Campaign Spending Commission fines shadowy PAC over print advertisement
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Campaign Spending Commission on Wednesday voted to issue a $3,750 fine to a shadowy political action committee supporting former gubernatorial candidate Vicky Cayetano.
The commission also concluded that the Victory Calls 2022 PAC made $39,000 in excess contributions to Cayetano’s campaign.
“Probable cause exists that a violation has been committed,” said Gary Kam, the commission’s general counsel.
“That advertisement contained material that was also in the opposition research materials paid for by respondent Cayetano.”
The fines were for a print advertisement that ran in the May 29 Honolulu Star-Advertiser questioning Gov. Josh Green’s character.
The Cayetano campaign previously denied any coordination and said Wednesday that it “had no information” about the allegations behind the fines. Cayetano lost to Green in the Democratic primary in August.
The commission said that most of the fines apply to the PAC and just a small amount ― $1,000 ― was assessed to both the Cayetano campaign and the PAC.
The commission’s staff said they found evidence that the Victory Calls PAC, which is supported by wealthy donors, coordinated the ad with an agent of the Cayetano campaign.
Coordination between PACs and candidates is often suspected but rarely proven.
Experts said serious penalties are warranted when they are proven.
“If we didn’t have these rules and if people weren’t punished for violating them, then you could spend as much money as you want, raise it from whomever you want, and run the whole campaign through the PAC,” said Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science professor.
The attack ad made the similar points raised in an opposition research report paid for by Vicky Cayetano’s campaign that questioned Green’s outside work as an ER doctor while he served as lieutenant governor and criticized him for minor ethics violations.
PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money but they are not allowed to coordinate their advertisements and political messaging with the political candidates they support.
The commission today also dismissed a complaint over these television attack ads, criticizing Green’s credentials as an emergency room doctor.
It said it found no evidence of coordination between the PAC and the Cayetano campaign for those ads.
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