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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 14, 2006

Inouye campaign donates $300,000

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye has given $300,000 of his campaign money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is helping U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka fight off a primary challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Case.

Inouye's campaign made a $50,000 donation to the committee last fall, federal campaign-finance reports show, but then gave $250,000 more in February, three weeks after Case's surprise announcement in January that he would take on Akaka. The committee, which provides financial and strategic help to Democrats running for Senate, had quickly endorsed Akaka after Case's announcement.

The Center for Responsive Politics ranks Inouye's campaign as the third-largest contributor to the committee during this election cycle, behind the investment firm Goldman Sachs and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's campaign. Inouye, according to the center, which monitors campaign finance, was not among the top contributors during any of the past three election cycles.

Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff in Honolulu, said Inouye has contributed campaign money to the committee in the past. The senator has also helped the committee raise money nationally but was limited this year by his wife's illness. Margaret Inouye passed away in March.

But Sabas said the large donation in February was also motivated by Inouye's hope that the committee would help Akaka. "Clearly, it would be his hope that the DSCC, in its wisdom, would be supportive of Sen. Akaka," she said.

Case said he knew after Inouye endorsed Akaka that the influential senator would help Akaka financially and politically. "I always expected that with that endorsement he would put resources into the campaign, and he is," Case said.

The congressman said he never expected to have the Akaka campaign's money or establishment advice. "That's always been the reality of this campaign," he said. "But I always believed that my candidacy was, on balance, superior to his in theme and messages.

"And if I simply got those themes to the voters they could see through all of the clutter and deceptive advertising that money can buy."

Inouye has helped Akaka with Mainland fundraising and has taped a television commercial for his colleague. Inouye is also expected to record a telephone message for voters who are being targeted by the Akaka campaign. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former President Bill Clinton, are also likely to record phone messages, according to Akaka's campaign.

The Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party of Hawai'i are staying officially neutral in the primary, but the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is actively helping Akaka.

Reid and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the committee's chairman, taped a video message for Akaka and the committee has given Akaka's campaign $37,300, the maximum it is allowed to directly contribute during the primary. Last week, Akaka's campaign said the committee sent absentee ballot applications to thousands of Neighbor Islanders who have been identified as likely Akaka voters.

Akaka also is receiving organizational help from labor unions such as the Hawai'i Government Employees Association and the Hawai'i State Teachers Association, which are mobilizing members to deliver Akaka votes.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.