Thursday, December 13, 2001

Golf tourney
for Harris under
state scrutiny

A campaign spending official
questions whether it was an
unreported fund-raiser

By Rick Daysog

The state Campaign Spending Commission is investigating a golf tournament linked to Mayor Jeremy Harris' 2000 re-election effort, as it steps up its probe of the Harris campaign.

The golf tournament, which was held in October 2000 at the Waikele Golf Club, raised about $20,000. But the tournament was not registered with the commission as a political fund-raiser, and none of the money raised was mentioned in the mayor's public filings, said Bob Watada, the commission's executive director.

"What we found is that some people contributed to a golf tournament which appears to be a Harris fund-raiser, but there doesn't appear to be any record of the fund-raiser in the Harris report," Watada said.

Event organizer Dennis Enomoto said the tournament was not a fund-raiser and was unrelated to the Harris campaign.

Enomoto, who recently was named to the Honolulu Liquor Commission by Harris, said he organized the tournament for friends to celebrate Harris' victory in the September 2000 primary over challenger Mufi Hannemann.

Enomoto said the event attracted about 140 people including Harris and that he did not think he had to register the tournament as a fund-raiser because it did not make money. Proceeds were spent on meals, golf course rental, T-shirts and other door prizes, he added.

Enomoto, a volunteer in the Harris 2000 campaign, added that his appointment to the Liquor Commission is unrelated to any political work he has done for the mayor. Harris is running for governor as a Democrat.

Enomoto said he supported Harris for many years for his tireless work for the city. "We put on a golf tournament for a bunch of friends. We didn't want it to be a campaign thing at all."

Watada said several contributors told him they thought they were making a political contribution when they sent their checks to the tourney.

Watada said he recently subpoenaed the golf tournament's banking records and found more than 40 checks from local developers, architects and engineers who each paid $300 to $900 to the event.

Most of the checks were made out to "Mayor Harris 2000 Golf Tournament," and one $300 check listed "political contribution" for the purpose for the funds, Watada said.

Under state law, candidates must list all contributions of $100 or more in their public filings with the commission. They also must file a notice with the commission if they intend to hold a fund-raiser.

The inquiry into the golf event comes as the Campaign Spending Commission expands its investigation into the Harris campaign. Last month, the commission fined five Harris contributors more than $7,000 for giving excessive campaign contributions. The commission also disclosed that it is investigating more than 50 local businesses and individuals that may have exceeded the $4,000 contribution limit for Harris' 2000 re-election effort.

Many of those firms were first identified in a Star-Bulletin investigation in June that found the Harris campaign raised nearly $750,000 from people linked to dozens of companies that do business with the city.

But Watada said the commission's investigation is not limited to the Harris campaign.

He said that some of the firms that contributed to the Harris campaign also gave large sums to the campaigns of Gov. Ben Cayetano, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Maui Mayor James Apana and Honolulu mayoral candidate Mufi Hannemann.

People linked to the engineering firm of Geolabs Inc. donated a total of $180,000 to the five candidates during the past several years, state campaign records show.

Chris Parsons, an attorney for the Harris campaign, said he is not surprised that the commission is now targeting the Harris campaign, but denied any wrongdoing.

Parsons took issue with Watada's recent public comments on the investigation, saying Watada is selectively releasing raw investigative data that unfairly tarnish the Harris campaign.

Watada's recent criticisms of the Harris campaign are based on "vague accusations" and "suspicions," but not proof, he added.

"It's one thing to respond to allegations of wrongdoing. It's another to respond to suspicions. It betrays a lack of partiality," Parsons said. "We will continue to cooperate with their investigation. If we find out there was anything wrong or mistakes have been made, we'll correct it. It's always been our policy."

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