Monday, April 6, 1998

Trustees paid nothing
to D.C. lobbyists in ’97

That was down sharply from
'96; the usual isle groups
headed the list

By Pete Pichaske


WASHINGTON -- Led by the University of Hawaii and Matson Navigation, Hawaii government agencies and public and private companies spent nearly $1 million last year on Washington lobbyists.

A review of lobbying reports shows that spending on lobbyists last year followed the same pattern as in 1996, the first year detailed spending reports were required.

Hawaii's list featured virtually the same spenders, including the same who were big (UH and Matson), mid-range (Dole Food and the state government) and small (Hawaiian Electric and Maui Pineapple).

The one striking change is Bishop Estate.

In 1996, the wealthy trust ran up lobbying bills of $300,000 -- more than anyone else in Hawaii except the UH -- in a failed attempt to scuttle a bill penalizing tax-exempt organizations that overpay their directors.

Last year, according to the reports, Bishop Estate spent nothing on Washington lobbyists.

Another dramatic change was the Bishop Museum, which in 1996 spent nothing on lobbyists but last year reported spending $180,000. According to the lobbying report, the money was spent to track appropriations bills regarding veterans, housing and NASA education programs, and the hotly debated highway construction bill.

The UH, meanwhile, trimmed its sails slightly, with the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology spending less than $10,000 last year on its staff lobbyist (also a faculty member) compared with $60,000 in 1996.

The university also spent $274,000 last year on Cassidy and Associates, a top academic lobbying firm here with whom the school has a multiyear contract.

"Like most universities, we want to have a lobbying presence in Washington," said Dean O. Smith, the university's interim senior vice president.

"There are some aspects of research funding that require the use of a congressional lobbyist."

Proving the money is well-spent is difficult, Smith acknowledged, but he pointed to the $45 million oceanography vessel that was recently funded by Congress and awarded to UH. "That was our top priority (for federal funding) for the past few years," he said.

"For $269,000 or so a year, we have a $45 million ship."

Hawaii's other big spender, Matson Navigation, paid $200,000 last year to longtime staff lobbyist Philip Grill, who maintains an office here.

Matson is the only Hawaiian company with its own lobbyist here. The rest rely on Washington lobbying firms who are often specialists in the appropriate field.

"There are many federal issues that affect our business. We need to be in touch with all that activity and be involved," said Keoni Wagner, spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines. "We depend on Dow, Lohnes to do that for us."

Hawaiian paid Dow, Lohnes & Albertson, a Washington law firm, $20,000 to track legislation to reinstate the airport trust fund excise taxes.

The state of Hawaii spent $20,000 for a lobbyist to keep track of a handful of issues, including funding for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Kapolei Airport.

But the state Department of Transportation paid another $60,000 to Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson & Hand, perhaps the best-known lobbying firm in Washington, to keep an eye on several transportation bills.

Transportation spokeswoman Marilyn Kali said the firm has provided invaluable assistance in helping Hawaii get its fair share of the multibillion-dollar highway construction reauthorization bill making its way through Congress.

"They've been instrumental in keeping us informed and telling us what we need to do in order not to be overlooked," she said.

The local companies using Washington lobbyists most sparingly were Hawaiian Electric and the Maui Pineapple Co. Each spent less than $10,000 on lobbying.

Bishop Estate Archive

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