Thursday, April 30, 1998

Holt bar tabs list legislators

He entertained them at Bishop
Estate expense, IRS records
show; several of them deny it

By Rick Daysog


Former state Sen. Milton Holt reported that he entertained state legislators at Bishop Estate's expense at local restaurants and hostess bars, according to records the estate submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.

But several lawmakers denied that the meetings took place.


Available in
four formats:


Pick one
Files are 2.8 megs
and require hardware
and/or software to play.

After Holt was told yesterday of one legislator's objections, he said he mistakenly listed the wrong lawmaker's name when he completed the IRS forms. Holt, now a special projects officer at the estate, said he would send an amended version to the IRS correcting the error.

Sources familiar with the records sent to the IRS told the Star-Bulletin that Holt charged more than $2,500 on the estate's Visa cards at local restaurants, drinking establishments and nightclubs between 1992 and 1997, listing lawmakers as his guests.

Some $1,500 of the total was spent at two local hostess bars in 1992 and 1993.

These expenses are in addition to some $21,000 that Holt ran up in credit card charges and cash advances on estate Visa cards at Las Vegas casinos and local hostess bars and restaurants since 1992.

One critic of the Bishop Estate called the expenditures unsuitable for a tax-exempt trust that has a mission to educate native Hawaiian students.

"To me these are totally inappropriate expenses for the estate to be paying out," said longtime Bishop Estate watcher Desmond Byrne.

"You wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg. You wonder what else is out there."

During a Feb. 10, 1993, outing, Holt ran up a $540.50 tab at the Crystal Palace hostess bar, naming as his guests Senate President Norman Mizuguchi and Sen. Robert Bunda then a state representative, sources said.

That came after Holt ran up a $751 bill on the estate's charge cards at the former Monte Carlo hostess bar in August 1992, listing Mizuguchi, Bunda and Sen. Joe Tanaka as his guests.

Holt charged $260 on an estate credit card at the Monte Carlo club in April 1993, listing Bunda, House Finance Chairman Calvin Say and House Judiciary Chairman Terrance Tom as guests.

Several lawmakers listed by Holt denied that they attended the hostess club meetings.

Mizuguchi, who became Senate president in 1994, said he did not meet with Holt at either hostess club and would have no reason to do so back then since they had been in opposing factions of the Senate.

When told of Mizuguchi's objections, Holt said he mistakenly wrote down Mizuguchi's name on the IRS form when he should have written Richard Matsuura's name. Matsuura, a respected former Big Island senator, died of cancer last year.

Holt -- noting that he had filled out the IRS forms several years after the charges were made -- said he mistook Mizuguchi's name for Matsuura's because both names started with an "M." Holt denied that he was using Matsuura's name because he was dead and could not defend himself, saying he and Matsuura went to the Monte Carlo club "once in a while."

A former Senate colleague of Matsuura's doubted Holt's account, saying Matsuura wasn't the type of person who would frequent hostess bars.

"Matsuura did not drink," said fornmer Sen. Ann Kobayuashi, who said she wasn't aware of any visits to the Monte Carlo club by either Matsuura or Mizuguchi.

"He did not even drink coffee."

Bunda, then a state representative, denied meeting Holt at the Monte Carlo and Crystal Palace, saying he had met with Holt at traditional restaurants like the Columbia Inn and the Wisteria. He said it bothered him that his name was used improperly in reference to Holt's hostess bar charges, calling it "damaging."

"I don't like it when people use your name for expenses," Bunda said.

Tom, who became House Judiciary chairman in 1993, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Say, House Finance chairman since 1993, said he couldn't recall any such meeting that may have occurred five years ago.

Tanaka said he met with Holt during the 1992 session but said he couldn't remember meeting Holt at the Monte Carlo club.

Holt declined comment on credit card charges involving lawmakers other than Mizuguchi, saying the information was supposed to be confidential. An estate spokesman had no immediate comment.

Bishop Estate, the state's largest private landowner, has long enjoyed a close relationship with the state Legislature. The multibillion-dollar estate's five trustees include former Senate President Richard Wong, and former House Speaker Henry Peters.

In the past, the estate has said that it did not incur any lobbying expenses at the local level, according to Byrne. But Holt's expenditures raised significant questions as to whether it was trying to influence legislation, he said. "Unless they have hope to obtain some benefit, why should the estate being paying this kind of money for entertainment?" Byrne asked.

The restaurant and bar tabs were included in the estate's response to inquiries from the IRS in its audit of the trust. The IRS is looking at various estate expenditures and wants to know whether employees and trustees received benefits or perks at the expense of the trust.

The attorney general's office subpoenaed the estate for Holt's records along with volumes of other confidential IRS records, also known as information document requests, in its investigation into potential wrongdoing by trustees.

The Star-Bulletin obtained details of several other credit card transactions at traditional isle restaurants listing lawmakers as Holt's guests.

Here are some examples:

Bullet A $102.90 bill at Sam Choy's Diamond Head Restaurant on March 15, 1996, that listed Sen. Malama Solomon and Sen. Lehua Fernandes Salling as his guests. Solomon could not be reached for comment. Fernandes Salling's husband said yesterday that he would check to see whether his wife attended the meeting but did not call back.

Bullet A Nov. 1, 1995, charge for $197.55 at the Nicholas Nickolas Restaurant, listing Mizuguchi as Holt's guest. Mizuguchi said he did not recall meeting Holt at the restaurant in 1995. But Holt said yesterday that he thought that Mizuguchi attended that meeting.

Bullet An October 30, 1995, charge for $115.32 at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant, naming Sen. Les Ihara and Sen. David Ige as Holt's guests. Ihara said he's sure that he did not meet with Holt in October 1995, noting that his calendar shows no such meeting was scheduled.

But Ihara said he met with Holt, then chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee, and six or seven members of the committee, including Ige, at the Gordon Biersch restaurant during the 1995 session earlier in the year.

Ihara, then vice chairman of the committee, said the estate did not pay the bill and would have been prohibited from doing so.

Ihara said it's possible Holt may have made a mistake in the report to the IRS or could have made it up. Ige said he remembers meeting with Holt and Ihara back in 1995 but could not recall the date.

The new credit card charges come as Holt is facing scrutiny from federal law enforcement officials, state officials and Bishop Estate trustees Oswald Stender and Gerard Jervis, who have opened their own inquiry.

The attorney general's office questioned Holt under subpoena earlier this month as part of its investigation into the estate.

The state Campaign Spending Commission and the FBI also are looking into irregularities in Holt's election funds. Some $9,000 allegedly is unaccounted for in Holt's campaign chest.

Holt denied any wrongdoing involving his campaign funds. He also has said that he has paid back Bishop Estate all of the credit card expenses and has always intended to do so.

Holt lost his Senate seat to Suzanne Chun Oakland in 1996.

Under state law, legislators aren't required to list gifts less than $200 in their annual disclosure statements. But they are prohibited from accepting gifts intended to influence or reward lawmakers.

None of the Holt expenditures were listed by legislators in their annual gift disclosure statements with the state Ethics Commission.

Daniel Mollway, executive director of the Ethics Commission, declined comment on the specifics of the issue.

But in general, lawmakers and state officials cannot receive gifts from lobbyists or other interested parties which may raise "an appearance of impropriety," he said.

Bishop Estate Archive

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1998 Honolulu Star-Bulletin