status were coordinated with the Cayetano campaign.

Cayetano said she knows the PACs biggest donors -- local chef Daniel Delbrel, businessman Wallace Tsuha and local producer and designer Charlyn Masini -- but said their views are their own.

“They have been friends. But at the end of the day, I think you and I know that whether they’re friends or family, you don’t always agree on things,” Cayetano said.

Political experts said the ads aren’t very effective.

“I mean overall in the grand scheme of things, these aren’t particularly hard-hitting claims. You know, the ethics violation sounds like more of an administrative matter,” said University of Hawaii Political Science professor Colin Moore.

Another union, the IBEW Local 1186, recently cut ties with the comedy team in the television ads. It said it had regularly booked Da Braddahs at union picnics but was dropping them because of the ads critical of Green, who they support.

If the commission finds that the ads were coordinated with the campaign, it could fine the PAC $1,000 per violation — or shut it down.

But if it finds that the coordination was intentional and reckless, it could refer the matter the law enforcement agencies for a criminal investigation.

But Moore said proving coordination will be difficult — minus the discovery of incriminating emails and bank statements indicating collusion.

“I do think that this complaint does show some evidence, you know, more than I’ve seen in the past ... that there perhaps could have been coordination,” Moore said.

“But it’s often very hard to prove.”

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