Complaint alleges wrongdoing by congresswoman’s Senate campaign
TARGET OF COMPLAINT: Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.
by Malia Zimmerman, Watchdog.org, August 8, 2013
LIHUE, KAUAI – Hawaii’s highly competitive U.S. Senate race is getting national attention, but not all of the candidates appreciate it.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-1st District,is a 2014 candidate for U.S. Senate and the target of a Federal Elections Commission complaint filed Tuesday by Daniel Hempey.
Hempey, an attorney and managing partner at Hempey & Meyers LLP in Lihue, Kauai, has asked the FEC to investigate links between the Hanabusa campaign and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America lobby.
The complaint alleges improper coordination between her congressional office, her campaign and the PhRMA lobby on a political advertising campaign, in violation of federal campaign spending laws.
Hempey said the connection came to light in a July 27 Washington Post story. The story documented communication between Hanabusa’s most senior aide, her chief of staff and two members of her campaign staff. In it they detailed the fact PhRMA intended to pull together an independent expenditure on behalf of Hanabusa.
Deputy Chief of Staff Christopher Raymond, who sent emails to Hanabusa’s advisers that reportedly laid out the plan and offered to put PhRMA executives in touch with Hanabusa’s advisers, resigned Thursday after the complaint got national attention.
In a statement issued Thursday, Raymond said: “I have not violated any campaign finance laws, and it is unfortunate what a distraction this misunderstanding has become. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa is the most qualified person to serve as Hawaii’s next U.S. senator and I have been honored and privileged to work for her. This is a once-in-a-generation Senate race and, as such, the conversation should be focused on Colleen’s proven track record and clearly demonstrated leadership. In an effort to bring the conversation back to what’s important Colleen’s vast experience and myriad accomplishments I am resigning my position as deputy chief of staff effective immediately. I wish her, the congressional staff, and the people of Hawaii the very best.”
Peter Boylan, spokesman for Hanabusa’s campaign, said Wednesday neither Hanabusa nor the campaign had a comment about the complaint.
But, on Thursday, Hanabusa issued a brief statement. “Chris Raymond worked hard to help me represent the people of Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District and his efforts helped build a better future for my constituents. I want to thank Chris for his service and I wish him well in all of his future endeavors.”
Boylan, in a response to the Post story about the email, said Raymond “made inaccurate assumptions about the type of help PhRMA could provide the campaign.”
In that same story, PhRMA spokesman Matt Bennett said his group did not offer to do a campaign on Hanabusa’s behalf but had preliminary discussions about hosting an industry fundraiser for Hanabusa through its political action committee. Bennett also told the Post a PhRMA lobbyist spoke to Jennifer Sabas, Hanabusa’s senior campaign adviser, about the Democratic primary.
“The context of this complaint is a debate over whether elderly people are going to pay more or less for their medicine. I saw that the candidates were split on that issue. And I was shocked to learn that the Hanabusa campaign appeared to be actively coordinating with those same corporations that would profit from her position, to the detriment of some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Hempey said in a statement.
Hanabusa is running against U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in the 2014 Democratic primary. Schatz, Hawaii’s former lieutenant governor, was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat in December 2012 by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the vacancy left by the death of U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Inouye had asked — in a letter he reportedly wrote to Abercrombie from his deathbed — that Hanabusa be appointed to his seat.
LINK: Hanabusa Complaint