The Hawaii Legislature convenes for only four months each year and most lawmakers hold at least one other job. That makes financial disclosures a key instrument for pinpointing possible conflicts of interest. But how much do they really say?

A review of lawmakers’ most recent financial disclosures shows that remarkably few report owning stock or mutual funds, similar to last year’s finding.

Only 27 percent of legislators declared ownership of stock or mutual funds on their 2012 public financial disclosures, which were due on May 31. The percentage represents a small increase from last year, but the figure is still only about half of the national average.

The State Ethics Code requires lawmakers to disclose ownership of stock or mutual funds worth at least $5,000. They’re also supposed to declare if they own 10 percent or more of any business.

In the House, 14 out of the 51 representatives acknowledged ownership of stock or mutual funds on their disclosure forms. This figure represents an increase from 22 percent to 28 percent since last year.

In the Senate, the number of lawmakers who reported owning stock or mutual funds actually decreased from last year, from eight to just seven of 25 senators reporting ownership.

Either Hawaii’s legislators are a huge exception to the national investing trend or the term “financial disclosures” is a gross misnomer.

Yet according to Dan Mollway, who served as executive director of the State Ethics Commission for 24 years until 2010, the absence of information on the disclosure forms can be telling.

“When people are very corrupt, so to speak, or hiding things, they won’t put it on the disclosure form,” he said. “So when it’s not there it’s very good evidence.”

What We Found

An examination of the documents found not only were stocks and mutual funds largely absent, but even when they were declared, lawmakers sometimes left out important details.

One lawmaker, Rep. Mark Hashem, cited interests in “various public companies” and “mutual funds” but neglected to list them by name. Another legislator, Rep. Cynthia Evans, identified the value of her spouse’s investment as “unknown.” The representatives’ disclosures from the past two years were similarly vague.

In an e-mail, Evans explained that in the case of her husband’s stock, its value is not determined until the time that it is sold, thus rendering its value currently “unknown.” Hashem did not return Civil Beat’s request for a comment.

Only one of Hawaii’s 76 legislators, Rep. Mark Takai, acknowledged having invested his child’s college savings.

Takai said that his disclosure was prompted by an article he read in Civil Beat. Last year, Civil Beat reported that no Hawaii legislators declared stocks or mutual funds in their children’s names, and only three noted spouses with such interests.

“Based on that story I think I looked at the ethics rules and determined that I had to disclose more,” Takai said.

But Takai appears to be one of very few who came to that conclusion. The number of legislators who reported their spouse’s stock ownership this year increased only incrementally, from three to four, a negligible percent relative to the size of the Hawaii Legislature.

State Ethics Commission Executive Director Les Kondo declined to comment when asked whether he was surprised by the finding that so few lawmakers reported owning stock or mutual funds.

When asked whether the public should care, Kondo said, “If it’s inaccurate, I think they should be concerned.”

Why It Matters

Chapter 84 of the State Ethics Code requires that members of the Legislature declare “the amount and identity of every ownership or beneficial interest held during the disclosure period in any business having a value of $5,000 or more or equal to ten percent of the ownership of the business.”

Despite having relatively clear laws like this on the books, the 2012 State Integrity Investigation ranked Hawaii 44th out of 50 states in terms of the difference between what the law says and what actually happens on the ground.

According to Mollway, financial disclosures are a crucial tool for the public and the media to evaluate legislators’ interests.

“It’s important for the public to know from their disclosures what interests they have and be able to make up their own minds about conflicts,” Mollway said.

Yet omissions and ambiguous responses make that difficult. Review the disclosures for yourselves and let us know what you think.

See below for a complete list of lawmakers who disclosed ownership of stocks or mutual funds.

Ownership of Stocks or Mutual Funds: House of Representatives

Representative Disclosed Ownership in 2011 Disclosed Ownership in 2012
Henry James C. Aquino None None
Karen L. Awana None None
Della A. Belatti None None
Thomas M. Brower None None
Rida T.R. Cabanilla None None
Diana M. Carroll None None
Jerry L. Chang None None
Corinne W.L. Ching None None
Dwight P. Chong None None
Isaac W. Choy Yes Yes
George D. Coffman None None
Ty J. Cullen None None
Cynthia F. Evans Yes Yes
George R. Fontaine None None
Heather H. Giugni N/A Yes
Faye P. Hanohano-Kaawaloa None None
Sharon E. Har None None
Mark J. Hashem Yes Yes
Robert N. Herkes None None
Linda E. Ichiyama None None
Kenneth T. Ito None None
Aaron L. Johanson None None
Georgette “Jo” Jordan Yes Yes
Derek S.K. Kawakami None None
Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran Yes Yes
Chris K. Lee None None
Marilyn B. Lee None None
Sylvia J. Luke Yes Yes
Joey Manahan None None
Barbara C. Marumoto None None
Angus L.K. McKelvey None None
John M. Mizuno Yes Yes
Daynette S.P. Morikawa None None
Mark M. Nakashima None None
Scott Y. Nishimoto None None
Blake K. Oshiro None N/A
Marcus R. Oshiro None Yes
Kymberly N. Pine None None
Karl A. Rhoads None None
Gilbert R. Riviere None None
Scott K. Saiki None None
Calvin K.Y. Say Yes Yes
Joseph M. Souki Yes Yes
K. Mark Takai Yes Yes
Roy M. Takumi None None
Cynthia H. Thielen None Yes
James K. Tokioka None None
Clifton K. Tsuji None None
Gene R. Ward None None
Jessica E. Wooley Yes Yes
Ryan I. Yamane None None
Kyle T. Yamashita None None

Ownership of Stocks or Mutual Funds: Senate

Senator Disclosed Ownership In 2011 Disclosed Ownership in 2012
Rosalyn H. Baker Yes Yes
Suzanne N. Chun Oakland None None
Donovan M. Dela Cruz None None
J. Kalani English Yes Yes
William C. Espero None None
Carol A. Fukunaga Yes Yes
Gerald M. Gabbard None None
Brickwood M. Galuteria None None
Joshua B. Green None None
Clayton H. Hee None None
David Y. Ige Yes None
Les S. Ihara, Jr. Yes Yes
Gilbert Kahele None None
Michelle N. Kidani None None
Donna M. Kim None None
Ronald D. Kouchi Yes Yes
Clarence K. Nishihara None None
Ellen L. Pohaikaua Ryan None None
Maile S.L. Shimabukuro None None
Samuel M. Slom None None
Malama A. Solomon Yes Yes
Brian T. Taniguchi Unclear Unclear*
Jill N. Tokuda None None
Shan S. Tsutsui Yes Yes
Glenn S. Wakai None None

*“Unclear” indicates that the individual wrote “investors” as the nature of the beneficial interest without specifying either stocks or mutual funds

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