Thursday, April 15, 2004

Lingle reverses
stance on CARE

The governor cuts ties to
the education lobbying group
that was based in her office

Gov. Linda Lingle, acting "out of an abundance of caution," has decided to sever ties to the private nonprofit corporation that was working out of her office to lobby for her education initiatives, her chief of staff said last night.

State of Hawaii Lingle took the action even though the state Ethics Commission has not yet ruled whether Hawaii law is being violated by having her administration provide state resources to the private group, Citizens Achieving Reform in Education.

Chief of Staff Bob Awana said no administration employees or resources will be used to support CARE, which was originally formed as an advisory group for Lingle. It has since become a nonprofit corporation that was soliciting private donations and lobbying for her initiatives while based in the governor's office.

After the Star-Bulletin detailed that transformation in a Sunday story, two complaints were filed this week with the Ethics Commission. State law generally forbids using state resources for private organizations.

The decision came on the same day the Republican Party of Hawaii sent out a mass e-mail to roughly 2,800 supporters urging them to attend a CARE rally at the state Capitol today from 4 to 6 p.m.

The e-mail said people could pick up CARE T-shirts at the governor's office.

Awana said the GOP sent out the e-mail without knowing that Lingle had decided to sever ties with CARE.

"They just didn't get the word yet," Awana said.

He added that he had no knowledge that the e-mail was being sent.

Lingle's decision came despite her comments Tuesday in which she called the fund-raising arrangement a "great public-private partnership."

She said the initial ethics complaint was a diversionary tactic by Democrats who wanted to divert attention from their "fake reform."

Ethics experts contacted by the Star-Bulletin panned the CARE arrangement, saying taxpayer resources should not be going toward a private entity pushing a particular political agenda.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii filed the second complaint with the Ethics Commission yesterday. On Monday a public-school librarian had filed the initial complaint, citing Sunday's Star-Bulletin story.

CARE has been lobbying for the governor's public education reform package, which included a call to break up the statewide Board of Education into local boards. The Democratic-controlled Legislature has repeatedly rejected this key proposal in Lingle's plan.

Awana said he met with his staff until about 11 p.m. Tuesday night to decide what to do about CARE.

Even the T-shirts that CARE purchased to give to supporters will no longer be kept at the governor's office, Awana said.

CARE also had been registered with the state as a political action committee.


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