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Thursday, April 20, 2000

Trust played role
in effort to fund
Ige campaign

Campaign laws could have
been violated and it could
have lost its tax-exempt status

By Rick Daysog


Kamehameha Schools coordinated political donations from its outside lawyers to state Sen. Marshall Ige's campaign in what could be a violation of campaign spending laws.

Records subpoenaed by the attorney general's office show that the $6 billion charitable trust played a role in the 1994 campaign contributions to Ige from attorneys C. Michael Heihre and Cheryl Nakamura and the law firms of Ashford & Wriston, Dwyer Imanaka Schraff Kudo Meyer & Kudo and Ching Yuen & Morikawa.

The documents -- discovered last year in the office of former trust manager Namlyn Snow -- include binders containing detailed logs of the attorneys' contributions to the Ige campaign, as well as photocopies of canceled checks to pay for the contributions.

Each attorney or firm contributed $250, for a total of $1,250. All of the checks were received by the Ige campaign on Aug. 17, 1994, and were deposited together in the campaign's bank account on the following day, suggesting that the contributions were bundled by Bishop Estate representatives.

Trust attorneys familiar with the documents said it was clear that Snow, who died last year, had a part in obtaining the donations.

The lawyers added that the estate's interim board of trustees turned over the documents to the attorney general's office and is complying with the state's investigation.

On Monday, the Star-Bulletin reported that an investigation by the attorney general's office had found that the estate engaged in a massive attempt to influence legislation and direct tens of thousands of dollars to isle politicians during the tenure of previous board members Richard "Dickie" Wong, Henry Peters, Lokelani Lindsey, Gerard Jervis and Oswald Stender.

The findings of the attorney general's inquiry, along with documents relating to the law firms' contributions to the Ige campaign, were turned over to the state Campaign Spending Commission last week, which has opened a separate investigation of the trust.

Bob Watada, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, also declined to discuss the law firms' contributions to Ige. But speaking generally, Watada said bundling of contributions could be seen as a campaign contribution made under a false name, which is illegal.

Federal law also bars tax-exempt trusts from making campaign contributions or taking part in a political election. Violations could lead to the loss of a charity's tax-exempt status.

The latest disclosure comes as Ige is facing misdemeanor charges for alleged campaign finance abuses. The charges stem from an alleged campaign laundering scheme involving Bishop Estate's architecture and engineering firms. Ige has pleaded not guilty, and a trial is scheduled for next month.

Birney Bervar, Ige's attorney, declined comment on the latest development involving his client's campaign finances.

Attorneys with the Ashford & Wriston and Dwyer Imanaka firms had no response, while Bill Yuen of the Ching Yuen firm said he could not recall the circumstances of the contributions.

Nakamura, who does civil litigation work for the trust at the law firm of Rush Moore Craven Sutton Morry & Beh, said she remembers purchasing the fund-raiser tickets and attending the event with her parents. Nakamura, who lives in Ige's district, added that she may have purchased the tickets with the assistance of Bishop Estate personnel.

Heihre, formerly known as C. Michael Hare, said his donation to Ige was a personal contribution on his own checking account. But Heihre, a partner in the Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright firm and former chairman of the state Judicial Selection Commission, said he could not recall if he discussed his contribution to Ige with Kamehameha Schools personnel.

Each of the law firms that contributed to the Ige campaign has billed the trust tens of thousands of dollars each year for legal work. Last year, the estate paid the Cades Schutte firm about $1.8 million.

Bishop Estate archive

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