Friday, January 25, 2002

Nasir Gazdar, one of the candidates for the City Council seat vacated by Andy Mirikitani, waved his sign last night at the corner of South King and Punahou streets.

Kobayashi funding
attacked in mailing

The former senator denies the gifts will shape her policies

Candidate forum televised tonight

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

An attack brochure is taking center stage as the campaign winds down for the City Council 5th District special election, which takes place tomorrow.

Sam Aiona, a former state representative, is criticizing former state Sen. Ann Kobayashi for accepting campaign contributions from a number of employees of Hawaiian Electric Co., their spouses and companies that do business with HECO.

The utility is seeking approvals from the state and city for the Kamoku-Pukele power line plan. The most controversial portion calls for running overhead lines atop Waahila Ridge between Manoa and Palolo valleys.

Kobayashi said a last-minute smear campaign is being waged against her through the brochure and a news conference held by state Republican legislators bringing attention to the contributions. She stressed that she has consistently opposed overhead lines for the project.

In the brochure mailed this week, Aiona states "Hawaiian Electric is looking for a friend on the City Council" and that a vote for Kobayashi would be "business as usual." It further states that Kobayashi has received $9,350 in contributions from HECO employees, their lawyers, lobbyists and consultants, and their spouses.

HECO officials yesterday confirmed that 10 Kobayashi donors on a list circulated by Republican legislators are officers, managers or attorneys of the utility. Those 10 contributed $5,500. An additional $1,200 came from HECO spouses.

"I think it's a desperate, last-minute smear campaign by Republicans in a nonpartisan race," said Kobayashi, a Democrat and former Republican who spent 14 years in the state Senate.

Many of the HECO employees identified as contributing to her campaign, Kobayashi said, are longtime friends.

Helen Nakano, an adviser and former president of the Malama O Manoa organization, which has led the fight against the HECO project, confirmed that Kobayashi has been a longtime supporter of her group's cause.

Nonetheless, Nakano said, it would not surprise her if a large company like HECO were trying to buy influence. "I think that the reason so many Hawaiian Electric people have contributed to her campaign is that they believe she has the best chance of being the next Council member, so they're going to put their money on the winning horse."

HECO officials said employees are free to give to political candidates of their own choosing and denied seeking to influence Kobayashi.

The issue first came to light earlier this week when the environmental group Life of the Land e-mailed various parties about the HECO-related contributions.

Meanwhile, Republican legislators told reporters that Common Cause Hawaii, a political watchdog group, is hypocritical to not raise concerns about Kobayashi's contributions after criticizing Aiona and the GOP earlier this week.

Common Cause Executive Director Larry Meacham criticized Aiona for mail-outs to constituents that include applications for absentee ballots.

A recent law prohibits including absentee ballot applications from being included with electioneering materials.

Meacham could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Kobayashi has received campaign endorsements from the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union Local 142, and the Painters and Allied Trades Union.

Candidate Richard Soo, a Fire Department captain and former bus operator, has won endorsements from the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association Local 463 and the Hawaii Teamsters and Allied Workers Union Local 996.

Tomorrow's race features 14 candidates. The special election determines who will fill the remaining 11 months of convicted former Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who resigned last month after being convicted in federal court.


Candidate forum
televised tonight

Star-Bulletin staff

Candidates in the City Council's 5th District are to take part in a live televised forum on Oceanic Cable channel 52 at 8 p.m. tonight.

Fourteen candidates are on the ballot of tomorrow's special election to determine who will fill the remaining 11 months on the term of convicted Councilman Andy Mirikitani, who resigned last month.

Most, if not all, of the 14 candidates are expected to attend the forum, which is being held in the courtyard of Honolulu Hale.

The program is sponsored by the City Council and Olelo Community Television. It will be rebroadcast tomorrow at 5 a.m.

E-mail to City Desk

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