Tuesday, October 20, 1998

The legal problems of
Hawaii Democrats

THE arraignment of Milton Holt in federal court on charges of stealing money from his campaign fund did not occur at an opportune time for Hawaii's Democratic Party with a hotly contested election coming up. It could remind voters of the seamy side of the party's record.

Holt is a former state senator, employed by the Bishop Estate. As a senator, he was a prominent member of the Democratic political establishment but his record was marred by erratic behavior. He lost a bid for re-election in 1996.

Holt was indicted on two counts of theft from his campaign fund. He is accused of writing four checks totaling $14,695 to a local printing company, Ryan's Graphics Inc., and its president, Neal Kunimura. Ryan's and Kunimura allegedly returned $9,940 to Holt, who pocketed the money. He pleaded not guilty and faces trial Dec. 15. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each of the two counts.

Holt's situation recalls the case of former House Speaker Daniel Kihano, also a Democrat, who was convicted of stealing from his campaign fund and sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Holt's Bishop Estate connection also brings to mind the case of a current state legislator, Sen. Marshall Ige, who is under investigation for allegedly allowing the Bishop Estate to pay off $18,000 in campaign debts through an illegal scheme. Ige had the gall to ask Attorney General Margery Bronster to provide his committee with information about her office's contract with a private firm hired to conduct the investigation.

Moreover, two of the principal targets in the attorney general's investigation of the Bishop Estate, trustees Henry Peters and Richard Wong, are former pillars of the Democratic establishment, having been speaker of the House and president of the Senate, respectively. Their political prominence undoubtedly resulted in their appointments to the Bishop Estate board.

Governor Cayetano deserves credit for ordering the investigation of the Bishop Estate. But the fact remains that the Democratic establishment has a lot of dirty linen to wash.


Microsoft’s dominance

AMERICA is well onto the on-ramp of the information highway, but who will control the toll gates in the years ahead? The Justice Department maintains that Bill Gates' software producer Microsoft Corp. has illegally wrested control from its competitors, while Gates maintains his company -- the world's richest -- has behaved in the American way. The future of cyberspace may be determined as the two sides square off in a federal courtroom in Washington.

With 90 percent of computers run with Microsoft's Windows operating system, Microsoft indeed dominates the digital age as it passes from infancy. The question is how it managed to do so -- through imaginative and ambitious efforts or, as Justice charges, by using illegal, anticompetitive business practices. The company allegedly is using the same tactics in an attempt to control access to the Internet by squeezing out competing browsers, especially that of Netscape Communications Corp., once the predominant vehicle for the information highway.

Consumers have watched computer prices drop sharply in recent years. But the lower costs have hidden the fact that Microsoft's prices for its operating systems have more than doubled. Manufacturers of PCs are basically required to include Windows in their computers to gain consumer acceptance. The operating system, which amounted to 4 percent of a computer's price eight years ago, now comprises 12 percent. The more Microsoft dominates the market, the skimpier it can be on quality and the costlier on price.

The repercussions of an unfavorable verdict could be enormous for Microsoft; antitrust laws allow competing companies to latch onto verdicts favoring the government to claim compensation from being victims of illegal business practices. Microsoft may opt for a settlement if it foresees a such a verdict.

Consumers might gain if Microsoft were forced to break up into separate companies (not likely), refashion Windows to accommodate Netscape's browser or place Windows in the public domain, allowing other companies to compete in making Windows systems. Although the trial is expected to last only two months, resolution of the conflict may be years away.


Protecting the oceans

DESTRUCTIVE fishing and polluting activities pose grave threats to the oceans. Hawaii, in the center of the Pacific, cannot be indifferent to those concerns. So it was highly appropriate that officials of 17 Asia-Pacific nations met in Honolulu last week to consider recommendations to protect the oceans.

It was the first Asia-Pacific Cooperation Oceans Conference, and about 80 delegates attended. Among other decisions, the delegates approved a U.S. proposal to expand the Pacific observing system to improve knowledge of such events as El Nino and share climate data. D. James Baker, undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere in the federal Department of Commerce, headed the conference. He said several thousand floating buoys will be located in all the oceans about every 200 miles to measure currents and temperatures in the implementation of the observing program.

The conference issued a declaration with recommendations for leaders of the 21 APEC countries, meeting next month in Malaysia. The APEC leaders will be asked to implement a program to identify major land-based sources of marine pollution and to reduce pollutants.

"Now is the time to start protecting the oceans," Baker said. "We can only do it with international cooperation." That is certainly true, and the United States must give full support to such efforts. Hawaii has a large stake in their success.

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John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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