Category Archives: Campaigns

Top donors to state and local candidates so far this year

Fiddling with the data filed with the Campaign Spending Commission, I did a quick-and-dirty listing of the top 30 individual campaign contributors to state and local candidates during the period of January 1 to June 30, 2016.

In the top spot is part-time Maui resident Jeffrey Bronfman, an investor and consulted, who contributed $2,000 each to several county council and state House candidates.

Four of the top ten contributors are associated with Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, the state’s top lobbyist firm, who combined to give nearly $60,000 to candidates during the six month period.

The rest are a cross-section of business and development interests.

The totals are probably conservative, as in most cases they don’t include contributions from spouses or dependents, and also do not include contributions from associated businesses or individuals.

But despite the shortcomings, it’s an interesting window in the world of big money contributions.

Campaign Contributors

269 candidates vying for public office

Here are some interesting election factoids from the Campaign Spending Commission‘s recent newsletter.

In 2016, there are 269 candidates running for 104 seats up for election out of 128 elective seats in the state of Hawaii and its four counties.

The 104 seats up for election this year are: Senate (14), House (51), Honolulu Mayor (1), Hawaii Mayor (1), Honolulu Prosecutor (1), Hawaii Prosecutor (1), Kauai Prosecutor (1), Honolulu City Council (5), Hawaii County Council (9), Maui County Council (9), Kauai County Council (7), and Office of Hawaiian Affairs (4).

View the list of candidates running in 2016 and their organizational reports which includes their committee officers such as their appointed chairperson and treasurer.

Nineteen (19) candidates are unopposed this year and ten (10) incumbent candidates have decided not to run for their seat. 145 or 54% of the 269 candidates running this year have filed the

Affidavit

to voluntarily agree with the expenditure limit set for their office and 39 or 14% of the 269 candidates running this year have filed the Statement to notify the Commission of their intent to seek partial public funding. View the list of Affidavit filers and the list of Statement filers.

So far this year, five (5) candidates have received a total of $17,685 in partial public funding. Future updates can be viewed on the “Public Funds Disbursed” page.

Also, 181 fundraisers have been held in 2016 with 63 of those fundraisers being held during the legislative session by legislators. View a list of fundraisers held in 2016 and an interactive chart of the same information. Good luck to all candidates this year!

FBI findings in email case no real surprise

I wasn’t surprised by the news that the FBI did not find cause to pursue criminal charges involving the handling of emails by Hillary Clinton when she was serving as Secretary of State.

After all the political attacks that followed the recent report of the State Department’s Inspector General, I took the time to read the unclassified, public version of the IG report (“Office of the Secretary: Evaluation of Email Records Management and Cybersecurity Requirements“). It was actually quite interesting, in a weird way.

First of all, despite all the political rhetoric, the investigation wasn’t really about security leaks or mishandling of classified information, although there was discussion of potential cybersecurity issues behind departmental policies.

Instead, the IG was focused on the Federal Records Act, which spells out policies for the retention and archiving of government records. The investigation looked at whether email records were captured by the departmental mail system for archiving, as required by the Federal Records Act and other policies.

…laws and regulations did not prohibit employees from using their personal email accounts for the conduct of official Department business. However, email messages regarding official business sent to or from a personal email account fell within the scope of the Federal Records Act if their contents met the Act’s definition of a record.

Both Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton used private email systems for their own communications, according to the report.

Powell told investigators he used the private email system to communicate with “principal assistants, individual ambassadors, and foreign minister colleagues,” and Powell’s representatives said he did not retain either electronic or printed copies of those emails.

Clinton produced some 55,000 pages of printed copies.

In a letter to the Department, her representative stated that it was the Secretary’s practice to email Department officials at their government email accounts on matters pertaining to the conduct of government business. Accordingly, the representative asserted, to the extent that the Department retained records of government email accounts, the Department already had records of the Secretary’s email preserved within its recordkeeping systems.

The report noted that the records requiring long-term preservation were a small part of the total email traffic.

“…the Department believes that the majority of the millions of emails sent to and from Department employees each year are non-permanent records with no long-term value.”

The Inspector General noted that the State Department was not unique in experiencing difficulties in complying with the evolving records retention policies.

According to a 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, most agencies do not prioritize records management, as evidenced by lack of staff and budget resources, absence of up-to-date policies and procedures, lack of training, and lack of accountability. In its most recent annual assessment of records management, NARA identified similar weaknesses across the Federal Government with regard to electronic records in particular. NARA reported that 80 percent of agencies had an elevated risk for the improper management of electronic records, reflecting serious challenges handling vast amounts of email, integrating records management functionality into electronic systems, and adapting to the changing technological and regulatory environments.53

The report also touches on the reasons that Clinton and others turned to private email systems–“antiquated” government technology.

…in a June 3, 2011, email message to Secretary Clinton with the subject line “Google email hacking and woeful state of civilian technology,” a former Director of Policy Planning wrote: “State’s technology is so antiquated that NO ONE uses a State-issued laptop and even high officials routinely end up using their home email accounts to be able to get their work done quickly and effectively.”

The IG report primarily addressed the need for “an appropriate method of preserving emails that constitute Federal records.” There was no discussion of possible crimes even hinted at, and the only documented case of unauthorized access by a hacker or outside party involved a State Department computer, not one of the primary email systems.

The report’s overall conclusion is pretty mundane.

Longstanding, systemic weaknesses related to electronic records and communications have existed within the Office of the Secretary that go well beyond the tenure of any one Secretary of State. OIG recognizes that technology and Department policy have evolved considerably since Secretary Albright’s tenure began in 1997. Nevertheless, the Department generally and the Office of the Secretary in particular have been slow to recognize and to manage effectively the legal requirements and cybersecurity risks associated with electronic data communications, particularly as those risks pertain to its most senior leadership. OIG expects that its recommendations will move the Department steps closer to meaningfully addressing these risks.

It seemed to me that if there were any hints or suggestions of potential criminal law violations, they would have been noted in the Inspector General’s report. The absence of anything of this kind appeared to be a strong indication that the subsequent FBI probe would come up empty. And that’s exactly what has now happened.

Souki backs Caldwell for Honolulu Mayor

Here’s an interesting fundraiser invite. It looks like a fundraiser for House Speak Joe Souki, but it’s really just an attempt to use Souki’s endorsement, and his political clout, to add to Caldwell’s campaign war chest.

Souki was being referred to as the “host” for this event, which was held last night.

Souki-Caldwell

It’s interesting to note that it would be illegal for Souki’s campaign to direct use any of its campaign funds to support Caldwell. But apparently raising funds for another candidate is okay.

Here’s the relevant section of the campaign law:

§11-382 Prohibited uses of campaign funds. Campaign funds shall not be
(1) To support the campaigns of candidates other than the candidate with which they are directly associated;

But an endorsement and hosting arrangement like this appears to be outside of the prohibition.

I did check the fundraiser notices, and it is registered as a Caldwell fundraiser, with a suggested price of $500 to $1,000 per person.

The notice was filed at 10:16 a.m. on the day of the fundraiser, according to the timestamped copy posted online.

Which raises a question–if the intent of the law is to provide a public notice of a fundraising event, its location, person in charge, etc., then why aren’t they required to be posted well in advance of the event itself?

For example, why not require filing within five days of the time the first notices are sent out? The current deadline, which is no later than the start of the event or the closing time of the Campaign Spending Commission office, is for all practical purposes a retroactive disclosure, as it seems that most notices are filed less than 24 hours in advance.

Reporting catches up with The Donald

Reporting is finally catching up with Donald Trump.

It’s taken a while to do the digging into his long paper trail, but the results are most interesting.

The New York Times dropped a blockbuster today (“How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City Casinos, but Still Earned Millions“).

It details how Trump loaded up his Atlantic City casinos with mountains of debt that doomed them to financial collapse, while in the process shoveling millions to himself. Lots of those involved–Trump’s investors, bondholders, vendors, contractors, employees–they lost money, while Trumped brags about how well he did there.

Patch.com summarized with “10 Takeaways From NYT’s Blockbuster Report On Donald Trump’s Atlantic City Casinos.”

The Washington Post presented their own reporting on the same bit of wheeling and dealing (“As its stock collapsed, Trump’s firm gave him huge bonuses and paid for his jet“).

USA Today also weighed in with a slightly different set of facts (“Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills“).

Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will “protect your job.” But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades — and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans…who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

The Atlantic chimed in with their own road map to a laundry list of past controversies (“The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet“).

As you can see, it’s a great week for reading!