Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Law of gravity
also applies to
Hawaii politics

THE surest way to fail in politics is to forget the simple laws that we must all obey. Not the ones passed by the Legislature, Congress or even this week's version of the City Council, but the laws that really govern us, like the law of gravity.

"What goes up must come down" is the first law being explored by island politicians. Right now Richard Wong, who served longer than anyone else as Senate president, and Henry Peters, perhaps the most dominating personality to ever serve as speaker in the state House, have found that not even their political connections could save them from being bounced from the Bishop Estate board.

For Wong, who survived by canny coalition-building, and Peters, who relished a "take-no-prisoners" autocratic style, the court ruling means an end to their political power.

With apologies to Newton, that is not the only law of physics being forgotten.

Right now Gov. Ben Cayetano and the state Senate are testing the law that for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction.

After listening to Cayetano tell the public the Senate was in the middle of a "do-nothing legislative session," the senators decided what they wanted to do was spike Cayetano's most controversial cabinet appointees, Attorney General Margery Bronster and Budget Director Earl Anzai.

The actual fight was more complicated than that, but in the end, it was a decision to declare political war with the chief executive.

Right now, the Senate is waiting to see the governor's reaction.

One would be to start chopping senators' favorite parts of the budget. But that would mean taking away construction projects and other goodies also endorsed by House members, who have been generally supportive of Cayetano.

A more logical reaction would be to find candidates to run against the offending senators.

That is something the Senate is expecting. But before Cayetano can attack, the Senate has one more crack at Cayetano during the 2000 legislative session.

Anyone betting on statesmanship?

FINALLY, here's the rest of the story on campaign contributions. In a recent column about the big campaign expenditures racked up by incumbents in off-election years, I mentioned that City Councilman Duke Bainum had spent about $600,000 in the four years preceding his victory last fall.

Not so, Bainum said. Actually it was more like $400,000. But the Campaign Spending Commission counted a $200,000 loan repayment from his 1994 campaign as an expense in 1995.

How so? It actually is by design in order to make the books balance out, explains Brian Nakamura, with the Campaign Spending Commission.

He says the loan came from Bainum and when he forgave the loan the money would "reappear" in his campaign report as a surplus if it was not taken as an expense in the last election.

So if a candidate lends himself money and spends it, it is recorded as an expense and a loan or deficit. But when the loan is forgiven, it has to be included as a contribution, according to Nakamura. But if the contribution doesn't have an equal deduction as an expense, it would incorrectly appear that the candidate has a surplus.

Another reason why state campaign spending laws need to be revamped.

Legislature Directory
Hawaii Revised Statutes
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Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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