HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The gloves are off.
A volley of heated accusations are, once again, pitting pro and anti-rail folks against one another - and what unfolded two nights ago at a Honolulu mayoral debate has ballooned into allegations of personal attacks and a smear campaign.
Construction lobbying firm and rail proponent Pacific Resource Partnership, unveiled a website today called Beniceben.com. It comes in reaction to this comment from mayoral candidate, Ben Cayetano, about Senator Dan Inouye's backing of rail – during that debate.
"Senator Inouye is up at the 30,000 foot level - dealing with national and international affairs. The Senator should take time and go around to McDonald's and talk to the retirees who go there to eat breakfast because it's cheap. You know he's out of touch, as far as I am concerned."
PRP calls the comment "mean-spirited" and is petitioning names - urging Cayetano to be more respectful. Executive Director John White says "To hear a fellow democrat, Ben Cayetano, insult him in the way he did, is very disappointing and quite frankly, unbecoming of a person who wants to be leader of the city."
Cayetano calls the site a desperate, amateurish move by rail advocates because they're "scared stiff" they'll lose the election. He says, "What's there to apologize about? This is a campaign. I said some things, and I don't think what I said should be taken by anyone who is as experienced as the Senator, as offensive."
Cayetano kicked the argument even further - claiming PRP hired a mainland company to do a telephone "push poll". That's a technique used to influence a respondent's view by giving negative information under the façade of conducting a poll.
"We know that they have been behind an attempt to smear us. Not only me, but (Honolulu City Councilman) Tom Berg and everyone else who questions the viability of the rail project," Cayetano explains.
The company denies any smear campaign. "PRP would never do a push poll. Push polls have no place in Hawaii. They spread lies and rumors and things that you cannot substantiate," says White.
PRP does do public opinion research, but when pressed, White would not say which firm it hires - or when it does the polling - because its for internal use.
Former Governor Cayetano says he's thinking about suing PRP over the push poll allegations. Pacific Research Partnership stands behind its polling methods.