by Andrew Walden
Gaming industry lobbyist John Radcliffe, who also represents tobacco companies, private prison operators, military contractors, developers, and Wall Street investment houses now acknowledges playing a much larger role in selecting Neil Abercrombie’s cabinet than previously known.
In a February 1 Star-Advertiser report, Radcliffe spills the beans defending the selection process which picked ill-fated DoH nominee Neal Palafox:
An influential lobbyist who was involved in vetting Neal Palafox before he was nominated by Gov. Neil Abercrombie as director of the state Department of Health believes the doctor had nothing in his past that would have jeopardized his post.
"I'll tell you this: We vetted him as carefully as anybody could be vetted and looked into his background, his family, his relationships," said John Radcliffe, a lobbyist who was part of the transition team that reviewed Abercrombie's Cabinet picks. "This guy is a good guy."
Radcliffe said he also asked Palafox if he had anything potentially controversial to disclose. "Nothing," he said. "And I believed him. And I've talked to him subsequently, and I believe him now."…
"We couldn't find anything that this guy was anything but what he purported to be, which is chairman of the department of family practice at the University of Hawaii and one of life's good guys," Radcliffe said.
Palafox may have been forced out after undermining Dan Inouye cronies within the DoH upper echelons. But regardless of whether Palafox was a good pick or not, Radcliffe’s description of the selection process shows that the lobbyist had much deeper involvement in picking Abercrombie’s cabinet than previously known.
Hawai’i Free Press readers will remember that Radcliffe’s involvement was mentioned only in a single line of a November 23 Civil Beat article which read:
Neil Abercrombie's transition team is holding interviews with job applicants in a union hall in Kalihi.
Candidates for Cabinet-level positions are interviewed by a panel whose members have included Bill Kaneko and John Radcliffe.
Asked to comment, Abercrombie spokesman Jim McCoy said, "I am not going to confirm for you any information where we are holding personnel issues."
Spotting this slip-up in the official press, HFP published “Gaming Industry Lobbyist, Progressive activist screen Abercrombie cabinet picks.” The information upon which we based that article has now been confirmed—although until the February 1 article, no other media outlet had seen fit to make note of it.
Among Radcliffe’s clients is Marketing Resource Group. Radcliffe’s lobbying on behalf of Michigan-based MRG led to the introduction of HB 2396 in the 2010 Legislative session by House Speaker Calvin Say.
KHON January 29, 2010 reported last year’s legislative debate over gaming in Waikiki:
"If there's a license that is sold, we pick up so many millions of dollars and so forth, it's just an option on the budget side of the equation," said House Speaker, Rep. Calvin Say.
The casino would create about 4,000 jobs and generate about a half-billion dollars in revenue each year, a similar amount that leaves the state for gaming destinations like Las Vegas.
"$550 million that would be over the last 11 years that's $6 billion plus. If we could have captured just 15 or 20 percent of that we would not be in the shape that we are in the state of Hawaii," said Radcliffe.
Radcliffe says Marketing Resource Group of Michigan is interested in the project. The Ilitch family owns Little Caesar's Pizza, the Detroit Tigers and Redwings as well as several casinos.
So it should be no surprise that in 2011 gambling-related bills are again making progress in the Legislature—after all, the administration was hand picked by a gaming industry lobbyist who “looked into (their) background, (their) family, (their) relationships….”
SB602 Video Poker and Slot machines in Waikiki