ConCon foes' big spending seen as big impact on Hawaii ballot
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
The Hawai'i Alliance, a group of labor, environmental and business interests opposed to a state Constitutional Convention, received large contributions from the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Hawai'i Government Employees Association in the last days before Tuesday's vote.
OHA and the HGEA Ballot Committee each gave the group $100,000, campaign-finance records show, part of $247,000 in last-minute donations from public workers, hotel, teachers' and firefighters' unions.
Voters rejected the Constitutional Convention 62 percent to 34 percent.
Labor and Native Hawaiian interests had argued that a convention could jeopardize existing rights in the Constitution, such as collective bargaining and Hawaiian rights.
"The outcome of a Constitutional Convention is impossible to predict," said Crystal Kua, director of communications for OHA, which was created by a constitutional amendment after a 1978 convention. "Given the uncertainty of the current political climate, OHA and the board felt that there was some cause for concern and that a convention will pose a potential threat to OHA and its beneficiaries, more importantly.
"There may be proposals to eliminate powers or protections for Hawaiians."
But many who wanted a Constitutional Convention said the large contributions to the Hawai'i Alliance, which paid for television, radio and newspaper advertisements, helped drown out debate.
"I think, clearly, it had an impact on the outcome," said state Rep. Della Au Belatti, D-25th (Tantalus, Makiki, McCully), who favored a convention. "The fact that anti-ConCon forces were able to do almost constant media blitz on the airwaves and in the newspapers showed that they were clearly well-funded."
The Hawai'i Alliance raised more than $585,000 through Oct. 20, campaign-finance records show, and received at least $247,000 in the final weeks before the vote, for more than $832,000 overall. The largest contributions to the group came from the National Education Association Ballot Measure Fund — at $350,000 — and the HGEA — at $310,000.
The NEA, the national public school teachers' union, also donated $150,000 to the Hawai'i State Teachers Association to oppose a convention. Other local labor unions also spent money on advertising in opposition.
Groups that favored the Constitutional Convention, by comparison, took in far less. Yes for Constitutional Convention raised $60,000, and It's Time Hawai'i raised about $7,900.
Reach Derrick DePledge at firstname.lastname@example.org.