Sunday, June 24, 2001

Family ties run strong on
donations made to
Mayor Harris’ campaign

See also:
Failed bill banned contractor donations;
Harris funds questionable

By Rick Daysog

Family ties play a significant role in money raised by the Harris campaign.

According to a computer-assisted examination by the Star-Bulletin, about 10 percent of the $750,000 in campaign contributions collected by Mayor Jeremy Harris from city contractors and their affiliates came from spouses of executives. For instance:

>> Wives of company executives at the local engineering firm of Fukunaga & Associates Inc. accounted for about a third of all firm-related contributions to the Harris cause.

Jane Fukunaga, whose husband Royce is company president, has contributed $4,000 since 1996, while her husband has donated $2,000 during the same period. Cynthia Nishimura, wife of Fukunaga vice president Jon Nishimura, also gave the $4,000 legal limit while her spouse gave $3,750 during the past five years.

The firm received about $9.3 million in city work since 1996, city records show, largely for sewer and wastewater work. The company's work for the city dates back to 1992 when the city was under pressure from the Environmental Protection Agency to improve its wastewater systems.

Jon Nishimura told the Star-Bulletin that contributions by employees and their wives were made on a personal basis and had nothing to do with the company's business.

"We get selected because of what we do," Nishimura said.

>> Spouses of executives with Edward K. Noda & Associates Inc. were also generous to the Harris campaign coffers. Of $20,250 in political contributions from people associated with the company, a total of $7,250 came from Lorraine Noda, wife of company head Edward K. Noda; Sherry Dittmar, wife of company principal James Dittmar; and Lynn Ishii, whose husband Brian Ishii is an engineer at the firm. Ed Noda, Brian Ishii and James Dittmar contributed a total of $7,500 during the past five years.

Noda, whose firm received at least $325,000 in city work during the past five years, declined comment.

>> The spouses of top executives at R.M. Towill Corp. delivered 19 separate checks totaling $13,700 to the Harris campaign between 1996 and 2000. The engineering firm is a major player in the city's building plans, receiving $16.6 million in contracts during the same period.

>> Wives of top officers at Park Engineering contributed $11,500. The company conducted about $5.5 million in city work during the past five years.

Peter Char, assistant treasurer for the Harris campaign, said he was not surprised by the number of relatives of city contractors and consultants who donated to the Harris campaign but he said there was no effort to solicit campaign donations from people who do business with the city.

Donors, he said, are free to contribute to a political campaign so long as they comply with state and federal campaign laws.

Char said campaign staffers do check into who is sending them political donations. In a couple of instances, staffers discovered contributions from companies who gave more than the $4,000 campaign contribution limit, he said, and the campaign returned the money.

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