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Monday, December 6, 2010
Gaming Industry Lobbyist, Progressive activist screen Abercrombie cabinet picks
By Andrew Walden @ 2:50 PM :: 15916 Views :: Ethics, Hawaii State Government, Labor

by Andrew Walden (PUBLISHED 11-24-10)

Tobacco industry lobbyist John Radcliffe, who also represents gaming interests, private prison operators, military contractors, developers, and Wall Street investment houses is hard at work screening applicants for governor-elect Abercrombie’s cabinet.  He is working side-by-side with progressive Democrat activist Bill Kaneko, chair of Abercrombie’s election campaign.  

According to Civil Beat November 23:

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."

Progressive Democrat Keneko, and lobbyist Radcliffe sitting around in an “union hall in Kalihi” determining whether Clayton Hee will head DLNR or DHHL.  Will anti-Superferry protester Gary Hooser get a cabinet position?  It is an exercise in self-parody.  The image of the corporatist one-party State could not be any clearer.

Are these two an odd couple?  Not at all.  The goals of Kaneko’s masterpiece, the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, line up almost perfectly with the interests of Radcliffe’s lobbying clients, who include:

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:

"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.

Reynolds American, Inc:

America’s largest tobacco company, Reynolds would be interested in keeping cigarette taxes down, and encouraging the State to divert tobacco taxes away from anti-tobacco programs into the General Fund, thus tying the State General Fund to tobacco sales.

Corrections Corporation of America:

America’s largest privately run prison contractor, CCA of course is interested in Hawaii continuing to ship State prisoners to CCA prisons on the mainland. 

Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.:

Of course this industry association is interested in more Hawaii tax credits for TV and motion picture production.  

UniDev, LLC:

A property developer, UniDev is at the center of the Waikoloa Workforce housing debacle on the Big Island.  UniDev is also a key proponent of Transit Oriented Development for affordable housing.

Hawaii School Bus Association:

An industry association of DoE contractors, the association was at the center of last year’s efforts to trick parents into believing that the BoE wanted to eliminate all school bus service.  In a December 17, 2009 story, HNN reported, “(DoE Superintendent) Pat Hamamoto says there's no immediate plan to halt service altogether, and that the bus companies are spreading inaccurate information and causing an unnecessary frenzy.”

Other Radcliffe clients include:

Many of Radcliffe’s clients are the companies which would profit from implementation Kaneko’s Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan.  Others, such as the DoE contractors, would profit from Abercrombie preventing an audit of the DoE.  And Reynolds and MRG would provide the revenue stream to pay for it all.    

Kaneko, in 2000, founded the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs, which Midweek, in 2006 described as, “the state’s first independent public policy think tank.”  Hawaii Business, December, 2007 echoes, calling HIPA: “an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit public policy institute….” 

Of course there is nothing “independent” about it.  Kaneko is a National Democrat operative.  Perhaps in order to rub its readers’ noses in its ability to present the absurd un-contradicted, Midweek points this out without noting the contradiction:

As director of Asian Pacific Affairs for the Democratic National Committee, Kaneko served as the primary liaison between the DNC and the White House, Congress and state elected officials across the country.

Kaneko, like Abercrombie, was brainwashed in one of America’s finest reeducation camps:

The stirrings of this social conscience began in an ethics studies class at the University of Hawaii.

“I learned for the first time the history of the Japanese in Hawaii,” says Kaneko, who was born and raised in Aiea. “It just struck me. It was very moving to learn about the internment camps and the plight of, not only the Japanese in Hawaii, but the whole history of Hawaii and the history of immigrants, and this spilled over into issues of civil rights and fairness and justice.”

Midweek explains:  

The think tank focuses on healthcare and economic development. One of its first and biggest undertakings was the Hawaii Uninsured Project, which aims to reduce the number of people in Hawaii with no health insurance. It was partly thanks to the project’s data that 29,000 people recently gained Medicaid coverage.

“That’s 25 percent of the uninsured population in a single swoop,” Kaneko says. “That’s the power of public policy.”

HIPA also is participating in the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, a roadmap for how Hawaii will grow and develop and use its resources in the future.

And then there’s the Akaka Bill. “That piece of legislation is probably the most far-reaching since statehood,” Kaneko says. “But I would say that 99 percent of the population has not even read the bill itself. It’s a long drawn-out process, and there’s a lot of misconceptions about the Akaka Bill.”

And in fact Kaneko’s motivation was to hold the Hawaii Democratic Party together as it splintered in the Cayetano days.  Midweek doesn’t even realize what it is saying:

Kaneko started to think about HIPA in the 1990s because he was frustrated by talk that never went anywhere when it came to improving Hawaii’s economy and by decisions that were made without any research to back them up.

So HIPA does two things: It offers research, analysis and recommendations so that informed decisions can be made; and it acts as a neutral body to bring together the myriad sides of a debate to help reach consensus.

In Hawaii Business, Kaneko sounds a theme which was integral to the Hannemann candidacy:

Q: What is threatening that (Hawaii) lifestyle?

A: I think the business sector is changing. A lot of our luminaries, the Walter Dodses, Larry Johnsons and Henry Walkers, were deeply rooted in the community. They spent their whole careers here. Now, a lot of our corporations are managed from the Mainland. You have a lot of CEOs who come to Hawaii, manage their business and do a really good job but their tenure here is limited. Then there is someone new.

This exact argument was used two years later in an October, 2009 Hawaii Business article as Hannemann supporter, former Theo Davies CEO David Heenan, describes the collapse of the Democratic machine and his desire to “put Humpty Dumpty back together again”:

For many of those who lived through that era, there’s a nostalgia for the simplicity of its power structure. It was, of course, a much less democratic age, a time when a few men (and they were all men) made most of the important decisions for the state. But, as David Heenan puts it, “Many people respect an oligarchy.” Heenan, former CEO of Big Five company TheoDavies, and now a trustee for the Campbell Estate, is no apologist for the excesses of that earlier age. But it’s hard to ignore the advantages of concentrated power. “When I was involved in Big Five stuff,” he says, “and with companies like Dillingham and Pacific Resources, the two estates, and the two big banks, back then, there were eight or ten people you could turn to. You could get those guys in the room and get things done. There was gravitas there.”

And it wasn’t just in the business community. “It was the same thing on the political front,” Heenan says. “You had the Burns machine, and then Ariyoshi. There was more of a notion of centralization. And although the unions may have been larger than today, actual power lay in the hands of just a few people, men like Jack Hall, David Trask and Art Rutledge.

“You could identify the players,” Heenan points out. “They all had some real clout. Then that got fragmented by globalization and technology and so forth. Now, you’re trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

Today, that fragmentation of power is the central feature of Hawaii’s political and cultural landscape.

As everybody knows those “myriad sides” of Humpty Dumpty’s former shell consist of the pro-development Inouye/Hannemann wing of the Democratic Party and the enviro-cultural shake down wing of the Hawaii Democratic Party.  Kaneko’s HIPA operation sought to bring these two incompatible sides together, modeled on the corporatist State’s equivalent of a Five Year Plan

The last time we did this [statewide planning] was in the 1970s, under Gov. [George] Ariyoshi. For better or for worse, that process led to government investments to make Hawaii a world-class destination. We also invested in a statewide university system, adopted the prepaid healthcare act and strengthened the state employee retirement system. All these things came out of a statewide dialogue, which asked, “Where should Hawaii be?”

The Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan, lists nine “priority actions” which correlate to the interests of Radcliffe’s clients and to other forces closely tied to the Abercrombie campaign:

  1. Increase affordable housing opportunities for households up to 140% of median income.  (UniDev, Hunt Building*)
  2. Strengthen public education (Hawaii School Bus Association, UHPA, Kamehameha Schools)
  3. Reduce reliance on fossil fuels (Wind farm developers*, Pacific Biodiesel*, Monsanto)
  4. Increase recycling, reuse and waste reduction strategies (LKQ, H-Power*, Rubber Manufacturers Association)
  5. Develop a more diverse and resilient economy (UniDev, Motion Picture Association of America, Inc, UHPA, Kanu Hawaii*)
  6. Develop a sustainability ethic (Ideological goal which fosters support for the eight material goals.  UHPA, Kamehameha Schools, Kanu Hawaii* could benefit.)
  7. Increase production and consumption of local foods and products, particularly agricultural products (Monsanto, American Chemistry Council, Kanu Hawaii*)
  8. Provide access to long-term care and elderly housing (UniDev, Alliance of Residential Care Administrators, Hunt Building*)
  9. Preserve and perpetuate our Kanaka Maoli and island cultural values (OHA*, UHPA, Kamehameha Schools)

Hawaii Democrats original “machine” consisted of “Big 5” companies and the unions which controlled their workers.  As the unions bled the plantations to death, Democrats drew up the Ariyoshi plan, leading the charge to build hotels as “the new plantations.”  But after the 1980s Japanese bubble burst, the system collapsed and the Democratic Party split. The dying Inouye/Hannemann faction of those who want to keep building has now been totally and irretrievably overwhelmed by those who profited by shaking them down. Thanks to the 1995 PASH decision, no property development can now occur without the permission of the environmental activist organizations and the NHLC/OHA.  In the face of these realities, the 2050 Sustainability Plan proposes a new corporatism based on “sustainable” “green” business. 

But when one looks into the guts of the Plan, it quickly becomes apparent that none of it can come to fruition without a “sustained” flow of Dan Inouye’s pork.  The reality is that all alternative energy programs except geothermal and nuclear, rely entirely on federal subsidies and feed-in-tariffs.  CBS News hammered then-congressman Abercrombie for giving a $3.5M dollar earmark to Pacific Biodiesel, run by one of his campaign co-chairs.

The vast majority of actual alternative energy construction in Hawaii is wind-related.  Without bleeding HECO and without a steady supply of federal pork, the wind farms will die.  This death will begin at 12:01AM January 1st, 2011 when federal subsidies for wind projects run out.  First Wind, developer of several Hawaii wind projects, is already hinting at an impending bankruptcy.  

The Akaka Bill, which could have been a conduit of pork to the Broken Trust crowd reconstituted under the jurisdiction of the Akaka Tribe, looks to be dead

With rail and transit oriented development, the federal dollars upon which the scheme depends are likewise now doubtful.  The American people voted November 2 and the results show them unwilling to continue this type of spending.  Americans will vote again in 2012 and likely reinforce the message.  Abercrombie’s campaign refrain of “more federal money” is a bad joke.  As long as the GOP’s earmark ban holds, it isn’t coming.  This is why the earmark ban is neither a “red herring” nor a “distraction”.  The earmark ban is precisely what is needed to cut out the heart of the corporatist entity and establish a two party system in Hawaii. 

Without federal dollars, casino gambling will become the foremost proposal to increase State revenues. 

In his campaign, Abercrombie made it clear that “strengthen public education” means spend more on the DoE.  He campaigned against any DoE audit and he even waffled on creating an appointed school board.  Now, with an appointed BoE, he will be directly responsible for the results.  He received key support from the HSTA, the greatest enemy of education reform. 

Can Kaneko and Radcliffe put Humpty Dumpty back together again without federal dollars to provide the illusion of “sustainability”?  Hawaii is about to find out, but the smart money is on the Abercrombie administration rapidly degenerating into a parody of Cayetano’s second term—ironically the late 1990s starting point of Kaneko’s efforts.  The chaos starts with the upcoming budget.


*Closely tied to Abercrombie campaign, but not represented by Radcliffe


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John Radcliffe website:

Radcliffe Client List:

Bill Kaneko, Abercrombie campaign manager, profiled: 


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