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Winer should exit Schatz post, Cayetano says

By Derrick DePledge, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 22--Former Gov. Ben Cayetano argues that Andy Winer, the chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, should resign or be fired for his role as a consultant in Pacific Resource Partnership's negative advertising campaign against him in the 2012 mayoral election

Winer, one of the state's top Democratic strategists, helped guide PRP's $3.6 million push to prevent Cayetano from being elected mayor and stopping the city's rail project.

James Bickerton, an attorney for Cayetano who last week released private emails and other documents that detailed PRP's strategy, mostly blamed PRP's mainland consultants for the negative attacks that portrayed the former governor as corrupt. But Cayetano, in an interview with KITV on Friday and an email exchange with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Saturday, pointed at Winer.

"During the 2012 election, the main target of the PRP deception was, in Winer's disrespectful words, the 'low information voter' -- an offensive description of the average voter who is usually too busy to be up on the political issues and is seen by political consultants as the easiest to influence," Cayetano said in an email.

"Under the circumstances, Brian Schatz should ask himself whether Winer's continued role as his chief of staff is worthy of a United States senator. If not, Andy Winer should be fired because his continued presence will sully the credibility of anything emanating from his office.

"Of course, Winer could 'man up' and resign."

Cayetano has endorsed and is campaigning for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa over Schatz in the Democratic primary, so his comments on Winer's role as Schatz's chief of staff have to be placed in the context of this year's election.

"It's disappointing a public figure would use that kind of language, as it does little to move Hawaii forward," Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Schatz, said in an email. "Senator Schatz believes Hawaii is at its best when we attack the challenges we face, rather than attacking other people."

Winer, an attorney, is widely regarded as one of the state's best political minds. He was the campaign manager for then-U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka when Akaka fended off a primary challenge from then-U.S. Rep. Ed Case in 2006.

He also helped lead President Barack Obama's campaign in Hawaii in 2008, and he worked in the Obama administration as director of external affairs and director of strategic initiatives and partnerships at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Winer also advised U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono during her successful campaign in 2012. His role as a consultant for PRP in 2012 was known among political insiders, but the private emails and documents from PRP made public last week cast a brighter light on his involvement.

Cayetano's attorney released the documents after Cayetano and PRP had settled a defamation lawsuit the former governor had filed against PRP alleging the negative advertising had unfairly tarnished his reputation. PRP, a consortium of union carpenters and private contractors, issued a public apology and pledged to donate $100,000 to the University of Hawaii medical school and $25,000 to the Hawaiian Humane Society in Cayetano's name.

"This is one of those deals where no one likes to see how sausage is made. But this is how political campaigns, like it or not, are run," John Hart, a Hawaii Pacific University communication professor, said of the PRP documents.

Hart said he is "not surprised that Ben is taking this personally" or turning it in a direction that potentially helps Hanabusa. "It settles some scores for him and it helps his candidate."

Other political analysts, speaking privately, said the Hanabusa campaign would likely use Winer's link to PRP as sort of an insurance policy against any negative attacks from Schatz or his allies against the congresswoman. Expect, sources say, to hear the Hanabusa campaign complain of "PRP-style" politics at the hint of any negativity from the Schatz camp.


(c)2014 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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