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Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Filing reports on
spending electronically

TODAY'S good news is that sometimes government plans actually work.

Such an occurrence is infrequent enough to be worth a special mention.

At issue is the Campaign Spending Commission's long-delayed, circumvented, stalled and whined-about plans for candidates to file their spending reports electronically.

On the surface this is not much to ask. State law directs candidates to divulge who is giving them money, how much and when. They are also supposed to say how they are spending the money.

Rows of numbers on reams of paper, however, may be useful to statisticians and college researchers, but won't help the public understand who is getting what.

If you wanted to find out who was tossing the cash at politicians, the old Campaign Spending Commission was useless for those who had less than a week to massage the numbers.

Enter computers and the Internet. Candidates could use computers to enter all their expenses and send it to the commission via the Internet. Or they could drop a computer disk off at the commission's office.

There was only one problem, symbolized in politicians like City Councilman Romy Cachola, a former state representative. When he was in the Legislature, Cachola was against the idea, according to Robert Watada, the Campaign Spending Commission's executive director.

Cachola wasn't against open government or in favor of secret funding for politicians. Cachola was afraid of the computer.

"I don't know how to use it," Cachola told Watada.

"Romy, if you can't enter the information, your son can, let him do," Watada counseled.

Watada had already talked to the councilman's son and knew he could handle it.

"Beginning with filing their organizational reports, filing all reports and termination of the committee can be accomplished without ever setting foot in this office," Watada said, describing a political electronic cradle-to-grave system.

"There is no need for human intervention and all information on contributions and expenditures will be available to us and the public in real time within seconds from the time the information is released by the candidate," he said.

WATADA reports that Cachola and family had no problems with the computer reporting. That was a lucky break for the new councilman, because, unlike the state Legislature, the Council and the mayor are required by law to send in electronic reports.

The law now requires that all candidates, except those for the Legislature, the Board of Education and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs file via computer. It isn't lost on anyone that the legislative laggards are also the ones who wrote the law.

It can be done. Watada brags that Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, Thomas Haia, an OHA candidate, Sens. Fred Hemmings, Bob Hogue and Lorraine Inouye plus Rep. Mark Takai went above and beyond the electronic call of duty.

"The report filed was a solid demonstration that the system is now up and running," Watada said.

Politicians are coming to the Internet and finding it easy to work.

You can do your own research by going to

Watada is hoping that the Legislature this year will change the reporting law so that all candidates who have more than $5,000 in contributions or expenditures must file electronically.

It is an easy way into the 21st century and, as Cachola proved, relatively painless, especially if your kids are helping.

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

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