Ruderman, Ilagan campaign funds about equal

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State Sen. Russell Ruderman and challenger Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan were running about neck and neck in spending as they neared the home stretch of their campaigns.

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State Sen. Russell Ruderman and challenger Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan were running about neck and neck in spending as they neared the home stretch of their campaigns.

Ruderman, who is largely self-funding his re-election bid, spent $35,174.14 from July 1, 2015, through June 30, according to state campaign finance records.

Meanwhile, Ilagan, who has represented Puna makai on the County Council since 2012, spent $38,265.48 during the same period. That includes $2,620 donated for college scholarships.

Ilagan announced his candidacy for Senate District 2, which includes Puna and parts of Ka‘u, last August.

Ruderman, a Democrat and the owner of Island Naturals, was keeping up in campaign spending with an infusion of his own cash. He had loaned his campaign $35,000 during that same time period, which made up the bulk of his $50,386.20 in receipts.

Ilagan, 30, who also is running as a Democrat, raised $36,117.54 from July 1, 2015, through June 30, with $1,160.04 left in the bank.

Ruderman, 62, who was first elected in 2012, had $20,447.24 remaining in his campaign fund, giving him an edge in the last month before the Aug. 13 primary.

Both have received donations from outside Senate District 2 and have their share of Oahu donors.

But Ruderman, who has highlighted fundraising as an issue in the campaign, is able to claim a greater share of his money from Puna and Pahala, mainly because of his own contributions.

“I think it’s in high relief between me and my opponent,” he said, regarding sources of their donations.

Ruderman said “90 percent” of his funds come from the district he represents. “For my opponent, it’s the exact opposite.”

Such statements are difficult to verify since individual donors are only reported if they contribute at least $100 in total.

Ruderman received $17,214.32 in donations above that mark since being elected in 2012.

Of that, $7,261.45, or 42 percent, came from District 2 residents and $5,677.87, or 33 percent, came off-island.

If you add in the $35,000 he loaned his campaign, then the District 2 share jumps to 81 percent.

Ilagan received $35,792.54 in donations above $100 since his last council campaign in 2014.

Of that, $7,842.54, or 22 percent, came from within District 2’s boundaries and $8,500, or about 24 percent, came off-island.

Ilagan’s donors with Oahu addresses include some labor groups and former state Rep. Blake Oshiro, who gave $500, among others.

Ilagan also received $500 from Kouchi for Senate. Sen. Ron Kouchi of Kauai, who also is the Senate president, organized a fundraiser in Honolulu.

“When I announced, people said to contact the Senate president,” Ilagan said. “I gave him a call. He said, ‘OK, if you’re serious about this I’m more than happy to help you out.’”

Ruderman voted against Kouchi in a Senate leadership contest.

He lost his chairmanship of the Agriculture Committee during the following leadership shuffle.

Ruderman noted that regimes come and go at the Legislature. He said he takes it as a compliment that Kouchi is backing his challenger and that it shows he is willing to challenge the status quo.

“The fact they have talked someone into unseating me, I’m very proud of that,” Ruderman said.

Ruderman has been critical of legislators holding fundraisers during the legislative session.

But his fundraiser notices show that he held one in Hilo last March while lawmakers were still in session.

Ruderman said no lobbyists were present.

He said he would be glad to follow a rule prohibiting in-session fundraisers. “I’ll follow this rule if it’s the rule,” Ruderman said.

Ruderman has been critical of corporate money in elections, telling the Tribune-Herald that they create a “corrupted version of (democracy).” But even he is not immune to donations from lobbyists, whether solicited or not.

His campaign finance records show he received $250 from beer maker Anheuser-Busch, $200 from Matson and $350 from Alexander &Baldwin.

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Asked about the Alexander &Baldwin donation, Ruderman said he was looking at how to return it.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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