Cochran gets numbers wrong in campaign pay-to-play claim

Our County

Last week, County Council Member Elle Cochran accused my directors of having jobs because they gave me campaign money. Her exact quote was, “Every single director the Arakawa administration has put into place funded the maximum amount on the campaign.”

Makes you wonder why she didn’t quote any specific numbers or figures from the State of Hawaii Campaign Spending website. This is a free and open database for the public to use so they can keep track of contributions and expenditures of political candidates.

Of course, Cochran isn’t really interested in accuracy or what the facts are about anything. She regularly makes unfounded claims because she either doesn’t care or doesn’t know how to do her own fact-checking. Probably a mix of both.

Having said that, let’s see how many of my directors “funded the maximum amount” to my campaign over the years. State campaign law says that candidates running for four-year offices contributions are limited to $4,000 during an election period.

Please note that the following campaign contributions are listed on data.hawaii.gov for all Hawaii state and county candidates from Nov. 8, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2017.

Looking at directors, former Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza was one of the few who gave the max amount — $4,000 — in donations from 2009 to 2011.

Corporation Counsel Pat Wong gave $3,030 between 2011 to 2014. Managing Director Keith Regan gave $3,770 between 2006 and 2012, but that was over two election cycles. (Note that Regan has not been politically active since earning his credential manager title with the International City Manger’s Association last year and can no longer attend political events or give to political parties.)

Then there are those directors like Parks and Recreation Director Butch “Kaala” Buenconsejo, who gave $625 to my campaign in 2014. Former Housing and Human Concerns Director Carol Reimann gave $230 from 2013 to 2014.

Finally, there are those directors who have donated nothing to the campaign. Transportation Director Don Medeiros and Environmental Management Director Stewart Stant are two examples. All other directors were somewhere in between the max and zero donations.

I don’t have the word space here to go into the deputy directors too, but I’d like to point out there were two deputies who maxed out at $4,000. Otherwise, their contributions varied as much as the directors. So what do all these contributions show? Specifically they show that very few of my directors and former directors gave the max amount that Cochran alleges. Some donations weren’t even close to the max amount while other directors haven’t contributed to my campaign at all.

It’s not surprising she got the numbers wrong, because Cochran can’t even keep track of her own donations. Despite claims that she’s never given me campaign money, the records show that the “Friends of Elle Cochran” donated $150 to my campaign on April 10, 2010.

Pay-to-play in this administration doesn’t exist. What’s required is you do the work you’re supposed to do to help make Maui County a better place.

In fact, when I was on the council we helped to make county elections nonpartisan. People who work for me are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Some have worked for other administrations and others have even lobbied against me politically.

For example, former Council Member Alice Lee ran for mayor in 1998 against James “Kimo” Apana and myself. When I was elected to the Mayor’s Office in 2002, I made her my Housing and Human Concerns director because she had the smarts and experience to run the department, not because of political favors.

Bottom line, none of my directors — past or present — have ever been required to contribute to my campaign. I have two radio shows that Cochran and her supporters can call in to try and prove otherwise: KPMW every Tuesday from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m., call-in number 296-1055; and KAOI every Thursday from 7 to 8 a.m., call-in number 242-7800.

By making this false statement, Cochran has proven she has no credibility or integrity. If she can’t confirm her statement, she needs to take out a half-page Maui News ad and apologize for her deliberate lie or I will make a formal complaint to the council chair about her behavior.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, is about county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.

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