Tuesday, April 20, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
A Senate vote will decide whether Attorney
General Margery Bronster keeps her job.

Governor fears
factionalism might
affect vote on

The Attorney General's
reappointment is
in jeopardy

By Craig Gima


Gov. Ben Cayetano says he hopes an internal Senate power struggle will not derail the reappointment of Margery Bronster for attorney general.

"What I hope will not happen is that people vote against her because of factional loyalties to different factions in the Senate," Cayetano said. "Then a third party becomes a victim of politics."

But Cayetano said he is confident Bronster will be confirmed "by a comfortable margin" when her nomination is voted on by the full Senate.

As the Star-Bulletin reported Saturday, Bronster appears to be having the most trouble of Cayetano's nominees. There are apparently at least 10 votes for confirmation, but that is still three votes short of a majority of the 25 senators.

Four senators said they are voting no, four others are leaning against her confirmation and seven are undecided.

Those undecided or against her nomination are, for the most part, Senate dissidents and five of the six freshmen senators.

Senate leadership had planned to vote on the confirmation of all of Cayetano's Cabinet nominees by the end of the week, but Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Matt Matsunaga said he's not sure if that will still happen.

"I guess we'd like to, but I'm not sure if that's going to be true with Margery," he said.

Matsunaga said that even though there are a large number of undecided senators, he believes Bronster is picking up support.

"I think if people really review what she has done as attorney general, I think they will be hard-pressed to say she has not served the state's interest very well," said Matsunaga (D, Palolo).

Those who oppose or have concerns about Bronster's reappointment cite a variety of reasons. Most question why other departments have come to the Legislature to hire outside attorneys and why there are only two attorneys to help the Department of Education control the cost of the Felix consent decree.

Sen. Jan Buen (D, Waihee) said most of the calls in her office have been against Bronster's reappointment. She said teachers are "angry and very upset" that the state does not provide attorneys in meetings when the parents of special-needs children bring their own lawyers.

Other senators question how the attorney general is handling Department of Hawaiian Home Lands individual claims, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs defense in the Rice vs. Cayetano lawsuit and the way the department responded to the Democratic Party's challenge of the general election result in a Waianae House district.

Cayetano said he has talked to some senators about their concerns and thinks they can be worked out with further discussion.

"There's an explanation for certain things that have been done," he said.

He added that budget restrictions and the demands of the Bishop Estate investigation and other cases have put a strain on the workload of the attorney general's office and said he has encouraged departments to seek outside lawyers if they can find the money.

Cayetano also said some of the opposition in the Senate to Bronster's reappointment may be coming from the Bishop Estate.

"I think that taking on powerful special interests has its drawbacks, and I think that if you look at very closely some of the folks who are opposed to her you will find that these folks are supporters of the Bishop Estate and other entities like that," Cayetano said.

Senators say the Bishop Estate investigation is not a factor in the opposition to Bronster, but there are three senators with apparent financial ties to the estate.

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