Maui County Council candidate Ka'ala Buenconsejo has the backing of two super political action committees based in Honolulu that independently have spent more than $130,000 in mailers, radio ads and media consultation for the first-time political candidate seeking to unseat Elle Cochran for the West Maui residency seat.
The flurry of Buenconsejo campaign mailers and radio ads that Maui County voters have been receiving and hearing lately has been due to the support of super PACs that voice their opinions about candidates without the support or suggestion of candidates or parties. They also are required to file disclosure reports, the latest of which were due Wednesday with the state Campaign Spending Commission.
They show that:
* The Maui Timeshare Ohana Political Action Committee, headed by Grant D. Gillham, a political consultant in Washington, D.C., and Reno, Nev., has spent about $74,000 on Buenconsejo's candidacy. The committee received $125,000 each from the Ocean Resort Villas PAC and Ocean Resort Villa North PAC, which are affiliated with owners of time shares at The Westin Ka'anapali Ocean Resort Villas.
* Forward Progress, which is headed by John White, the executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership, a consortium of unionized contractors and the Hawaii Carpenters Union, has already spent at least $63,000 on Buenconsejo's candidacy.
"Although I appreciate the support (and that) they have the confidence in me, I really have no control in what they are doing. It has nothing to do with my personal campaign," Buenconsejo said Monday morning. "It's tricky. I really have no say. I don't have control of what is going on."
Buenconsejo, a marketing director, will faceoff against Cochran and small-business owner Rick Nava in Saturday's primary election. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election in the nonpartisan race.
Buenconsejo said that he has received many comments about the mailers and radio ads. Some people, who say they have already voted, wonder why he is still sending out mailers. He tells them that he is not sending them out.
"I want my constituents to know, bear with me," he said.
Although the mailers have his and his family's photos on them, Buenconsejo said that he did not give the images to the super PACs and believes the images were taken from social media sites.
Buenconsejo said there is similarity with the mailers and ads and his positions on the issues, but they are not "100 percent" accurate.
Buenconsejo said this is the first time he has seen a super PAC support a Maui County Council candidate to this extent. Forward Progress has spent thousands of dollars in Hawaii and Honolulu City Council races this year.
Cochran agreed with Buenconsejo's observations.
"I don't know (how the race will be). I just never seen such a campaign before. We'll see how it turns out," Cochran said Monday afternoon.
The incumbent has witnessed the "bombardment" of Buenconsejo mailers and advertisements.
"Whether that will put (it) in his favor, I have no idea. I never had money like that to campaign before," she said.
Nava said that if he was in Buenconsejo's position, he would urge the super PACs to halt their campaigns. He wasn't sure how the super PACs' influence will affect the West Maui council residency race, in which all voters in the county determine the winner.
For his campaign, Nava said that he is keeping it grass roots and is spending his time walking door to door introducing himself and making friends.
Forward Progress released a written statement Monday morning.
"Forward Progress is an independent expenditure formed to help voters understand where candidates
stand on the important issues facing Hawaii," the emailed statement said. "Forward Progress supports candidates who have a desire, commitment and plan to make Hawaii the kind of place where residents want to live and can afford to live."
The Maui News made contact with officials of Maui Timeshare Ohana Political Action Committee and its donors, and no comment was immediately provided Monday afternoon.
According to the campaign spending filing reports, Maui Timeshare Ohana Political Action Committee raised $205,050 from Jan. 1 to July 25 and spent $92,491. It also has hired the Hamburger Co., a Washington, D.C.,-based media consulting firm that was hired by Pacific Resource Partnership during the 2012 Honolulu mayoral race.
Recently, PRP and former Gov. Ben Cayetano agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit filed by Cayetano over negative campaigning in the mayor's race.
Forward Progress has raised $57,876 during the same time period. All of its funding has come from the Hawaii Carpenters Market Recovery Program. Forward Progress was running a deficit of $174,431, having spent $232,306, according to the disclosure reports.
Besides spending on radio advertisements and a media consultant, Forward Progress also has hired Tulchin Research of San Francisco to conduct a Maui County poll for $17,000. Records do not say whether the poll focused on Buenconsejo's race.
Tulchin also has been hired by PRP in the past.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.