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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, September 12, 1998

Cayetano deserves
credit for probe

IN a desperate move to avoid eviction, Bishop Estate trustees are accusing Attorney General Margery Bronster of seeking their removal only to improve Gov. Ben Cayetano's re-election chances. Many in the community also suspect political motives in the timing of Bronster's move to oust the trustees.

That's just not fair. The governor's gutsy decision last year to order an investigation of the powerful trustees was a huge political risk that may well combine with voter alarm about the economy to cost him his job.

The governor moved against the trustees knowing that the investigation would expose the rot in his own Democratic Party. He knew it would lay bare a pattern of greed that corrupted the integrity of previous state administrations, the Legislature and the judiciary.

Cayetano knew vindictive trustees would spare no expense in trying to discredit him. He knew his investigation would shatter key elements of the "old boys' network" that Democratic governors count on to win elections.

He had to know it would lead many voters to conclude that the only way to clean up the mess is to end the long run of Democratic rule.

Despite the political consequences, Cayetano set the attorney general loose to investigate as she saw fit. He hasn't interfered to protect top Democrats -- some of them his personal friends. He let the chips fall where they may.

The clear evidence is that he acted out of honest desire to do the right thing for the Hawaiian children served by the Bishop Estate and for the integrity of state institutions.

Cayetano's critics can offer fair arguments why he should be denied a second term, but his conduct of the historic Bishop Estate investigation isn't one of them.

Who would have believed that the state Supreme Court would remove itself from selecting Bishop Estate trustees? That the Legislature would be forced to control trustee compensation? That trustee Lokelani Lindsey would be forced out of Kamehameha Schools? That the courts and their masters would finally hold trustees accountable? That a Democratic administration would blow the whistle on such party heavyweights as trustees Henry Peters and Richard Wong and Bishop Estate employee Milton Holt?

The fall of the trustees has convinced people that things can change in Hawaii, energizing Linda Lingle's campaign against Cayetano and bringing promising new leaders like Bishop Estate critics Beadie Dawson and Randall Roth to the forefront.

Give credit to trustee Oswald Stender for his courage in standing alone against the abuses of the other trustees.

Give credit to the parents, alumni and faculty of Kamehameha Schools for their courage in starting all of this by standing up for their kids. Give credit to the authors of "Broken Trust" for their courage in challenging the corruption of our political and judicial institutions.

BUT also give credit to Ben Cayetano for his courage in making the tough choice to bring the trustees to justice when he could have ducked the risk and let the storm pass. On the state level, only an attorney general acting with the governor's support could have extracted the damning information to make it happen.

There's little question that Lingle will keep her promise to continue the investigation if elected. Who knows, Randall Roth may end up attorney general in a Lingle administration.

But it's by no means certain that another governor would have had the courage to make the call Cayetano did on Aug. 13, 1997, when he plunged into dangerous territory and took on the state's most powerful institution.

Bishop Estate Archive

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.

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