Questionable donors
add to Bainum’s
war chest

Honolulu mayoral candidate Duke Bainum, who has promised not to accept donations from anyone convicted of campaign spending violations, has received nearly $14,000 over the last six years from companies and individuals that made illegal contributions.

The former city councilman received another $10,000 from employees of companies found to have made contributions under false names to local political candidates, according to a Star-Bulletin analysis of Bainum's mayoral and city council campaign filings since 1998.

Bainum said the donors were not under investigation at the time they contributed to his campaign and that he has no plans to return the money.

Donors included former Honolulu Police Commissioner Leonard Leong, who pleaded no contest to making illegal political contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign, and city Department of Community Services Director Mike Amii, who pleaded no contest to a third-degree theft charge for ordering a staffer to work on Harris' political campaign. Amii contributed $150 while Leong gave $2,000.

Bainum stressed that his campaign has never accepted or solicited an illegal contribution nor has it been fined for breaking campaign laws.

He said his pledge to refuse tainted campaign money applies to any contribution that his campaign receives after the donor is fined or convicted. The donors in question were not under investigation at the time they gave to his campaign, according to Bainum.

Bainum added that he recently returned a check to a recent donor, whom he declined to identify. Bainum's main competitor, former City Councilman Mufi Hannemann, returned more than $70,000 in campaign funds that were found to be illegal.

"I think voters will be glad to know that there's a candidate that didn't accept illegal campaign contributions," Bainum said.

The Star-Bulletin's analysis is based on a review of 780 contributions that the Bainum campaign has received since 1998. The givers include some of the biggest targets in the two-year, city hall campaign finance scandal, as well as a prominent member of the Bainum clan.

>> Bainum's cousin, former Maryland state Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr., and his wife Sandra contributed $4,000 to Duke Bainum's campaign on Nov. 9, 1998.

Stewart Bainum is the chairman of Choice Hotels International Inc., which owns the franchise for the Comfort, Clarion and Econo Lodge hotel brands. He also is a former chairman of Manor Care Inc., which is one of the nation's largest independent nursing home operators. Manor Care was founded by the Bainum family.

In 1997, the Federal Election Commission fined Stewart Bainum $4,000 for funneling $4,000 in the name of his infant son Bradford to the 1992 presidential campaign of Democrat Paul Tsongas and to the congressional campaigns of Democrats Chester Atkins of Massachusetts and Albert Wynn of Maryland.

Duke Bainum said he was unaware of the FEC fine when he accepted his cousin's donation six years ago. He said Stewart Bainum has not contributed to his fund since.

>> Former Honolulu Police Commissioner Leong gave the Bainum campaign $2,000 on Nov. 8, 2001. A month before that, Leong's sister, Lori-Ann Leong, contributed $250 to the Bainum campaign.

Last November, Leong, a vice president with Royal Contracting Co., resigned from the Police Commission after he pleaded no contest to charges of making illegal contributions to the Harris campaign. That same day, the state Campaign Spending Commission approved a $20,000 fine against Royal Contracting for making illegal political donations. That plea agreement came after city prosecutors found that Leonard Leong made a number of illegal contributions to the Harris campaign in the names of Lori-Ann Leong and other relatives.

>> Current and former executives of city contractor R.M. Towill Corp. contributed $1,950 to Bainum's campaign in 2001. Donors included Towill Chief Executive William Spencer, former company head Richard Towill and Russell Figueiroa, the engineering firm's president.

Figueiroa and former Towill Chairman Donald Kim have tentatively agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges of making excessive political donations and false-name donations to the Harris campaign.

In return, city prosecutors agreed to drop criminal charges against nine Towill employees and associates who were indicted last year by an Oahu grand jury for making illegal political gifts to the Harris campaign.

Those donors are among the dozens of Towill executives, relatives and subcontractors linked to more than $300,000 in political donations to the Harris campaign.

>> City Bank, which was fined $500 by the state Campaign Spending Commission for making $125 in excess contributions to the Harris campaign, gave $3,000 to the Bainum campaign between 2001 and 2003, while its subsidiary International Savings & Loan contributed $1,000 in 1998. City Bank executive and former city official Roy Amemiya, who also serves as honorary co-chairman of the Bainum campaign, gave another $1,500 in 2001.

>> Former Bainum campaign volunteer Jim Lyon gave the Bainum campaign $895 between 2001 and 2003. Last month, the Campaign Spending Commission fined Lyon's employer, Lyon and Associates Inc., and his father Frank Lyon $500 for making excessive campaign contributions to Harris and former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Bainum said Lyon is no longer involved in his campaign and that his campaign has not accepted any money from Lyon or his company since the company was fined.

The donations represent a small portion of Bainum's $800,000 war chest, which is heavily financed by his own money and by contributions from wealthy relatives.

According to his campaign disclosures, Bainum loaned his campaign more than $1 million during the past six years. He also spent more than $400,000 of his own money to finance his mayoral and city council campaigns.

Since 1998, about a dozen of Bainum's mainland relatives -- whose family fortune was once estimated at more than $800 million -- contributed $63,000 to his campaign.

Bainum said his largely self-financed campaign indicates that he is independent of special interests.

"We have never taken illegal campaign donations and we have never been fined for taking an illegal campaign contributions," Bainum said.


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