Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Unspent illegal donations
must be turned over to fund

Question: What happens to the money found to have been illegally contributed to political candidates?

Answer: If someone makes a contribution deemed illegal by the state Campaign Spending Commission, the candidate has to give that money to the Hawaii Election Campaign Trust Fund.

In addition to the amount of the contribution, the contributor is fined and the fines collected are also deposited into the trust fund, said Robert Watada, executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission.

That fund is used to pay for the commission's operations, as well as to provide partial public financing of campaigns for candidates who agree to campaign spending limits.

The Hawaii Election Campaign Trust Fund gets its revenues from fines, penalties, etc., collected by the commission, as well as from public contributions. Taxpayers can voluntarily indicate on state income tax forms whether they want to contribute $2 to the fund.

In 2002, for example, 115,613 taxpayers contributed a total of $231,226, while last year, 140,171 taxpayers contributed $280,342, according to state Department of Taxation records.

The amount of fines assessed in the past two years as a result of the commission's current investigations into political contributions is about $1.2 million, Watada said.

The amount illegally contributed is about double that, around $2.4 million, he said.

However, not all the illegal contributions have been redeposited into the trust fund.

"Candidates like (Mayor Jeremy) Harris and (former Gov. Ben) Cayetano have said they don't have any more money (in their campaign funds) -- they've used it all up," Watada said.

"The law says if you have received illegal contributions it escheats (reverts to government)," he said. "But if there is no money to escheat, there is no money to escheat."

Watada said the state Attorney General's Office advised his office that, "Generally in law, if you don't have the money, you can't give it back."

The commission has notified the candidates that as soon as their campaign committees raise more money, "they have to turn in the money to us," he said.

If no money is raised, nothing happens.

"We just got to them too late," Watada said.

Q: The Kaiser High School graduation is on May 28. Due to the recently installed medial strip, street parking on the residential side of Lunalilo Home Road is limited. Parking in front of the Kaiser baseball field also is prohibited. Over the past two weeks, work is going on as you pass the stoplight at Wailua Street, heading mauka on Lunalilo. Parking is also restricted from that point up to the stop light at Ahukini Street. There is insufficient parking on the Kaiser property and historically, family and friends used to park on Lunalilo during graduation. It does not appear that construction will be completed by May 28. Can anything be done to provide on-street parking past Wailua Street or to have the contractor stop work and move the cones and barricades for one night to allow parking?

A: Kaiser High Principal Peter Chun said last week the school was checking with police and city officials to see what could be done to alleviate any parking problems on the day of graduation, which is a Friday.

But, definitely, there is no way that parking can be allowed makai of the school driveway, which already has "no parking" signs posted.

Because of the new medial strip narrowing Lunalilo Home Road, it would be too dangerous, Chun said.

After checking with several city agencies, "the bottom line is that someone from the city is going to check with the on-site contractor" to see whether 1) workers can stop work a little earlier that day and 2) whether they can find another place to park their heavy equipment.

The contractor currently has a permit to leave equipment on that area of the street.

It's more complicated than it may seem.

Chun said the school was hoping to appeal to the contractor's "P.R." -- public relations, but he noted that if the contractor were able to accommodate the school's request, it would entail some expense, in terms of work time lost and time finding a temporary location for equipment.

There also are concerns that "if they move their heavy equipment, will they be able to move it back later on," because of cars parking in the area, he said.

"It's a complicated situation, but we're appealing to their civic duty."

When we talked with Chun, there was no final commitment on what could or would be done to accommodate graduation-goers.

His advice to graduation-goers: "Come early."


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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