Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, May 12, 1999

Pity the poor
Bishop Estate trustee

THE most amazing thing about the Bishop Estate mess is how the ousted trustees have managed to achieve the much coveted condition of victimhood.

People used to strive to succeed, or at least cope, but now the highest form of social standing is that of victim. In the old days, when the going got tough, the tough got going. Today, when the going gets tough, the whining, whimpering, weeping, blaming, hand-wringing and finger-pointing begins.

Lucky thing for the trustees, Victimhood Inc., is an equal opportunity employer.

So it was no surprise that shortly after being ousted as a Bishop Estate trustee, multi-millionaire and longtime political powerhouse Henry Peters was perched in front of television cameras doing a pretty good job of convincing the public that he was nothing but political roadkill, viciously run down by the mean old IRS and former state Attorney General Margery Bronster.

The fact that he just happened to be standing outside of the estate's lavish Kawaiahao offices at exactly 6 p.m. when the local television news programs went live proves that if you are going to be a victim, make sure you are victim to the largest audience possible. Henry laid out his victimhood for some seven minutes, a lifetime for primetime local news.

Like a true victim, Henry blamed his downfall on everyone but himself. His thesis essentially was this:

Bullet Bishop Estate has made lots of money since he's been a trustee.
Bullet Because it made lots of money, the trustees did their job.
Bullet The IRS essentially is staging another overthrow of the Hawaiian people.

It's a compelling argument. That is, if you ignore certain little facts, like even a chimp or a newspaper columnist could make money in the current stock market. You also have to ignore that Henry has become a multimillionaire off a charitable trust designed only to educate Hawaiian children.

Also, ignore that the trustees became millionaires not through any personal financial expertise, but mainly because they are allowed to skim the gravy from the forced sale of some of the most desirable land in the world. That instead of selflessly devoting themselves to the improvement of Hawaiian education, they personally piggy-backed on investments set up by the estate, made their friends rich through non-bid contracts, possibly took kickbacks from land deals and basically exploited their positions of trust for personal gain.

Henry Peters, under indictment along with fellow trustees Dickie Wong and estate resident bad boy Milton Holt, looked the camera in the eye, furrowed his brow and looked for all the world like a victim.

And I, for one, believed him. I felt sorry for him. I mean, he was crushed, betrayed, folded, spindled and psychologically mutilated. And I began to think, maybe he's right. Maybe the trustees WERE doing a great job. Maybe everyone else is wrong: several state judges, federal and state investigators, the IRS, Kamehameha School alumni, teachers and students, community leaders ... everyone is wrong. They had to be. Because, look at this man's face. Look at the eyebrows framing the sad eyes. This man has been wronged. Maybe this entire Bishop Estate thing has been a ghastly, monstrous mistake and the trustees ARE innocent victims of some vast, inhumane, racist conspiracy.

Then again, maybe not.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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