Last week, Pacific Resource Partnership executive director John White publicly apologized to former Gov. Ben Cayetano for a media campaign against him in the 2012 race for Honolulu mayor. The apology was part of a settlement with Cayetano, who filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against the trade group.
Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.
"Gov. Cayetano believes that these radio and television advertisements gave many the impression that Gov. Cayetano personally had broken the law or acted corruptly," White wrote in a June 10 apology letter. "To the extent any viewer or listener reached that conclusion, PRP apologizes to Gov. Cayetano."
Now, more than a year-and-a-half later, voters are getting a glimpse of how the smear campaign against Cayetano was crafted. Jim Bickerton, one of Cayetano's attorneys, has released 488 pages of emails, talking points and opposition research between the PRP and its political consultants.
In a May 2012 email, Martin Hamburger of the Washington D.C. consulting firm The Hamburger Company, writes the following:
"… we need to start laying down foundation for 'corruption' attack." and "...it will take a bit of time for voters to really accept that's he's corrupt."
The documents provided by Bickerton show PRP's media blitz was designed to distort Cayetano's fundraising record during his 1998 gubernatorial campaign against Republican Linda Lingle. It was also designed to show Cayetano engaged in so-called pay-to-play politics, where companies that have donated to a political campaign are later rewarded with no-bid contracts.
In 2003, Cayetano was told by the Campaign Spending Commission that illegal donations to his political war chest totaled more than $500,000. In July 2012 Cayetano had the former head of the commission, Bob Watada, clarify the issue.
"He did nothing illegal," Watada told reporters. "We would not have closed his account if there were any outstanding liabilities."
One of the people participating in the smear campaign against Cayetano was Andy Winer, at the time a political consultant for PRP. Winer is the now the chief-of-staff for Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie after Sen. Dan Inouye's death in December 2012.
In a June 2012 email to Hamburger, Winer wrote about Cayetano's 1998 campaign donations as the two discussed a political ad.
"... one interpretation is that he kept the illegal contributions from his 1998 campaign, which is not correct," wrote Winer. "He actually turned over all of his remaining campaign funds ($8,000) when he closed his prior campaign account."
On Friday, Cayetano said it's likely Schatz knew about the smear tactics that were used by his now chief-of-staff.
"Those two guys are so close that I'm sure he knew," Cayetano told KITV4. "I would be willing to bet $100 with anyone that Schatz knew exactly what Winer was doing."
Cayetano added that if Schatz did not know of Winer's involvement in the smear campaign, he most certainly knows about it now.
"Andy Winer should resign, or Brian Schatz should fire him," said Cayetano.
In reaction to Cayetano's comments, Schatz spokeswoman Meaghan Smith issued the following statement to KITV4:
"Sen. Schatz is too focused on getting things done for Hawaii families to get in the middle of Mr. Cayetano's attempts to settle an old score," said Smith. "Sen. Schatz has been running a positive, issues-based campaign and will keep working to help middle-class families."
Cayetano said he's supporting Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the race for U.S. Senate. Schatz is Hanabusa's main challenger in the Democratic primary.