Pac Money 1

Super PAC Money Targets Oahu and Hawaii County Races

Updated August 2, originally published June 30.

To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.”

For the last 50 years the American political landscape has been guided by one basic rule: raise and spend as much money as possible during any given race in order to win.  The more dollars raised and spent on an individual race, the greater the chances for victory – in modern politics money has become a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. However, the currency of victory is not entirely measured in the amount of money raised and spent, rather how it’s spent to promote, influence, and otherwise motivate the public to vote for a specific candidate or ballot measure.

Civil Beat reported this week that Hawaii, even with its remote location, is not exempt from the political infection and influence pedaling effects of Political Action Committee money.  The PAC’s can receive and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose any candidate, so long as they don’t coordinate with the person running for office, and they …“are hitting airwaves and mailboxes as voters cast their mail-in ballots, which went out statewide last week.”

All politics are local … but are they really?

The former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill coined the phrase All politics are local” which encapsulates the principle that a politician’s success is directly tied to his ability to understand and influence the issues of his or her constituents. In other words, politicians must appeal to the simple, mundane and everyday concerns of those who elect them into office.  Those personal issues, rather than big and intangible ideas, are often what voters care most about, according to this principle.

Too often today’s candidates, backed by money interests with a stake in a race have an agenda and mask their goals through a local candidate, in a local race. Also addressing local community priorities may take a backseat to a hidden agenda – but that’s today’s political system.  Is it nefarious or illegal, it depends on your point of view and various election laws, but generally the answer is no.  Is it right, the answer is also no.  But today’s voters must be well informed, not mind-controlled, and do their homework in order to make intellect choices which serve their interests and those of the community.  In short, it’s voter beware and be informed, before marking and mailing in your ballot.

Follow the Money, Hawaii County 

The famous political adage from the presidential Watergate scandal, “… follow the money” offers a modern day tale of David and Goliath now unfolding in Hawaii County’s District 7 council race.  Here is an example of what should have been a local race in the tradition of Hawaii politics, but has been transformed by outside money and influence.  It is tPac Money 1he current Hawaii County council race between incumbent candidate, Rebecca Villegas, and her challenger and first time candidate, Jane Clement.

Most voters are aware of the billions of dollars now spent in each new presidential and federal election cycle, sums far greater than any state or down-ticket election. The further you go down ticket and into local races the closer politics begin to resemble a time past, with political races were built on the individual efforts of candidates with modest budgets and fully engaged in home grown politicking.

Candidate Clement’s until recently, was an employee of Seattle-based Strategies 360, although the company to list Jane Clement on their webs site:  The extent of  money and power of Strategies 360 financial support of candidacy is a mater of record and on display in two direct campaign contributions totally $4,000 and additional PAC money funneled through Be Change Now.

Civil Beat reported earlier this week that the Strategies 360 and through its client PAC, Be Change Now, has so far spent $78,000 in support of Clement (an unprecedented amount of money for Hawaii County Council seat).

Strategies 360 is an accomplished and powerful firm with one primary mission: influence political outcomes, be it candidate, ballot initiatives, or referendum.  Strategies 360 are masters at media, public relations, and remaking corporate images and reputations.

Strategies 360 established its office beachhead in Hawaii through two separate Political Action Committees in which holds board seats: Be Change Now, main funding source is the Hawaii Carpenters Union.  The second Political Action Committee is Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP).  PACs generally pool large amounts of money into campaigns for or against candidates, fund ballot initiatives, and enable a legislation agenda which serves their member interests.

What Makes This Local Race Different: Digital

Kona area residents, both inside and outside District 7 have recently reported encountering Clement campaign ads suddenly appearing on their screens in internet searches, web email, social networking, and even Clement campaign ads appearing when accessing web sites outside the state with no political grounding what-so-ever to Hawaii – the scale of this digital tactic goes beyond anything we’ve witnessed in previous local county elections on Hawaii Island.  Another element, as to what makes this digital tactic employed by Strategies 360 so different, is that it is much more than just targeted advertising; rather it resembles the military-equivalent of message carpet bombing.  

This year’s local council race between Villegas and Clement is different in powerful ways, it’s digital savvy with well-funded and proven mainland campaign tactics and resources marshaled by Strategies 360. Most notably is the level of money and media sophistication being applied to Clement’s candidacy.

With offices in 13 states, including Hawaii and Washington D.C. Strategies 360 large national presence enables an effective localized presence in influencing and promoting an agenda that serves a wide range of clients from coal, gas, and oil money interests to marijuana legalization, often in the form of specific candidates and ballot measures; they are mainland hired guns with a local presence and available to the highest bidder.

But At What Price to Win

This 2020 election cycle, both in Hawaii County and Oahu, feels the presence of Strategies 360 at work.  A Goliath of a presence which raises a larger question.  All this money and attention in a very local county council race — what is their endgame if their candidate takes office?  Challenger Clement’s campaign promises so far have been limited to “I care”, and absent the usual campaign issue promises of “if I’m elected…”

Incumbent Rebecca Villegas, has demonstrated leadership at the Council, and backed issues focused on the community she serves and greater Hawaii Island. Her leadership has made her friends and some well-funded political enemies, some of whom have engaged Strategies 360 to influence the race outcome in District 7.

None of this is particularly shocking, if fact, it represents politics today. Once confined to the mainland political arena and beyond the shores of Hawaii, now, sadly, no more…

5 replies
  1. Mark Tang
    Mark Tang says:

    According to one respected political veteran, “Big Island Councilmember Rebecca Villegas is being targeted by big money corporate interests directly as a result of her groundbreaking effort to champion an effort to ban herbicides on Hawai’i County property.”
    No surprise then!
    Keep the corporate carpet baggers and hit Men…er…Women out of the picture!

  2. janice palma-glennie
    janice palma-glennie says:

    This information should be disturbing to voters of all political persuasions. The poison that Hawaii residents like to think only affects the Mainland has always, and is evermore, seeping into the reality of our small Big Island where there’s so much money to be made by far-away rape and pillaging corporations that have no stake in the quality of life of local residents.

    The shininess of Clement’s campaign and the largesse she’s been provided should send strong signals to voters in this and other electoral races. We need strong limits on campaign financing so that the hidden actors and monies that control local and larger elections can be stopped and so that local communities and states can determine their own futures.

  3. Julie
    Julie says:

    I know and like Rebecca and have been watching in growing alarm the amount of money being used to defeat her by Jane Clement, who I have never heard of in 15 years of living here. When I found out she was being supported by the Carpenters Union, I thought it was just that they wanted a strong vote against allowing affordable housing to be built on our island. This article makes it VERY clear there is something much more sinister going on here. Politics IS local..and you can bet the hive is now stirred.

  4. Candee
    Candee says:

    Jane’s no longer employed with Strategies 360. She has her own marketing and consulting firm. Her team IS very grassroots, community organizing. Pacs work independently from core campaigns, sometimes without any knowledge, and also not with direct core campaign, as it should be. Josh Green’s campaign of over 1.2 million was supported by the sam PAC. He is the one major endorsement the Viellgas campaign is relying on. How is it different? Jane has the experience, education, knowledge and capabilities to run. She also has been a community leader for years, belonging to multiple boards and she is a great networked, collaborator and conducts her campaign with no negativity. Her community campaign members have worked very hard, with tenacity and dedication. It is unfair to negate all the good, hardworking she has done in the community. Denigrating her, her supporters and disregarding her motives of not being genuine is disgraceful to the many organizations she represents and volunteering in the Community. We need more community members and leaders like her.

    • BeyondKona
      BeyondKona says:

      “Jane’s no longer employed with Strategies 360.” — Strategies 360 presently lists Jane as a current employee:

      BeyondKona did not denigrate Jane or her community supporters, rather we have reported on campaign facts, and the role Strategies 360 and PAC money is playing in her campaign and local island politics.


Leave a Reply

Join the Community discussion now - your email address will not be published, remains secure and confidential. Mahalo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *