Akaka's national connections pay off with fundraising edge
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka has tapped into the wealth of national political action committees to gain a fundraising cushion over U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.
In the three months since Case made the unexpected announcement that he would challenge Akaka, the senator has raised more than $350,000 for his re-election campaign, with $224,000 coming from political action committees. Case has raised more than $238,000, with just $10,000 coming from PACs.
Overall, Akaka had $868,000 in cash available for the campaign at the end of March, according to his quarterly campaign-finance report, while Case had $277,000.
Incumbents usually have better access than challengers to PACs and other national fundraising connections, but neither Akaka nor Case has been known as particularly aggressive fundraisers. The unusual primary has forced both men to raise money with more urgency than in a typical Hawai'i campaign.
Democratic leaders in the Senate have agreed to help Akaka, which could provide him with valuable fundraising contacts, and Case is convinced that national Democrats have discouraged PACs from giving money to his campaign.
Akaka's campaign announced this week that, as a symbol of support, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other leading Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, had given money to the senator.
"I've been surprised that it's been going so well," Akaka said.
Case said he believes the Democratic establishment, which is protective of incumbents, is trying to dry up his fundraising.
"I know it for a fact," the congressman said. "There has been a pretty conscious effort inside of Washington to make sure that funding doesn't come my way."
Case raised money from both his U.S. House campaign committee and his Senate primary committee during the quarter and also transferred about $180,000 over from his House committee for his primary run.
Case said he has heard some apprehension in the Islands from Democrats who say they want to contribute to his campaign but do not want to be perceived as disloyal to Akaka. "They want to help me under the radar screen, that's what's happening," he said.
The September primary will not likely approach the cost of some Senate races on the Mainland, which can run from $6 million to $10 million and beyond, but it will probably be expensive by Island standards.
Although the candidate with the most money will have an advantage, mostly through the ability to buy more television advertising, Hawai'i's single statewide television market gives the candidate with the more limited budget a similar reach. The primary also could be the most interesting political story of the year, so Akaka and Case can count on extensive newspaper, television and radio coverage.Dennis Camire of Gannett News Service contributed to this report.
Reach Derrick DePledge at firstname.lastname@example.org.