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Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Rail Revote: Is There Anybody Without a Conflict of Interest?
By News Release @ 5:17 PM :: 4790 Views :: Honolulu County, Ethics, Rail

News Release from Friends of Makakilo, September 8, 2015

The Friends of Makakilo, Inc. has investigated the campaign contributions of all City Council members for the period January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2014 and determined that all Council members received a great number of donations from entities that would profit directly from approval of the Ho’opili/Rail project.  

(Although the Ho’opili farmland can thrive with the Rail crossing it, as it does today, in the minds of the council members and members of the construction industry Ho’opili and Rail cannot survive without each other.  Thus we researched donations from both Ho’opili and Rail construction donors.)

The lowest amount received by a Council Member was 40% of all contributions; three council members tied for highest, receiving 72%, almost three-quarters of their donations, from the construction community.  Chair Ernie Martin came in at 59%, which in his case was $268,000.

Today we announce that the Friends of Makakilo has filed a request with City Ethics Commission for Formal Advisory Opinions on whether the votes of the City Council on the Ho’opili project were unbiased, honest, ethical, and valid and free of conflict of interest given the obligations all Council Members had incurred through these great numbers of substantial donations from entities that would profit directly from the votes.

Below are the percentages that each City Council Member received from Ho’opili/Rail sources.  These are contributions for the most recent election, received between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014:

Name                         Total Cont.              Rail-Hoopili Cont        % Rail-Hoopili

Kymberly Pine            $160,879                     $116,801                     72%

J. Ikaika Anderson      $139,518                     $100,668                     72%

Ron Menor                  $  48,405                     $  34,650                     72%

Brandon Elefante        $  37,322                     $  24,292                     65%

Ernest Martin              $451,240                     $268,017                     59%

Trevor Ozawa             $183,320                     $104,550                     57%

Joey Manahan             $182,215                     $  83,512                     46%

Ann Kobayashi           $  57,136                     $  24,450                     43%

Carol Fukunaga           $258,321                     $104,565                     40%

It is likely that these amounts considerably under-report the total contributions linked to those that will profit from a “Yes” vote on Ho’opili and Rail, since no employer was listed for most donors, and it was not always possible to identify a spouse, relative, or employee of a principal donor.

  *   *   *   *   *

Text of Announcement by Dr. Kioni Dudley

Good morning.

I am speaking to you today in my capacity as the President of the Friends of Makakilo, Incorporated.

I am announcing today that the Friends of Makakilo has filed a request with the City Ethics Commission for an opinion on the validity of the votes by the City Council that approved the Ho’opili project.

Our organization has studied the campaign donations to City Council Members for the period of January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2014.  We have concluded that the donations they have received from members of the construction community were so great that they compromised the independence of judgment and the freedom of choice that are  fundamental requirements in any unbiased, ethical, and valid vote.

Raising campaign funds is very, very difficult.  Ordinary citizens just don’t give money to candidates.  But unions give, contractors give, cement companies, designers and banks give. Developers like D.R. Horton, the developer of Ho’opili gives--all of their leaders give…and their office workers give.  And HART officials give; so do their employees.

As a result, Council Members get so much of their money from the construction community, that they can never refuse them anything they want.

They know very well that if they do vote against a development project that all of that money will go to their opponent in the next election.

In our study, we included people who would profit directly from approval of both Ho’opili and Rail, since the City Council members are convinced that one can’t exist without the other.

So how much money are we talking about?  According to our count, in the last election period, Council Chair Ernie Martin brought in $268,000, almost 60% of his campaign contributions, from people who would profit from approval of Ho’opili and the Rail.  With that much money at stake, do you think he could possibly go against them?

Ikaika Anderson, Kymberly Pine, and Ron Menor easily topped his percentage.  They got 72% of their campaign donations, almost 3/4s of all they collected, from the building community.  Can you imagine Anderson, Pine, or Menor voting to save that farmland, and against the people that gave them ¾ of their campaign chest?

Let’s look at the other Council Members: Brandon Elefante got 65% from builders.  Trevor Ozawa got 57%.  No chance they were going to sacrifice that in the next election by voting against the Ho’opili development. That’s six of the nine votes.

But the other three votes are also bought.  Carol Fukunaga got 40% of her contributions from people who would benefit from Ho’opili and Rail.  Ann Kobayashi got 43%.  Joey Manahan got 47%.  Knowing how hard it is to raise money from ordinary citizens, nobody is going to vote to save farmland and watch that money go to another candidate in next election.

The result, then, is that every single Council member is so obligated, so corrupted by money, that they can only vote one way.

This might be fine if the majority of the people on O’ahu wanted to see the island paved over, but the majority treasure the open space and the natural beauty of our paradise.

Before moving on, let me point out that the way the law is written, these campaign contributions are all legal.  They are all reported—that’s how we found them—but it is very difficult to search them out.   Council members have no obligation to declare campaign contributions as a conflict of interest, no matter how much they receive.   And for all practical purposes, there is no way the public would know about them.

Obviously, the laws need to be changed.

The Friends of Makakilo is announcing today that we have taken our case to the City Ethics Commission.

We have asked them for an Opinion on whether City Council members who are beholden to the construction community for between 40% and 72% of their campaign chest funds had the independence of judgment and freedom of choice to vote against the Ho’opili project.  We are asking the Ethics Commission to give an opinion on whether all City Council votes approving the Ho’opili project were compromised, biased, unethical, and invalid.

Further, we are asking the Ethics Commission to revisit and rewrite their Advisory Opinion #79, written in 1977, so that City Council members who have taken campaign donations from entities that would profit directly from their vote, will be required to declare those donations as a conflict of interest before voting.

Finally, since all current City Council members are so completely beholden to the construction industry, we are asking for an Opinion on whether the current council would be suited to vote on Ho’opili again should there be a re-vote.

---30---

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