On June 14, 2010, KHON’s six o’clock news featured Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann announcing, with much fanfare, that the Federal Transit Administration had signed off on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  Actually, the agency did not approve the EIS, as indicated at the start of the story.  It only approved its release to other agencies for review.   Clearly the story was void of any newsworthy information.   It was nothing more than Mayor Hannemann regurgitating the same old rail rhetoric to make himself look good after several adverse stories were broadcast regarding his trip to Washington DC, with a side trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a secret and unreported fundraiser for his run for governor of Hawaii.  Indeed, Mayor Hannemann owes a debt of gratitude to the KHON station managers for their kind and generous support, and the opportunity they once again provided him to dupe the public into thinking his trip to D.C. had accomplished something, thus shielding him from the scrutiny his actions deserve as they relate to suspicious and confusing statements regarding the fundraiser.

Following are the facts of the DC to Pittsburgh fundraising story, laid out in order of occurrence:

  1.  May 3 – Mufi’s Campaign Committee purchased a ticket for travel from DC to Pittsburgh on June 9, returning to DC June 10  (see attached).
  2. May and June – a flyer was circulated advertising a Pittsburgh fundraiser for “Mufi Hannemann, the next Governor of Hawaii 2010”, to be held on June 9 (see attached).   Attendees must RSVP by June 4, with donations made payable to The Hannemann Committee 2010.    Note:  an FEC (Federal Election Commission) number was provided on the flyer but our investigation showed the number to be bogus.
  3. May 20 – Hannemann requested a meeting with U.S. House Transportation Chair Oberstar, in Washington DC, To discuss rail funding.
  4. June 3 –  The meeting with Oberstar was confirmed for June 10 (not June 9 as indicated in Mufi’s press release).    Note:  on June 11 we contacted Jim Berard, the Committee on Transportation’s Director of Communications, who said  “June 10 was the only date ever discussed for this meeting.”  
  5. June 9 – The Mayor’s office published a press release stating Hannemann will meet with Oberstar “today” to discuss federal funding for the rail,  and will travel to a mayor’s conference in Oklahoma tomorrow (Thursday, June 10).  No mention was made of a side trip or a fundraiser in Pittsburgh on June 9.
  6. June 9 – Hannemann twittered he “met with Oberstar to talk about the Honolulu Rail Project”.  (This is prior to the real meeting on June 10.  The twitter later disappeared from his twitter page)
  7. June 9 – Hannemann filed the NOTICE OF INTENT TO HOLD A FUNDRAISER form with the State of Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, after he was contacted by news reporters about the event.  This form is required and must be filed prior to the date of the fundraiser.  Although the fundraiser was scheduled June 9, and the campaign committee knew about it as early as May 3, the “date of fundraiser” on the form says “June 10, 2010”.  Also, the maximum suggested contribution on the form is listed as $2500, but on the flyer it is $5000. 
  8. June 10 – Carroll Cox shares his investigation and a copy of the Pittsburgh fundraising flyer with KHON, and the story begins.       
  9. June 10 – KHON prints out a copy of Mufi’s twitter to show on their 6:00 pm news (see attached).  Note that the Oberstar entry was dated “About 23 hours ago”  (June 9).  Sometime later, after the broadcast, the twitter entry was removed and replaced with an ad for campaign bumper stickers.
  10. June 10, 6:00 PM – KHON breaks the story, including an interview with Campaign Chairman Dean Okimoto who is clearly confused about where Hannemann is and the nature of the Pittsburgh fundraiser.  However he points out the Campaign Committee purchased the ticket from DC to Pittsburgh on May 3.
  11. June 10, 7:00 PM – KHON removes the video and story from their website after a call from Mufi Hannemann. 
  12. June 10, 7:00 PM – citizens call  KHON to find out what happened to the story.  They were told KHON was having technical difficulties with their website.  It was put back up later.
  13. June 10, 10:00 PM – KHON airs a revised story  “more favorable” to Mufi Hannemann.  Bill Brennan, from the Mayor’s office, was interviewed, saying that Pittsburgh was a “side trip on the mayor’s personal time”.   He also said Inouye and Hirano were “on hand” in DC to discuss rail issues.  But, a call to Inouye’s,Hirano and Oberstar office indicates that Inouye did not attend any meetings with Hirano, Oberstar and Hannemann.
  14. June 11 6:00 PM - KHON airs an interview with Mufi Hannemann, stating he “will not take any money” from the Pittsburgh fundraiser.  Although admitting it was a fundraiser, he said it was more of a “meet and greet” get-together with friends from college and his favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers (personal travel paid for by campaign funds?).
  15. June 11, in an attempt to justify Hannemann’s trip, KHON points out that both Abercrombie and Aiona also attend fundraisers on the mainland.  But, that is not the point.  The problem is,  Hannemann mixed city business with campaign business, did not file the necessary campaign disclosure form, and attempted to hide the fundraiser from the public, possibly because of its direct connection to the rail project.  (The fundraiser was organized by Paul Overby, transit consultant for Bombardier, a company seeking contracts for the rail.)


More notes about the investigation:

1.       I received a tip that Hannemann’s Campaign Committee had scheduled a fundraiser in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for June 9, 2010  (see flyer attached).  I contacted Mr. Paul Overby at the phone number on the flyer.  He confirmed the fundraiser and indicated he was working with Hannemann’s election committee in Honolulu.  He did not disclose that he was a transit consultant for Bombardier, a company seeking city contracts for work on the rail.  


2.      I also contacted the Federal Elections Committee and was told the FEC# posted on the brochure, in conjunction with “checks made payable to The Hannemann Committee 2010”, was bogus, and they had nothing to do with the fundraiser because it was for a state, not a federal election.


3.      On June 9, 2010, I retrieved a press release from Hannemann’s staff claiming “Mayor Hannemann will meet with U.S. House Transportation Chair Oberstar ”on this date to discuss federal funding for the transit project” (see attached).     However, it looked like he was scheduled to be in Pittsburgh for the fundraiser on the 9th, which raised more questions.


4.      When asked about the whereabouts of Mayor Hannemann, Bill Brennan, Hannemann’s public information officer, said the confusion over the meeting on the 9th with Oberstar stemmed from a mistake on the Mayor’s schedule put out by the city.  He said the meeting was actually on the 10th.    However, on June 9th  Hannemann twittered that he was in D.C. and “Met w/ U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar to talk about the Honolulu rail project”.  (see attached Twitter).   Note, the twitter entry has since been deleted from Hannemann’s twitter page, replaced by an ad for a bumper sticker.  I also contacted  Mr. Jim Berard, Director of Communications for the Committee on Transportation.  He told me “the request for the meeting with Rep. Oberstar was received on May 20, and was confirmed on June 3.   June 10 was the only date ever discussed for this meeting”.   So, why was the press release and twitter released on the 9th?


5.      Mayor Hannemann said, on the news, the meeting with Oberstar included Senator Inouye and Congresswoman Hirano.  There was even a picture of Hannemann with Inouye.  However, Oberstar, Hirano, and Inouye’s offices all informed me that Inouye did not attend the meeting.  


6.      When interviewed by KHON on 6/10, Campaign Chairman Dean Okimoto said “I know that the schedule was changed.  He was meeting with Oberstar today.”  He also said the trip to Pittsburgh, from DC, was funded by the Hannemann campaign and showed a ticket they purchased May 3, 2010 (see attached).   He also stated the fundraiser was put together by some supporters in Pittsburgh “so we weren’t totally aware of it either”.   And “you know, when people outside Hawaii are doing these things, you know sometimes these things fall through the cracks”.  Okimoto is acknowledging that Hannemann has two campaign committees while only one is legally permitted by Hawaii state law..


7.      Candidates must file a “Notice of Intent to Hold a Fundraiser Candidate Committee” form with the State of Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission prior to the date of the function.   On June 9th  the commission received a form from Mufi Hanneman for the Pittsburgh event.  However, the form said the date of the fundraiser was June 10, 2010, putting it in the future, and the suggested contribution was $2500, not $5000 as indicated on the flyer  (See attached). It appears Hannemann purposely lied on his form to mislead the commission into thinking the form was filed on time.     Also, the form was filed at 3:08pm HST /  9:08pm Pittsburgh time (after the fundraiser!) and after his campaign office was contacted by the news media.   

8.      On the June 11th KHON News broadcast, after the story broke, Mayor Hannemann said he  ”will not accept funds from a campaign event held this week in Pittsburgh tied to a rail consultant.  With respect to this event in Pittsburgh, in my view, although it was a fundraiser, I saw it more as a meet and greet.  I was able to touch base with some of the folks that knew me from college as well as the Steelers football team, one of my favorite teams.  There were no donations collected that evening and I am not coming back to Honolulu with any contributions.  Nor will I accept any contributions.”  So, was this a personal trip paid for by his campaign fund?   It looks like the fundraiser trip was not a “brief leave from rail talks in DC”.  Instead, one might say he took a brief pause from fundraising to talk rail in DC.


9.      The KHON story reminded us that the other candidates conduct out of state fundraisers and receive money from special interests as well.  What was clearly missing was the fact that the others weren’t being accused of failing to notify the campaign spending commission, as Hannemann clearly did.  Nor, has anyone produced evidence against the other candidates for comingling their campaign funds with normal government expenses.  In fact, the news story did not present a single example of wrongdoing on the part of Duke Aiona or Neil Abercrombie.  Is this good reporting?


10.   On June 15 I filed an ethics complaint against Mufi Hannemann with the State Campaign Spending Commission. (see attached)

I would just like to add, not only is the Hannemann trip cause for concern, the manner in which KHON management handled the story is cause for concern.  Hopefully, with this information, the local media will take Mr. Hannemann to task by asking specific questions about his trip to Pittsburgh, his fundraising activities, and the late and inaccurate filing of his notice of fundraiser.  They should also request that he produce documents to show his trips to DC and Pittsurgh were paid for separately and legally, and funds were not comingled as the law prohibits.   Also, what is the status of the money collected but not accepted?  Surely he must report that.   

All the rail talk was Hannemann’s way of dodging the issues raised by his trip.   Hannemann has clearly demonstrated how he can call on his political connections to cover his tracks and avoid having his rail derailed.