Kenoi’s contributions come from out of the county


By NANCY COOK LAUER

Stephens Media

Less than half of Mayor Billy Kenoi’s $388,249 in campaign contributions come from the county he oversees.

That’s according to a Stephens Media analysis of contributions reported as of June 30 with the state Campaign Spending Commission. The analysis shows that, since the campaign period started in January 2009, 46.1 percent of all Kenoi’s contributions over $100 came from Hawaii Island.

If the $11,271 in contributions of $100 or less, which don’t have to be identified by donor names and addresses, are all assumed to be from the Big Island, the island’s share rises to 49.3 percent.

The analysis looked at 514 itemized contributions to Kenoi’s campaign and subtotaled them by ZIP code. The most money, $85,502, came from Hilo’s 96720, with 225 people giving an average of $380 each. Second and third were the Honolulu ZIP codes 96813 and 96814 giving a total of $44,000, followed by Kailua-Kona’s 96740, giving $18,417.

It’s a lopsided money race. Kenoi raised $97,637 in contributions the first six months of this year, compared to $15,060 by challenger Council Chairman Dominic Yagong and $1,420 by former Mayor Harry Kim, a latecomer to the race.

Kenoi said Friday his most recent filing period shows big support from the Big Island, with 122 Big Island contributors, compared to 24 from off-island.

“It’s significant that 70 percent of the contributions (for the first half of 2012) come from the Big Island,” Kenoi said. “We are humbled by all the support we receive. We’re very thankful that people recognize our hard work and our accomplishments.”

Kenoi has received 12 contributions of $4,000, the most an individual can donate during an election. None of them came from the Big Island. His biggest Big Island supporters are James Arakaki, who’s given $3,137, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has given $3,000.

Kenoi characterized his off-island contributions as coming from former college and law school classmates and people he met while working in Washington, D.C.

Kenoi’s campaign has held two $1,000-per-plate fundraisers in Honolulu, one organized by Arakaki.

Yagong says he’s turned down invitations to hold fundraisers in Honolulu because he believes the race can be won without a lot of money. In the past four years, Yagong has accepted only one off-island contribution, according to the West Hawaii Today analysis. That was a $500 check in October 2010 from Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s Congressional account, when Abercrombie found he couldn’t use his federal money in the state race. That puts Yagong’s Big Island support at 94.7 percent.

Yagong has received four contributions totaling $1,000 or more: a $2,000 contribution from fish collector James Lovell and $1,000 each from Honokaa farmer Nadao Honda, Captain Cook accountant Larry Ford and Hilo business executive Peter Vanna, according to his report.

Just under half, 46 percent, of Yagong’s total comes from contributions of $10 or less, according to his report. He said that, in terms of numbers of contributors, 92 percent gave $100 or less and 70 percent gave $50 or less.

“The people who donate to my campaign are everyday people, they’re not corporations or PACs or anything like that,” Yagong said. “Big Island voters and Big Island people have never been a county that can be bought with big money.”

Kim has taken that small money concept a step further. He isn’t accepting anything over $10. So far, the smallest contribution has been 20 cents, said Kim’s wife, Bobbie Kim, who accepts and records campaign contributions for her husband. All of Kim’s contributions have come from the Big Island, except a $10 check from their nephew in California and $10 from a part-time Kapoho neighbor who lives in Washington State, Bobbie Kim said.

“We don’t make comments on other people’s campaigns; that’s not our style,” Bobbie Kim said. “That’s why he’s running, a different option to the way things are done.”

It’s no coincidence the island seems plastered with the familiar blue and white Kenoi campaign signs. With a month to go before the Aug. 11 primary, Kenoi has spent $345,560 of his largess, leaving just $86,207 cash on hand as of June 30. Kenoi is also buying radio and newspaper ads and providing tents, refreshments and the like for rallies across the island, and he’s paid Honolulu company Solutions Pacific LLC $27,084 for polling.

Kenoi declined to give details of the poll results, other than to say “we’re very humbled and pleased with the numbers we’ve received so far.”

Kim has loaned his campaign $5,000, but he still doesn’t have enough money for signs. He said he’s using a sign left over from his 2000 mayoral race and instead is spending money on newspaper and radio ads.

Yagong doesn’t have many campaign signs, either.

“Signs don’t vote,” Yagong said.

A few “Harry Kim, applicant” for mayor bumper stickers have been spotted around the island, and Kim said some people are making signs out of them.

Both Kim and Yagong said they’ve been touched by the number of people making their own campaign signs, from painted plywood to markers on bedsheets.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.