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Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Ethics group wants
limits on Washington
Place uses

By Richard Borreca

The state Ethics Commission is trying again to limit the political uses of the state-supported governor's mansion, Washington Place.

The commission is asking that campaign activities, including soliciting votes and raising money, be specifically prohibited.

"Washington Place is a state facility, which is supported by state tax dollars," the commission notes in a letter to the Legislature.

The proposed law would also reverse a 1978 ethics commission opinion that said Washington Place was a personal residence and permitted the governor to hold campaign functions and fund-raisers there.

First lady Vicky Cayetano, however, said that both her husband, Gov. Ben Cayetano, and former Gov. John Waihee have had policies that the historic Beretania Street mansion should not be used for fund raising of any sort.

"I don't think it is appropriate to have fund-raisers in the home of the former queen," she said.

The Ethics Commission added that if Washington Place were to be used for political fund-raisers, "public confidence in government would be seriously undermined."

Dan Mollway, Ethics Commission executive director, said the commission's proposal would stop campaign coffee hours or meetings, if the purpose was to raise money and convince people to vote for someone.

In 1996, the state Republican Party filed a protest with the Ethics Commission when Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono used Washington Place for a fund-raiser for a Democratic women's group, EMILY's List.

Hirono's office said the mainland group had asked her to host the event and she didn't know it was a fund-raiser.

The first lady was also surprised in 1998 when the Sisterhood of Temple Emanu-El sponsored a Passover Seder dinner at Washington Place and charged $45 and $75 to the event.

At the time, she said Washington Place is to be used only as a site for meetings or special events, but not to raise money.

Cayetano said yesterday that the Ethics Commission proposal should carefully define what is a campaign activity, or it would stop a new governor from having any political discussions with advisers or supporters at Washington Place. "The intent is good, but they should define campaign activity," she added.

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