by Andrew Walden
Many of Hawaii’s reputed mobsters have weighed in with endorsements for Election 2010—and the common denominator is candidates’ support for the new version of the Akaka Bill.
It is well known that Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case are running with the support of former Governor Ben Cayetano. Mufi Hannemann and Colleen Hanabusa are running backed by Senator Dan Inouye. All but declared Democrat Gubernatorial candidate Hannemann is called “Mufia” by some—and not without reason—but the underworld is mostly piecing together its own team.
A campaign banner touting Hannemann’s Democratic Primary opponent, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie, now hangs prominently from the front gate at the Honokaa ranch of Larry Mehau. Mehau was a key figure in the 1990s “Broken Trust” scandal at Kamehameha Schools. His "Hawaiian Protective Association" collected $40,000 a month for “security” at the Kamehameha campus and more for the “protection” of Big Island Kamehameha lands purchased by the Trust from Hamakua Sugar.
Mehau Ranch front gate, April, 2010
In 1995 the Broken Trust Trustees commissioned ex-Governor John Waihee to study the relocation of KSBE HQ out of Hawaii. His recommendation: The Cheyenne River Sioux Indian reservation—distinguished from other Indian Reservations by its’ “sovereign” Tribal Judiciary and Tribal Legislature. That relocation didn’t happen, but five years later, the Akaka Bill was introduced in Congress, launching efforts to construct a tribal jurisdiction behind which the corrupt could shelter their illegal operations. Neil Abercrombie is at the forefront of efforts to create the Akaka Tribe--and under his new version of the Akaka Bill, an instant Indian Tribe will be created and an instant legal jurisdiction will exist. So it is natural that the Broken Trust crowd will support Abercrombie.
The Akaka Bill has for the first time become an openly debated issue in the Gubernatorial race. But it more clearly divides the candidates in the First District Congressional race. Colleen Hanabusa supports the new version of the Akaka Bill. Charles Djou and Ed Case oppose it, favoring the old version of the Akaka Bill. Like Abercrombie, Hanabusa has close underworld connections. Hanabusa began her political career by spearheading successful efforts to fire Gov Cayetano’s Attorney General Margery Bronster in the midst of her investigation of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate. As Cayetano explained in his memoir:
“...Hanabusa had other reasons to oppose Bronster's confirmation. (KSBE Trustee) Henry Peters and his influential mother, Hoaliku Drake, who had organized public demonstrations in opposition to Bronster's confirmation, were both supporters who lived in her district. Politically, that alone would have been reason enough for her to vote against (Bronster). but, as the Honolulu Advertiser would later disclose, Hanabusa had a close relationship with developer Jeff Stone, whose sister was married to Bishop Estate trustee Dickie Wong and who, along with Peters and Wong had been indicted by a grand jury convened by Bronster. As the attorney general's investigation would later reveal, prior to the confirmation hearing, Hanabusa had met privately with Larry Mehau and Wong. When confronted by a reporter, Hanabusa confirmed that the meeting had taken place, but, in a remarkable lapse of memory, she could not remember if Bronster's confirmation had been discussed."
Mehau’s support for Abercrombie parallels a split within the leadership of the ILWU. When Hawaii ILWU local 142 endorsed Mufi Hannemann for Governor on March 9, former local 142 President Eusebio "Bobo" Lapenia Jr and Yoshito “Papa Tak” Takamine, father of Senator Dwight “Baby Tak” Takamine (D-Hamakua), formally resigned from their positions overseeing ILWU’s proletarian real estate holdings in order to campaign freely for Abercrombie.
At about the same time, Abercrombie picked up support from Laborers International Union Local 368. After massive embezzlement of union funds to purchase private vehicles for union officials and their families and to pay for annual trips to the Philippines, LIUNA 368 was placed in receivership by the US Department of Labor in 2007. The union’s attempts to emerge from trusteeship were stymied by efforts to keep Oliver Kupau III, a convicted felon with ties to police corruption and illegal gambling in Ewa and Nanakuli, serving as business manager of the 4,000-member union. Union bosses relented in February, 2009. Kupau was replaced and LIUNA emerged from receivership.
Larry Mehau, August, 2006.
Shortly after the ILWU-Takamine split, Abercrombie banners began showing up at LIUNA headquarters in Hilo—which coincidentally, of course, is the same part of town where numerous Ed Case banners were slashed during the 2006 Democratic Primary against Dan Akaka. In 2008, in the same area, dozens of Ted Hong banners were slashed during Hong’s State Senate campaign against Dwight Takamine.
One block from LIUNA HQ in Hilo, 2006. Of course this is purely coincidental. Really.
Mehau, August 27, 2006 hosted a Akaka-campaign-sponsored “community rally for Dan Akaka” in his barn--attended by now-US-Rep Mazie Hirono, now-Senator Dwight Takamine and numerous other Democrat officeholders and candidates. Takamine, was so loyal to Inouye that at the beginning of the 2007 Legislative session, he lost his House Finance Committee chairmanship trying to obey Inouye’s orders to “shed more blood, not less” of House Democrats who had supported Case against Akaka in the 2006 Primary. Stripped of position by supporters of House Speaker Calvin Say, Takamine sulked through the 2007 session racking up the worst attendance of any Representative. He then fled the House to run for State Senate the following year.
August, 2006 Akaka for Senate rally: Dwight Takamine and Mazie Hirono in Larry Mehau’s barn.
In a March 30 article, Hawai’i Free Press revealed that Hanabusa’s husband, former State Sherriff John Souza in May, 2009 sold his Pueo Trucking company and extended credit to one George Grace III. Grace had been charged—charges later dropped—in the February, 24, 1999 firebombing of 56 porta-potties at Aloha Stadium. Naming two of Grace’s co-defendants, the Star-Bulletin, July 26, 2001, explained: “Grace, Mangca and Nelson are charged with conspiring to destroy portable toilets owned by a competitor ‘for the purpose of giving defendant Grace a commercial advantage in the toilet rental business,’ the indictment alleges.” As State Sherriff, Souza in 2004 had run into trouble when it was revealed he had sold land and extended credit to a member of the Pali shooter’s gang.
Aloha Stadium at the time was under the protection of one Herbert Naone. It is not clear whether the toilet bombings were approved by underworld bosses, or were seen as a serious affront to Naone’s ‘protection’ of the Stadium.
Who is Naone? In a May 26, 2006 article, the Advertiser’s Jim Dooley explained:
Aloha Stadium security chief Herbert Naone occupies a "prominent position in Hawai'i's organized crime and narcotics trafficking underworld" and used connections in government and local law enforcement to help himself and others evade arrest and prosecution, according to sworn FBI affidavits filed in federal court….
Naone became Aloha Stadium security chief, a state position, 18 years ago.
He was fired from HPD in the mid-1970s after he and two other HPD officers were charged with the shotgun robbery of a Kaua'i gambling game….
One of the FBI 2004 affidavits, filed to obtain court approval of a wiretap of Rodenhurst's work telephone at the Liquor Commission, described Mehau as a longtime Hawai'i organized crime figure.
Attempts to reach Mehau for comment were unsuccessful. Dana Mehau-Vericella, his daughter, said this week her father would have no comment on that allegation. "He's never been indicted for anything," she said.
A longtime influential figure in the Hawaii Democratic Party and past chairman of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, Mehau was once accused by a Honolulu City Prosecutor's aide of being the "godfather" of organized crime in Hawai'i, a charge that he adamantly denied. Mehau sued the prosecutor's aide, Rick Reed, for libel and invasion of privacy, but a Circuit Court jury decided the case in Reed's favor in 1992. Naone testified as a witness for Mehau in the trial.
The attorney representing one of Naone’s codefendants explained: "We live in a culture of corruption that permeates most of our public institutions."
Abercrombie’s new version of the Akaka Bill will give the pervasively corrupt a “tribal” legal jurisdiction of their own. The Akaka Tribe’s jurisdiction would block nearly all State investigations and prosecutions. It will effectively block many Federal investigations and prosecutions as well.
No wonder so many criminals are eager to help.