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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

Harris campaign discloses six possible excess contributors

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Capitol Bureau Chief

In the midst of increasing scrutiny of its campaign finances, officials with Jeremy Harris' campaign for governor submitted a new report yesterday that indicates six contributors may have donated more than the legal maximum of $6,000 to Harris' campaign since July.

State Campaign Spending Commission executive director Robert Watada also said the Harris campaign report is "incomplete" because it doesn't include the amounts the campaign has raised or spent so far in this election cycle.

Chris Parsons, lawyer for the Harris campaign, said the half-dozen contributors who are listed as donating more than $6,000 may not actually have violated the law.

In each case, the Harris campaign added together contributions that might be deemed to originate from a single source under the Campaign Spending Commission's interpretation of the law, Parsons said. He said that the campaign was being "very, very thorough and very careful," but that further review might show the contributions did not actually come from the same source.

The filings yesterday show Harris' fund-raising efforts are considerably outpacing those of the other candidates for governor, with Harris raising more than $1 million in the six months ending Dec. 31.

That was almost twice as much as raised by Republican Linda Lingle in that period.

Harris' campaign coffers contained slightly more than $1 million heading into the 2002 campaign year, which is a respectable showing but not an overwhelming advantage.

To put the numbers in perspective, Ben Cayetano had about $1.2 million on hand at this stage of his 1994 campaign for governor, and had more than $2.2 million stashed at this stage of his 1998 re-election campaign against Lingle.

Cayetano defeated Lingle by a slim margin of about 5,000 votes in 1998.

Lingle, meanwhile, is collecting money at a faster clip than she did in her 1998 campaign. At the start of 1998 Lingle had about $263,000 on hand, while she had more than twice that much tucked away at the outset of 2002.

Mufi Hannemann is the fund-raising leader in the Honolulu mayor's race, holding $473,000 at the outset of the year. The closest competitor in the fund-raising arena is Mazie Hirono, with more than $231,000 in reserve, followed by Duke Bainum with $193,000.

Parsons said Harris' campaign filing yesterday did not contain information from previous reporting periods that have not yet been audited. He said the campaign prefers to audit those earlier reports to confirm their accuracy before again reporting those numbers.

"We're trying to do everything in an aboveboard and honest way, and this is the way we thought was the best way to handle it," he said.

The donations that the Harris campaign reported in excess of the legal limit of $6,000 were reported that way because the campaign is using "an abundance of caution" in reporting, according to a letter to the campaign spending commission from Harris campaign treasurer Roger Liu.

Contributions from some people or companies were combined with contributions from others because under the campaign spending law the two might be deemed to be a single entity, according to the letter. An example might be a case where a company makes a contribution and an individual who is part-owner of the company also contributes; in that case, under the law the contributions might be considered as coming from the same source.

Parsons noted it is the responsibility of the campaign contributors to make sure they do not donate too much, and said amounts over the contribution limit will be returned.

The donors were Ann Kusao of planning consultants Kusao & Kurahashi Inc.; Larry Matsuo, principal engineer with Par En Inc.; Clayton C.Y. Pang of the electrical engineering company Leung & Pang Associates Inc.; Brown & Caldwell of Walnut Creek, Calif.; lawyer Eric Yamagata; and architect Pravin Desai.

The state Campaign Spending Commission earlier this month asked for a criminal investigation of Harris' fund-raising after investigators identified numerous contributions that exceeded legal limits.