Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, September 24, 1997

Cayetano’s investigation
of Bishop Estate

THE Bishop Estate trustees are about to join a long list of people who know why the governor picked a bulldog as his pet. For years the Bishop Estate enjoyed the best of worlds, cozying up between a supportive Legislature and benign governor.

For two decades, during the administrations of Governors Ariyoshi and Waihee, the estate had no trouble with either branch of government.

One may argue that Bishop Estate was forced by the Legislature to sell off leasehold property, but the process only enriched the estate and its trustees.

The third branch of government, the judiciary, already was holding hands with the estate because the trustees were appointed by the Supreme Court justices.

Controlling the Bishop Estate was always on the Democrats "to do" list, so it was not surprising that it was the top gunners in the party -- Matsuo Takabuki, William Richardson, Henry Peters and Richard Wong -- who would be appointed.

The estate trusteeships graduated from being a position of power with control over huge tracts of land to an obscene spoils system, with rewards for the politically faithful.

Enter Ben Cayetano, a new governor who while in the Legislature was one of the Democratic establishment's sharpest critics. When he ran for governor, Democratic power brokers worried what he would do.

They knew he would not be a friend of the status quo. But they never thought he would jump into an investigation of Bishop Estate.

He did and this one is for real.

Ask the dairies and the state Health Department about Cayetano's investigation of the heptachlor milk contamination scandal.

Ask former Senate buddy and Big Island Mayor Dante Carpenter about how Cayetano helped guide the Senate's investigation into prison guard abuses.

If you don't think Cayetano is willing to go the distance, ask state Budget Director Earl Anzai, who recalls teaming up with Cayetano at midnight to stake out the garbage dump during the heptachlor investigation, waiting for secret dumpings of contaminated milk.

Now Cayetano has jumped with both feet into the investigation of the estate's financial practices. First he gave the nod to Attorney General Margery Bronster to size up the case. When she reported back there might be something there, Cayetano said go for it.

To back up his commitment he added Ray Kamikawa, state tax director, to the investigatory team. Kamikawa is a former tax attorney. He used to work for the Internal Revenue Service. Friends and colleagues privately describe him as a single-minded samurai, not given to losing interest in a case.

AT the same time that Cayetano has put a tough investigatory team into place, he opened up a second front, by taking on the estate on a political level.

He says the trustees' commissions, ranging between $840,000 and $1 million, are way too high and promised legislation next year to reduce them.

If nothing else happens, it means the Bishop Estate will go through the winter and into the spring on the defensive, facing attacks from the state lawyers and the state Legislature.

Bishop Estate lost an ally when the governorship went to Cayetano. The question now is did the Hawaiian students, awaiting the benefits of a first-class education, gain one.

Bishop Estate Archive

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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