'Smear' against Case being reviewed
At issue is an e-mail that questions his wife's character
The Honolulu Liquor Commission is investigating an e-mail sent by one of its employees on the city's computer system -- a message U.S. Senate candidate Ed Case is calling "an obvious last-minute smear" against him.
"It's completely untrue and whoever started it knows that," said Case, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. "I have said very directly that the political culture of Hawaii is broken and must change if we're going to move forward, and last-minute smears like this have become standard in politics in Hawaii and we have to change that."
The Akaka campaign said it has nothing to do with the e-mail. "The Akaka campaign emphatically denies engaging in any smear campaign involving Rep. Case," said Andy Winer, Akaka campaign chairman.
The e-mail questions whether Case's wife, Audrey, is related to Jennifer Toma Bainum, wife of former City Councilman Duke Bainum. Bainum attributed his loss in the 2004 mayoral election to a last-minute whisper campaign that politically attacked the character of his wife.
Case and campaign spokesman Randy Obata both said that Audrey Case is not related to Jennifer Toma Bainum.
"It is everything that is wrong with our political culture -- not just that it's incorrect, not just that it was purposely sent out the last minute, not just (the e-mail sender) was no doubt not acting alone, but that it clearly violates city ethics rules," Case said.
Liquor Commission Administrator Dewey Kim said that he was made aware of the e-mail yesterday afternoon, and his office will be investigating.
"I think it probably came out of our office and probably that an employee did not use good judgment in sending it out. So that's why we need to kind of look into it and have somebody kind of put all the facts together," Kim said. "If it was an improper use of the city e-mail, we certainly will take all the appropriate steps to sanction. This should not have happened."
City ethics laws prohibit city employees from using city resources for noncity activities, said Chuck Totto, city Ethics Commission executive director.
"If there's a political activity or there's a political purpose behind using a city resource, that would be inappropriate," said Totto, who could only comment generally and not on this specific case. "So that's the general thing we look at is what was the purpose -- was it a political purpose? Was a city resource used, a computer, an e-mail or city time?"
The e-mail was sent to the Star-Bulletin. Case campaign spokesman Randy Obata said that a campaign volunteer also received a similar e-mail.
Case called on the city to release preliminary findings of its investigation before tomorrow's election.
City spokesman Bill Brennan said the city administration does not condone using the city e-mail system for political purposes.
"There's a prohibition against all city employees using the city e-mail system for noncity-related matters, and I think there are separate issues for city employees using city time and city equipment for political issues," Brennan said.
Winer, who ran Bainum's mayoral bid, said he does not know the woman listed as the sender of the e-mail.
"Literally, it's news to me. It's the first I'm hearing of it. The name is not familiar and certainly nothing that the campaign would either authorize or encourage," Winer said. "I have no idea who this is, and it's certainly nothing that the campaign had anything to do with."
Case said, "I think Andy Winer learned very well in the Bainum campaign what works and what doesn't work, unfortunately. Although I have no reason whatsoever to believe or disbelieve his statement that he didn't know anything about it, I have no doubt based on my experience with Sen. Akaka's campaign that there are people in his campaign that are well versed historically in the long-standing smear tradition that unfortunately has marked Hawaii politics over several decades."
Winer replied, "Throughout this campaign, Sen. Akaka has focused on the issues that matters to the voters of Hawaii. ... On the other hand, the Case campaign has systematically avoided any discussion of these important issues and instead has chosen to run a campaign based on matters that have nothing to do with the critical issues that are facing this country."