Two dozen pricey DVD sets given to Hawaii lawmakers this year are unaccounted for.
A total of 11 legislators — all in the state House — disclosed receiving sets of Blu-ray DVDs valued at $360 from Hollywood-based Relativity Media during the legislative session. The film studio lobbied for legislation to boost state tax breaks for film production in the islands.
On its expense report, which was posted to the state Ethics Commission website Wednesday, Relativity said it gave out a total of 35 DVD sets as gifts. That means two dozen sets are unaccounted for.
Rachel Schwartz of Relativity, who prepared the studio’s report, wrote that the company “unfortunately did not keep track of exactly who took the boxes — some of them went to legislators, some went to assistants and other staff.” The studio says it spent $10,150 on the DVD gifts.
Hawaii Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo said the discrepancy will be presented to the commission at its next monthly meeting on Sept. 21. He declined to comment further or say how the commission might try to track down the unaccounted for gifts.
At least five of the studio’s executives submitted testimony in support of House Bill 1308 and Senate Bill 1550. The measures, neither of which became law, sought to make existing tax credits more generous — up to 35 percent on Oahu and 40 percent on the neighbor islands — for film and television productions done in Hawaii.
One of the lawmakers who got DVDs was chair of the committee that advanced the bill early in the session. HB 1308 was introduced in late January by a total of 17 lawmakers. Six of the 11 lawmakers who accepted gifts from Relativity are listed as having co-introduced the measure.
The 11 lawmakers who reported accepting the DVD gifts on Feb. 1 were:
On top of the discrepancy over the number of recipients, Relativity’s expense report also shows a disconnect between the reported values of the DVD sets as well as an Apple iPad that Rep. Mele Carroll disclosed receiving from the studio.
The 11 lawmakers reported the value of the DVD sets at $360, with some lawmakers indicating that each of the 24 Blu-rays were valued at $15 apiece. (Newer Blu-ray DVDs sell for $25-$30 at Best Buy.)
Relativity, however, valued the sets at $290 “on average.” It said each set had an average 16 DVDs valued at $15.99 each, plus a box valued at $34, totaling $289.84.
If Relativity’s $15.99 value is applied to the 24 DVDs that the lawmakers disclosed, that would instead total $383.76. Add in the $34 box, and that comes to $417.76.
Carroll, the iPad recipient, has said she viewed the gift as a “good gesture” and a sign that the studio cares about Hawaii. She valued the iPad from Ryan Kavanaugh, founder and CEO of Relativity Media, at $500. But Relativity listed the value at $700.
Another expense revealed in Relativity’s report: how much it paid well-known Maui attorney Anthony Takitani to be its lobbyist — $65,000.
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