Illegal gifts net fines
for donors to Harris
A state judge fined several donors linked to a Hilo engineering firm $2,000 each after they pleaded guilty to making illegal political donations to former Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.
District Judge Fa'auuga To'oto'o also granted Janice Mahuna and Norman Nishiki deferrals for their guilty pleas, which allows them to have their criminal case erased if they stay out of trouble for a year.
A third defendant, Clyde Matsunaga, received probation because he previously received a deferral for an unrelated gambling charge on the Big Island in 2002, said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter.
Matsunaga is a director and corporate secretary at Imata & Associates Inc. of Hilo. Mahuna and Nishiki are friends of Imata's employees.
According to Van Marter, Matsunaga illegally reimbursed Mahuna and Nishiki for making political contributions to the Harris campaign. He said Imata & Associates also violated campaign contribution limits by giving $6,000 to the Harris campaign.
Under state law, a donor can give no more than $4,000 to a candidate during a four-year election cycle. They also are barred from making political donations in the names of others.
Sam King, attorney for the defendants, argued for the deferral, saying his clients have good records and aren't likely to violate the campaign spending laws in the future.
In January 2003, Imata & Associates was fined $500 by the Campaign Spending Commission for making excessive contributions to the campaigns of Harris, former Gov. Ben Cayetano and ex-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono.