by Andrew Walden (Originally posted August 2, 2009)
Colleen Hanabusa is considering another run for Congress--CD1 urban Honolulu. But unlike her 2006 run at the CD2 seat, in 2010 Hanabusa will have to contend with revelations contained in Democratic former Governor Ben Cayetano's recently published autobiography.
Cayetano is scathing about Hanabusa's role in organizing the Senate vote to reject his reappointment of Attorney General Margery Bronster in 1999. Hanabusa's vote was widely seen as protecting the corrupt Broken Trust trustees of Bishop Estate from Bronster's investigation of their crimes. In spite of Hanabusa's efforts, by the end of 1999 the multi-billion dollar "Broken Trust" scandal would result in the ouster of all five trustees.
Here is an excerpt from page 432-433 of "Ben: A memoir from street kid to Governor":
...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."
Photo: Hoaliku Drake -- Broken Trust p 240
According to the Star-Bulletin April 19, 1999:
Bishop Estate Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong today pleaded not guilty to criminal charges relating to an alleged kickback scheme involving trust land in Hawaii Kai.
Wong's wife, Mari Stone Wong, and his brother-in-law Jeffrey Stone also pleaded not guilty to all charges relating to the estate's sale of its fee interest to the 219-unit Kalele Kai condominium project.
Wong, a former state Senate president, appeared at his arraignment before Circuit Judge Michael Town this morning and made a brief statement critical of the charges against his wife.
"Even Al Capone and his people, they never indicted his wife," Wong said.
Photo: Dickie Wong in court with his wife Mari Stone Wong --Jeff Stone's sister -- Broken Trust p 262
Town eventually dismissed charges against Wong and Stone. The Star Bulletin June 26, 1999 reported: "Circuit Judge Michael Town earlier this month threw out indictments against the Wongs and Stone, saying the grand jury's decision was tainted by the testimony of Stone's former attorney, Richard Frunzi, who had been convicted on unrelated federal money laundering charges."
Photo: Judge Michael Town Broken Trust p 216
Circuit Judge Michael Town's name would later pop up in the trail of Pali shooter Malu Motta. The Advertiser March 6, 2009 reports:
"The FBI targeted state criminal court Judge Michael Town for investigation of possible corruption in 2004, according to a document that was unsealed yesterday in the racketeering and murder trial of Ethan "Malu" Motta, and Rodney Joseph Jr."
Town had been assigned to hear the State trial in the Pali shooting case. He made several rulings helpful to the defense.
A cryptic reference is contained in transcripts of a conversation between a confidential informant and Motta:
In line 87 Motta says “F*** pull off the judge….” And an unidentified male saying (line 623): “Brah you know you was gonna come through. Brah you had so much (unintelligible), was pulling off all DEA, all the FBI. I was trippin’ brah.”
There is more. In 2002 Hanabusa emerged as the leading advocate for legislation authorizing $75 million in tax credits for Stone's Ko Olina resort. When Cayetano vetoed the tax credit bill, Hanabusa took the unprecedented step of suing to overturn the veto. Courts have absolutely no authority to overturn vetoes--only the Legislature can do that. But Hanabusa unsuccessfully appealed her bizarre case all the way to the Hawaii Supreme Court.
Cayetano (p517) asks:
Why...did she go to such extremes? ... In March, 2004, the Honolulu Advertiser ran a story by investigative reporter Jim Dooley that revealed new facts exposing an undisclosed possible conflict of interest that Hanabusa had as a result of her relationship with Stone, who had also been one of the main figures in the State's 1997-98 investigation of the Bishop Estate.
The Advertiser article explains:
State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, backer of the controversial $75 million tax-credit program benefiting Ko Olina resort developer Jeff Stone, lives in a luxury Ko Olina townhouse purchased from her fiance from Stone, and works in a downtown law office subleased from Stone, according to real estate and business records....
In 2003 Hanabusa re-introduced the Jeff Stone tax credit bill and newly elected Republican Governor Linda Lingle signed it. The Advertiser continues:
Souza bought the townhome in the recently completed Kai Lani development in June, less than a month after Lingle signed the tax credit package into law....
About the 2002 legislative debate, Cayetano (p516) writes:
As I watched all of this, I wondered if there were any legislators who had the guts to ask the hard questions. There was not a peep from the Democrats--or from conservative Republicans like Slom and Hemmings who had made careers in opposing social programs for the needy, or from young legislators who were learning quickly the politics of "going along to get along." The only legislators who raised questions about the credibility of Stone's claims were Republicans Charles Djou of O`ahu and Jim Rath of Kona, Hawai`i.
If Hanabusa enters the congressional race and defeats Democrat Ed Case in the Primary, she will be facing Charles Djou in the General Election next November.