Mayoral candidate seeks campaign watchdog action on PAC allegations

Election 2020

HONOLULU (KHON2) — High-profile complaints have been lodged in the Honolulu Mayor’s race, as the Campaign Spending Commission works to address dozens of issues spanning contests across the islands.

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Honolulu mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya says his campaign officials found allegedly illegal false name donations to a super-PAC called Aloha Aina Oia’i’o. His attorneys told the Campaign Spending Commission about it in writing in July. Amemiya says the PAC paid for smear ads against him ahead of the primary.

“The concern is that they will continue the smear in the general election in the hopes that I don’t win and advance to the mayor’s office,” Amemiya said. “I started Aloha Aina ‘Oia’i’o LLC because I am discouraged by the leadership in Hawaii, want to see a change, and hope the future leaders can build a better Hawaii.”

Lokahi Cuban, who founded the PAC told KHON2: “The statements made by Keith Amemiya against Aloha ‘Aina Oia’i’o LLC and myself are completely false and, if anything, shows the sheer desperation of Keith Amemiya and his campaign.”

The Campaign Spending Commission tells KHON2 they received no formal complaint about the PAC but did get the letters from Amemiya’s attorney asking them to investigate. Formal actions on any investigation would have to show up on a commission meeting agenda. The last meeting ahead of the general election is Oct. 14.

“Ballots will be going out in mid-October or earlier,” Amemiya said, “and the public has a right to know about the smear and the status and whether people were found guilty of wrongdoing.”

There was no action taken on these allegations at the September meeting last week. In a marathon session, the Campaign Spending Commission plowed through dozens of claims and complaints from all kinds of primary races over things like late financial filings, prohibited contributions and expenditures, and alleged advertising violations. In the end, they doled out more than $4,000 total in small fines to about 20 candidates, campaigns or political action committees.

The commission dismissed two complaints alleging Amemiya violated ad laws by purchasing a front-page story in MidWeek but not disclosing it was a paid placement until the end of the story inside.

It is yet to be seen whether the Aloha Aina Oia’i’o PAC will raise money for the general election and how they will spend it. The PAC spent $100,000 entirely opposing Amemiya.

Meanwhile, reports from other PACs show lucrative activity in the primary too, like HiVision 2020 PAC which got $160,000 from a plumbers union PAC, spending the bulk of it to help Amemiya.

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