David Arakawa is a major voice for developers in Hawaii. It’s common to see him in City Hall, fighting against land-use restrictions or criticizing proposed development fees.

Mostly recently, he’s been advocating against Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s suggested mandate that all large developments include some affordable housing.

But public records at the city Ethics Commission show that until recently Arakawa hadn’t registered to lobby at the city since at least 2013.

David Arakawa testifies at the Honolulu City Council.
David Arakawa testifies at the Honolulu City Council in January. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

When reached by phone last week, Arakawa said he wasn’t sure why he didn’t register at the city but said that he would do so right away.

“I didn’t know the deadline was January 10 so we’ll be registering,” he said.

The city Ethics Commission confirmed Arakawa submitted a form Monday.

Arakawa is the longtime executive director of the Land Use Research Foundation, an advocacy group made up of major landowners and developers. According to its website, the nonprofit was “established in 1979 to promote and advance the interests of the development community.”

The former city corporation counsel paid a $2,000 fine to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission in 2015 after an investigation concluded he and LURF likely violated ethics law by failing to register to lobby from 2008 to 2014.

Unlike its state counterpart, the city Ethics Commission doesn’t have the power to fine lobbyists who don’t register, according to the agency’s director, Jan Yamane. But she does have the power to investigate complaints and ask lobbyists to file expense reports for previous years.

The Land Use Research Foundation reported spending more than $21,000 at the Legislature on lobbying from 2013 to 2017. Arakawa made $118,132 in 2016 leading the organization, according to the organization’s tax filing.

Yamane has been working to overhaul the lobbyist reporting requirements as part of broader strategic planning for the Ethics Commission. Making sure that every lobbyist is registered is tough, so the agency relies on public complaints.

“We don’t monitor the council meetings in terms of who is testifying. It’s not one of those things where we’re sitting and checking off names,” she said. “We’re too short staffed to be able to do something like that.”

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