Sunday, September 18, 2016


“Campaign contributions down since 1990” is not the only important measure

by Larry Geller

Ian Lind digs relentlessly into political data, often yielding insights that should be more widely exposed than a mere blog post can accomplish. So it is with his research into campaign contributions then (in 1990) and now.

So digging back into the past, I found a copy of my old Hawaii Monitor newsletter with a list of the top corporate and pac contributors to Hawaii state and local candidates between January 1, 1990 and the 1990 primary election.

Then, using the data reported to the Campaign Spending Commission, I identified the top contributors between January 1 and August 13, 2016 (that’s the latest report to date).

The surprise is that companies and pacs are actually giving far less directly to candidates than they did in 1990, at least in during election year.

[, Corporate and PAC campaign contributions down since 1990, 9/17/2016]

Please click over and read his entire article.

I would love to know, just for information value, what proportion of campaign contributions fueled politicians back then in comparison with today. Why? It’s a measure of the corruption of our government. One measure. But one that it may be possible to compute.

Of course, just knowing current numbers can be used to posit where we stand on corruption today.

Last October Dr. Kioni Dudley researched the percentage of campaign contribution support received by our city council members. See his calculations here.

Dudley named names. For example, he found that council member Brandon Elefante is 91% beholden to “entities who will profit directly from approval of Rail.” He checked into several members’ contributions and found, for example, that:

Kymberly Pine also had marvelous additional help from PRP who paid for three mailings at roughly $30,000 each to get her elected.  That $90,000 raised her percentage of money spent by builders for her candidacy to 82%!

It is hard to imagine that a city council stacked heavily in favor of development interests will keep voters’ interests primary in their deliberations or votes. Remember, these are investments, not charitable contributions, that development interests are making.

I can’t believe that I’m about to quote Donald Trump, but he famously said:

“As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Mr. Trump said. “As a businessman, I need that.”

During a Republican presidential debate he said:

“I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me.” He added, “And that’s a broken system.”

If Dr. Dudley’s calculations are correct, we can assume that our city councilpeople will do whatever the hell their development-interest donors want them to do.

“And that’s a broken system.”


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