Monday, April 2, 2001

Gambling proposal
should be rejected

The issue: Investors from the mainland
seek to have gambling legalized here,
claiming that casinos would
enhance the state's economy.

THIS IS round three in a patent effort to bring gambling, Las Vegas style, to these islands. Governor Cayetano, the Legislature, leaders of the Democratic and Republican Parties, and everyone else concerned with the culture of Hawaii should band together to stop this campaign in its tracks.

The first hint came when the governor traveled to the Bahamas in December to look at legal gambling there. He has since seemed to have cooled to the idea although he has kept open the option of a single, licensed casino. The second step was a proposal by the Democratic president of the state Senate, Robert Bunda, that a legislative committee study the possible effects of legalized gambling. The Economic Development Committee, headed by Sen. Rod Tam, (D-Nuuanu), is scheduled to hold a hearing on this issue Thursday.

Senator Bunda, in a letter to the editor responding to an earlier editorial opposing his proposal on gambling, deplored it as an attempt to portray it as "a sinister move to persuade residents to accept gambling." Exactly.

The third volley is about to be fired by a group calling itself Holomua Hawaii, which plans to have representatives testify before Senator Tam's committee and later to publish newspaper, television and radio ads in support of its proposal.

An analysis by an economist at the University of Hawaii, Lawrence B. Boyd, paints an appealing picture: 19,575 jobs, $712 million pumped into the economy a year, $71.7 million in annual tax revenues. It omits, however, the cost of combating the organized crime that will surely seep into the islands, the cost of treating people who become addicted to gambling and the unknowable cost to the social fabric of Hawaii.

The timing is just a bit too cute. Holomua Hawaii is floating its proposal just as the state is being hit with demands for wage increases from the public school teachers, the faculty at the University of Hawaii and other public workers. No matter what settlements are reached, the bill will be costly and a way to ease the burden with legalized gambling will be tempting.

Indeed, the day the gambling promoters are to testify is the same day the school teachers and faculty have set for strikes. Paranoia? It is said that some paranoids have real enemies. Promoters of gambling in Hawaii are genuine enemies.

bill contains
more balance

The issue: Federal campaign reform
should be a model for
state legislation.

NOW THAT Congress is heading toward the most significant campaign finance reform since the Watergate era, Hawaii's legislators should prepare similar restrictions on state laws.

The most important ingredient in the proposed federal law would ban expenditures of what has been called "soft money" by political parties in election campaigns. The bill seemed assured of Senate passage after proponents last week rejected a stipulation that a U.S. Supreme Court nullification of any part of the law on constitutional grounds would negate its entirety.

The House has passed similar reform bills in recent years, only to see them bogged down in the Senate, so Senate passage this year is a major breakthrough. Once it becomes law, parts of the bill will be challenged on First Amendment free-speech grounds.

Sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell D. Feingold, D-Wis., the bill would prohibit unlimited contributions by corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals to political parties for expenditure on federal elections.

State parties that accept such contributions would be prohibited from spending them on advertising that supports or opposes federal candidates, but could spend them on advertising in support of or opposition to candidates for state office.

Also, unions and for-profit businesses would be prohibited from spending money on "electioneering communications," radio or television commercials that refer to federal candidates within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of a general election.

Nonprofits could buy such ads but not with money contributed by unions or for-profit corporations. The proposal may survive free-speech challenges because of existing federal regulatory control over the air waves.

Various campaign-finance reform measures have been introduced in the current session of the state Legislature. Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Lingle in February criticized a bill supported by Democrats that would have prohibited political parties from making expenditures in a race for state office but allowed unions to make unlimited expenditures on advertisements for or against a state candidate.

The McCain-Feingold bill, as it stands now, is more balanced. It has a very good chance of winning congressional approval and being signed into law by President Bush. He is under some pressure, despite his opposition to McCain's proposal during last year's GOP presidential primary, because it has that degree of balance.

Reluctance at the state level to accept similar restrictions will be based on partisan interests.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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