David Shapiro
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By David Shapiro

Saturday, December 11, 1999

Holt’s friends aided
in his downfall

Milton Holt has used his political and business associates most of his adult life to enable his self-destructive personal habits. But those people used Holt, too, and it's a shame how little they did to help the out-of-control former senator turn his life and considerable talents onto a more positive path.

It shouldn't have taken a federal judge to tell Holt he needed to do something about his drug problem. The message shouldn't have waited until Holt was being sentenced to a year in prison for betraying his public trust by stealing from his campaign fund.

It was obvious long ago even to casual observers that Holt had a serious problem with substance abuse. His "friends" had to see it.

A few years ago I wrote a column criticizing Holt's bizarre behavior after a series of incidents that included spouse abuse, an arrest for drunk and disorderly conduct in New Orleans and an unexplained disappearance during a key part of the legislative session.

Lobbyists for special interests who relied on Holt to get what they wanted from the Legislature came after me like angry hens to defend their "good friend."

One lobbyist accused me of stirring up a media frenzy against Holt by implying he was a "subversive, grandstanding, disloyal, money-grubbing, Bishop Estate-sucking, sleazeball with drunken, violent propensities."

The sarcastic portrayal was his, not mine, but in hindsight a pretty fair description.

Even the Hawaii Newspaper Agency's lobbyist complained to my boss that I shouldn't have made Holt mad because he was our chief defender against bills to end our hold on state legal ads. Such a bill did, in fact, pass after Holt lost his seat.

I remember telling one of the lobbyists, "If Milton is such a good friend of yours, why don't you remove your lips from his rear end long enough to tell him that he really needs to get help before he crashes and burns?"

Lobbyists weren't the only culprits. What about Holt's fellow senators who kept giving him more power as his behavior became more erratic? What about the trustees of the Bishop Estate, where Holt worked, who looked the other way as he squandered thousands of dollars intended to educate Hawaiian children on trips to hostess bars and casinos? When trustees finally had to ask him for the money back under IRS scrutiny, they adjusted his pay to cover it. What about the legislators who accompanied Holt on his bar hopping and then expected him to lie for them?

And what about the business friends who helped him launder the campaign funds he illegally put to personal use?

These were no friends of Milton Holt. As the commercial says, friends don't let friends drive drunk. They all wanted something from him and, after getting it, did nothing to interrupt his slide into the dark world of drug abuse.

This is not to suggest Holt was a victim. He brought his troubles upon himself and deserved the punishment he got. Only time will tell if he was sincere in accepting responsibility for his actions. But unlike most of his cohorts in all of this, at least he admitted wrongdoing.

Holt says he's turning to a higher power to get his life back on track and put his abilities to more productive use. Let's wish him luck and give him the encouragement, space and aloha he needs to make it happen.

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

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