DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Dalton Tanonaka and his attorney, Michael Green, left federal court yesterday after Tanonaka was sentenced to three months in prison and three months of house arrest for federal campaign violations.
Tanonaka to serve 3 months in prison
The sentencing judge points out his abuse of the public trust
Former newspaper and television journalist Dalton Tanonaka will spend three months in prison followed by three months under house arrest for lying about money he received during his failed campaigns for lieutenant governor and Congress.
In federal court in Honolulu yesterday, Tanonaka was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.
"I accept the sentence that was handed down," Tanonaka said after the sentencing. "I will continue to contribute to the community in ways I can in the future."
During the sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Helen Gillmor said when someone abuses the trust and integrity of the public election process, it has to be treated seriously. "If we do not have a reaction appropriate to that, we do damage to the institution, to the public trust," she said.
Tanonaka is to report back to court Dec. 15 to begin his prison sentence.
In a plea agreement with the federal prosecutor, Tanonaka, 51, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of making false statements on bank loan applications, for failing to list a contract he had as a consultant on a federal financial disclosure form, and for accepting a campaign contribution in excess of the $2,000 limit.
The first two counts stem from Tanonaka's 2002 campaign for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. He accepted $48,000 in loans from two people and deposited $45,000 into his campaign account. He did not list the loans as unpaid liabilities on his loan applications.
He listed the $45,000 deposit as a loan from himself but was not charged with concealing the true source of the money or of exceeding the state campaign limit on loans from people other than himself or family members.
The second two counts stem from Tanonaka's 2004 campaign for Congress. On his financial disclosure report, he did not list a contract for consulting work that was to pay him $10,000 a month. Tanonaka also received a $25,000 check from his brother-in-law and deposited $11,000 into his campaign account. The campaign contribution limit is $2,000 a person. He listed the $11,000 deposit as a loan from himself but was not charged with lying about the true source of the money.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong said Tanonaka's actions were part of an "ongoing pattern of deception through two campaigns."
Tanonaka's lawyer Michael Green described his client as a good, decent man who made a mistake. And, he said, all the loans were repaid. "Nobody lost money," he said.
Tong said the case is not about money but about integrity and the loss of public faith in the system.
Tanonaka's consulting contract was with a series of companies owned by an individual described in court documents as K.D. In addition to his monthly salary, Tanonaka was to receive 5 percent of annual sales over $5 million, Tong said.
One of the companies is listed in court documents as IDB. Tong said K.D. had an application pending with the state to harvest koa and ohia trees on the Big Island and intended to sell the lumber in Japan and Korea.
One month after he entered into the consulting agreement with K.D., Tanonaka sent an e-mail to Gov. Linda Lingle describing harvesting as a new source of jobs in Hawaii and offered to set up a meeting between the governor and company officials, Tong said. In the e-mail Tanonaka claimed to have no financial interest in the logging, he said.
"He tried to influence public policy without disclosing his interest," Tong said.
IDB is Incentive Design Builders and its owner is Kyle Dong. Dong also owns Koa Timber, which was to do the logging, and Hawaii Forest Preservation, LLC, which owns koa and ohia forests on the Big Island.
In 2004, the state fined Koa Timber and Hawaii Forest Preservation $149,430 for illegally harvesting koa and ohia trees on land in the state conservation district. The companies later withdrew their application.