UPDATED 3:00 p.m. 4/15/11

Two days after his election as governor, Neil Abercrombie announced that he would cast a wide net when it came to hiring for the new administration.

“We want an open and fair process to maximize the outreach to people of Hawaii,” the governor-elect said in a press release Nov. 4. “We want to identify talented individuals that represent the full diversity of Hawaii and assemble dedicated public servants committed to our vision for A New Day in Hawaii.”

On Nov. 15, another press release said the transition team had received 2,430 resumes submitted through the NewDayHawaii.org website.

“We have received an enthusiastic response from thousands of people who want to serve the public by working in the Abercrombie Administration,” said Bill Kaneko, Abercrombie’s campaign manager and the person in charge of the transition.

It turns out that Abercrombie, in fact, often turned to supporters to fill Cabinet positions, boards and commissions.

A Civil Beat analysis of 263 Abercrombie appointments whose names the governor submitted through April 7 to the Hawaii Senate, a total of 67 — one-fourth — contributed to his campaign.

That includes half his Cabinet and five of the nine appointed members of the Hawaii Board of Education.

(See a story on his Cabinet members and their donations and read the full list.)

Asked for comment about the fact that 25 percent of the governor’s appointees gave to his campaign, spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz emailed Civil Beat this statement:

“The New Day plan for Hawaii was made clear in Governor Abercrombie’s campaign. His vision for change gained support in a number of ways and inspired many people to donate their time and in some cases money to the New Day effort. When he won his campaign for Governor he made an open call for people who felt they could serve and wanted to serve to apply. The fact that it resulted in many applicants continues to serve Hawaii well. The diversity of his cabinet, for example, speaks to the kind of leadership that Hawaii needs and deserves.”

UPDATE Dela Cruz said the transition team received a total of 3,660 applications for jobs and 840 applications for boards and commissions.

Giving It Up For The (Future) Boss

Political patronage is older than the republic, so it should be no surprise that Abercrombie looked to friends and supporters to fill posts in state government.

But it is also worth noting that five kicked in the maximum individual contribution of $6,000 during the last election cycle:

• Richard Lim, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

• Keith Amemiya, Board of Education member

• Jan Sullivan, Board of Regents member

• Chad McDonald, Land Use Commissioner

• Raymond Jardine, Civil Defense Advisory Council member

The governor, of course, is perfectly within his rights to appoint whomever he wants.

And the donations to Abercrombie’s gubernatorial campaign amount to only a drop in the bucket in terms of his total campaign war chest: $106,834, or 2.4 percent of the $4.5 million he raised between Jan. 1, 2009, and Nov. 2, 2010.

In all, Abercrombie received more than 5,000 individual donations during the 2008-2010 campaign cycle.

The donations from 2,706 people and organizations listing a Hawaii address averaged a little less than $1,300. The donations from the 67 appointees averaged about $1,600.

More Appointments to Come

The governor’s office oversees more than 150 [pdf] boards and commissions and is responsible for appointing members.

The administration has been in office for only four months, so more appointees will be forthcoming.

For example, the terms of several members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Public Utilities Commission will expire during Abercrombie’s first term.

Civil Beat only examined appointees whose names were listed in formal communication to the Senate known as Governor’s Messages. The list is publicly available on the Legislature’s website. The names of other appointees are not readily available.

Some of those other appointees sit on organizations that have significant influence on public policy such as the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the Campaign Spending Commission, the State Ethics Commission, the Judicial Selection Commission and the Council on Revenues.

On April 6 Civil Beat filed a Uniform Information Practices Act request with the administration seeking a list of all of Abercrombie’s appointments to date. The names of the governor’s staff are not communicated to the Senate, which is why they’re not included in this report.

Names of Note

Rounding out the top 10 appointee donors were:

• Arthur A. Ushijima, Hawaii Medical Education Council: $5,650

• Lois Mitsunaga, Hawaii Community Development Authority: $5,000

• Galen Ho, Hawaii Aerospace Advisory Committee: $5,000

• David Louie, Attorney General: $4,050

• James P. Karins, Board of Directors of the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii: $4,000

Former Kauai state Rep. Hermina Morita, the new PUC chair, donated $350 as an individual to Abercrombie’s 2010 campaign. Her campaign committee also kicked in $500 on Dec. 9, which is part of the 2010-2012 election cycle.

Morita was appointed on Feb. 3.

Hawaii Community Development Authority appointee Maile Meyer did not donate to Abercrombie’s 2010 campaign. But she did donate $500 to Abercrombie for Governor on Nov. 10, eight days after the election. Meyer’s appointment was received by the Hawaii Senate on April 1.

Robert Iopa donated $2,500 to Abercrombie and is now on the Historic Places Review Board. Iopa is the architect for Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts’ controversial $700 million project to replace a 60-year-old low-rise Waikiki beachfront hotel with a modern high-rise tower.

Joseph Wildman, Abercrombie’s nominee — later withdrawn — to serve as 2nd Circuit Court judge on Maui, gave $1,610.

And two appointed state senators, Malama Solomon and Maile Shimabukuro, gave as well — $580 and $125, respectively.

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