Kai Kahele will not be able to secure public funding for the governor’s race

Kai Kahele’s gubernatorial campaign, which has made a point of avoiding donations from special interest groups, will not be eligible for the public funding he has so vigorously advocated for this election cycle.

Kahele was supposed to file an affidavit promising to meet spending limits with her candidate documents. But he didn’t file that document, so state officials say he can’t receive public money.

Hawaii’s partial public funding system matches small campaign donations up to a certain amount. The amount varies by office and year, and is set by the State Campaign Expenses Commission.

Gubernatorial candidate Kai Kahele will not be eligible to receive public funding this year. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

To qualifygubernatorial candidates must receive at least $100,000 in donations of less than $100 each — all from Hawaii residents — and must limit their total campaign spending to a predetermined amount.

These applicants may receive up to $208,116.50 in matching funds, an amount equivalent to 10% of this year’s total spending limit. If the candidate wins the primary, they are eligible for a second round of funding for the general election, with all the same rules in place.

That means if Kahele were to win the primary — a tall order, given Lieutenant Governor Josh Green’s 30-point lead according to a recent Civil Beat poll — his campaign would miss more than $400,000 in readily available public funding.

Instead of being automatically considered to receive public funds, candidates must first agree to the spending limit via an affidavit, which must be notarized and submitted when they run for office. It was this affidavit that Kahele failed to submit, rendering him ineligible.

After receiving the required $100,000 in small donations, applicants can then submit a separate notarized application to begin receiving matching funds. Last month, Kahele’s campaign announced that it had passed the minimum fundraising threshold to apply.

None of the other favorites as the Democratic gubernatorial nomination had planned to continue public funding. Kahele, however, sworn to avoid donations from unions, corporations, and political action committees to use the state’s partial public funding system.

The campaign did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Tony Baldomero, associate director at the Campaign Expenses Committee, confirmed that Kahele had not filed an affidavit and was therefore ineligible to receive public funding. He said even the commission was surprised to learn this fact, given that Kahele applied for funding after crossing the fundraising threshold.

According to Baldomero, 172 candidates for public office filed affidavits out of a total of 368. That’s on par with normal election cycles, he said.

While these candidates don’t often win their races, Baldomero said, notable exceptions include Gov. David Ige in 2014 and Gov. Ben Cayetano in 1994 in their first races.

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