Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Volcanic Ash - August 8, 2012

Former Governor Ben Caye­tano has moved his mayoral campaign beyond rail to the bigger question of whether Hawai`i will be controlled by its people or by business and labor interests that put their own bottom line ahead of the public good.

His targets are helping him make the point by the way they've massed to stop him.

Cayetano closed the July 17 televised debate with rivals Peter Carlisle and Kirk Caldwell by saying, "This campaign is not about rail; it's about the exercise of political power."

He argued, "There are people out there, a select few — big business, big labor — who have been running things for a very, very long time. They have their fingers in almost everything that we do, which affects our lives and our children's future."

Cayetano said he came out of retirement to "put the power back into the hands of the people" and promised "a transformational moment in Hawai`i politics" if he's elected.

This is extraordinary coming from a former two-term Demo­cratic governor who was elected with the support of many of the business and labor interests he's now taking on.

It's akin to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning at the end of his career about the dangerous accumulation of power by the military-industrial complex.

Business and labor leaders have responded by boldly throwing their money and power around to derail Caye­tano, and it appears to be backfiring.

Pacific Resource Partnership, a construction industry alliance, has spent about $1 million on widely discredited attack ads against Caye­tano.

The group seemed almost grateful for an excuse to pull the ineffective ads off the air this week after Caye­tano was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer.

Another campaign to counter Caye­tano and save rail has been waged by a group called Move O`ahu Forward, whose board is a roster of the corporate, banking and labor executives Caye­tano accuses of running Hawaii for their own gain.

Until public pressure forced recent cutbacks, the Hono­lulu Authority for Rapid Transportation employed more than 20 public relations agents to promote rail and shout down critics like Caye­tano at a cost of $2 million to taxpayers.

HART, which was sold to voters as a way to bring independent management to rail, has all but become a subsidiary of First Hawaiian Bank, with top bank officers holding both the board chairmanship and finance committee chairmanship.

Virtually invisible in the scuffling over money and power are the West Oahu commuters rail is supposedly about.

Cayetano's warning of a rigged game is resonating with many voters, and all that's left for his powerful foes is to hope he doesn't win an outright majority in Saturday's primary voting so they can live to fight him again in the general election.

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