Union apologizes for attacks on former Hawaii governor in lawsuit settlement


Former Gov. Ben Cayetano sued to clear his name after PRP Hawaii spent $2 million on a media campaign against him

By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org

HONOLULU — Pacific Resource Partnership, an affiliate of the Hawaii Carpenters Union, has apologized for a barrage of media attacks that led to former Gov. Ben Cayetano’s defeat in the 2012 Honolulu mayoral race.

As a part of a legal settlement in a defamation lawsuit filed by Cayetano, Pacific Resource Partnership also will donate $100,000 to the University of Hawaii John A. Burns Medical School and $25,000 to the Hawaiian Humane Society on Cayetano’s behalf.

The agreement will end a lawsuit Cayetano filed in October 2012 after PRP Hawaii spent nearly $2 million on negative advertising targeting him, helping the pro-rail candidate, Kirk Caldwell, win election. The advertisements alleged Cayetano was corrupt and broke the law while he was governor from 1994 to 2002.

PRP Hawaii apologized in an advertisement in the June 22 edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The letter was signed by John White, executive director of the union.

SORRY: John White, executive director of PRP Hawaii, apologized to Cayetano as a part of the settlement

“That apology is worth more than money, because I think it helped to erase the tarnish they put on my reputation,” Cayetano told Watchdog.org. The financial settlement went to two of Cayetano’s favorite charities.

The election was considered one of most important in recent state history. The Honolulu mayor, who oversees Oahu’s 1.2 million population, has nearly as much power as the governor.

Unions turned on Cayetano, a Democrat, because he planned to stop construction on the city’s planned $5.3 billion elevated rail system. Cayetano believes the 20-mile system, now under construction, will bankrupt the city and destroy its beauty and cultural sites.

The PRP Hawaii advertisements accused Cayetano of profiting from illegal campaign contributions when he was governor. They also said he was soft on crime, cut taxes for the rich and laid off state employees while cutting government services.

“There were times when I felt very, very bad for my family because my wife and my kids really were hurt by these ads.” Cayetano told Watchdog.

In addition to ads in the media, PRP Hawaii distributed fliers attacking Cayetano and hired pollsters to call Oahu residents to push negative information about him, Cayetano said.

Cayetano said he never knowingly accepted any illegal donations, and when he was told in 2005 some donors had contributed to his gubernatorial campaign using false names or went above the legal limit for contributions, he returned all the money that remained in his account.

Cayetano said another accusation that he awarded government contracts in exchange for campaign cash was also false, and he signed laws to bring those common practices to an end.