Web sites offer data on campaign gifts
I am a supporter of the state's gas cap law. However, I believe it is being undermined by rich oil companies who contribute money to politicians. Is there an easy way to find out if they are receiving money from lobbyists and oil companies? Also, is there a way a politician can avoid being listed on the gifts disclosure list? I can't find a particular senator on the list.
Answer: You can check on campaign contributions to state and county officials on the state Campaign Spending Commission Web site, www.hawaii.gov/campaign/electedofficials.htm.
The site has reports from 141 elected state and county officials.
As part of its responsibilities, the commission tracks political contributions and posts that information online for public viewing. The reports include the amount and source of contributions to politicians, as well as how candidates spend the money.
You can check on gifts to state officials on the Hawaii State Ethics Commission Web site, www.hawaii.gov/ethics/.
Click on "public records" and you'll find 2005 financial disclosure statements for elected state officials, including legislators, governor, lieutenant governor, and members of the Board of Education and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, as well as appointed state officials.
There also are gifts disclosure statements of elected and appointed state officials, as well as listings of registered lobbyists and organizations represented by registered lobbyists, and lobbying expenditure reports.
We found gifts disclosure reports from 47 of the state's 76 legislators, including the senator you mentioned.
Like paying income taxes, it is a matter of self reporting -- "the obligation is on them (the officials)" to report the gifts, said Daniel Mollway, executive director of the State Ethics Commission.
State ethics guidelines say a state official or employee "may not solicit or accept a gift if it can be reasonably inferred under the circumstances that the gift is intended to influence the performance of your state duties or reward you in your state capacity."
They must file a gifts disclosure statement with the State Ethics Commission if they, their spouse, or their dependent children "receive from one source any gift or gifts whose aggregate value exceeds $200"; if the person giving the gift has interests that may be affected by official action taken by the recipient; and if the gift is not exempt from the reporting requirement.
"It has been the case that some things have been reported" that violated the law "that prohibits gifts that appear to be given to influence or reward (someone)," Mollway said
Meanwhile, some officials may not report gifts because the value falls under the $200 threshold.
But even if certain gifts are not reported, the Ethics Commission often finds out about them anyway, Mollway said. If the gift is considered inappropriate or unacceptable, the commission "will contact (the official) and say straight away, that's not an acceptable gift in the first place," he said.
You also can check lobbying expenditure forms to find out who is giving what to whom.
Among other things, lobbyists are required to report if they spend more than $25 on a given day "with respect to any legislator they lobby." For example, if they take a legislator to lunch, spending $25, "then a legislator's name should appear on the lobbyist's form."
As in the gifts disclosure form, the burden is on the lobbyist to report the "gifts," which often are in the form of food and beverages, Mollway said.
In general, a member of the public can look at campaign spending reports, gifts disclosure statements and lobbying expenditure forms "for any indications of what's been given to legislators and how they may see that in terms of how legislators are making decisions," he said.
On the city level, officials and employees are prohibited from taking any gift from one source valued at more than $200 in one fiscal year, said Charles Totto, executive director of the Honolulu Ethics Commission.
The gift in question would be from someone whose interests can be affected by an employee doing city work. But there is no reporting requirement as for state employees, so the city's ethics law "relies on the honesty and integrity of the city personnel," Totto said.
While there is a $200 cap on the value of an acceptable gift, Totto also explained that some city employees may not accept any gift under $200. For example, no member of law enforcement, including police, prosecutors and liquor commission officials, can accept any gifts.
For other, "general" city workers, the restriction will depend on their jobs.
Basically, "if you are an officer or employee of the city who regulates, or permits or reviews contracts, you should not accept gifts from those people you regulate, or permit ... at least not anything beyond a token of aloha," such as a box of manapua at Christmas, Totto said.
You can find out more about the city's ethics guidelines at www.honolulu.gov/ethics/.
Totto also said you can contact him directly with any questions or complaints about the misuse of city resources or position, or conflicts of interest involving city personnel. Call 527-5573 or e-mail email@example.com.
To make amends
On Wednesday, April 19, my wife and I were coming onto Kapiolani Boulevard about 4:45 p.m. As we were crossing the two lanes, a car came by in the third coned-off lane, heading Diamond Head. I slammed on the brakes and barely missed the car, or so I thought. We did not feel any impact and so we proceeded on our way. We were going to have dinner at Like Like Drive Inn before church. When we pulled into the parking lot, a car was behind us. A gentleman stepped out and asked me if I had hit him. I told him no and my wife also said no. He thanked us and went on his way. Because Like Like was closed for renovation, we drove to Zippy's. When we got out of the car, I noticed that there was some gray paint on the front bumper. Apparently, we did make contact with the other car. Unfortunately, the gentleman had left, thinking he had the wrong people. We did not get his license number so if he reads this, I would like him to call so we can make restitution. -- T.T.O.
(If that person will call Kokua Line at 529-4773 and leave a message, we will put him in contact with this honest gentleman.)
To the male driver at the crosswalk outside the entrance to Longs Kahala Mall around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 15. You saw me crossing, yet deliberately ignored the word "Stop" painted right before the crosswalk and continued to plow your luxury sedan right through. Shame on you for your reckless and rude behavior. -- No Name
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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