Denby Fawcett: Political Candidates Need To Be More Open About Their Side Jobs - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Starting in November, a new Hawaii law will ban all future governors and county mayors from holding outside employment.

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Similar legislation was introduced last year to outlaw Hawaii’s future lieutenant governors from outside work but it failed to win support.

Outside gigs have been an issue this election season. It’s a legitimate concern.

I have found it astonishing to hear political candidates get criticized as either attacking or going negative when they ask an opponent to reveal more about his or her finances.

Knowing who is paying candidates for outside contracts can help voters determine if a candidate might be beholden to special interests.

It may be rude to ask a friend about how much money they make or the value of their real estate holdings, but it is fair game to ask a politician where they get their money.

Maybe it’s idealistic but I wish all politicians would welcome openness, saying: “Here are the details of my personal wealth, all upfront for you to review. If you don’t like what you see, don’t vote for me. That’s your choice.”

Although financial disclosure forms required by law do not require elected officials and candidates to reveal all the specifics of their sources of income and other assets, candidates should be eager to offer the information anyway in the interest of transparency.

Of course, there are legitimate ways for people including public officials and candidates to keep their sources of income confidential, among them trusts, holding companies and limited liability companies.

An LLC is like a box. Once financial information is put in an LLC, the box can be closed forever to prevent the public from knowing exactly who is paying a person for what kind of work.

Some candidates for governor in the Hawaii Democratic primary election have gone after each other when their personal finances have been brought up, calling the mere mention of money untoward and attack-like.

They are applying for a job, a big job — running the state. As their potential employers, we the taxpayers are entitled to know who is paying them for what kind of work.

Good government advocates have always been concerned about possible conflict of interest issues when elected officials hold lucrative employment from outside sources.

A prime example of such  questionable outside work was the finances of  former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. During his eight years as mayor, Caldwell was paid  $250,000 a year in fees and stock incentives for his work as a director of Territorial Savings Bank. He was collecting more than $1 million in bank stock. That was income beyond his  $182,432 annual salary as mayor.

Entrance doors to Governor's Office at the Hawaii Capitol Building 1.9.14
Staring in November, Hawaii’s governor and county mayors will be prohibited by law from holding outside employment. PF Bentley/Civil Beat/2014

You have to wonder if Caldwell got the job as a director at Territorial Savings because he was a banking genius or because of his power as Honolulu mayor.

In 2020 the Legislature passed the bill that takes effect this November to ban Hawaii governors and county mayors from taking side jobs. Hawaii’s legislators are part-time employees earning part-time pay and to date no similar bill has been approved to curtail their outside work.

Politicians working full time in the highest executive offices should concentrate on that work and that work only.

And voters should not be made to feel rude when they seek truthful and detailed information about public officials and political candidates’ finances. Even if the law does not require disclosure of lists of all their clients and contracts, candidates should openly, without prompting, supply the information.

And it is never wrong — and never a personal attack — to ask a candidate to be upfront about who is paying them how much for exactly what kind of work.

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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.

Latest Comments (0)

Wouldn't limit scrutiny to just political candidates. Government employees with regulatory powers over citizens & small businesses should also have to disclose income beyond their taxpayer-funded salaries. I'm sure there are government regulatory employees with LLCs who are legally declaring income from illegal, unethical, immoral activities. Should a building plans inspector / new construction building inspector have the ability to "consult" outside of his/her job for essentially the same tasks that he/she does on the taxpayer-paid job? What if there is no legal consulting and the LLC is just receiving cash bribes? A corrupt govt employee can then use illicit proceeds to qualify to build legal wealth, ie mortgages, investments, etc. At least we should close loopholes & force these behaviors underground. It would then make flagrant activity easier to catch- trying to buy expensive cars, taking long European vacations, etc.

luckyd · 5 months ago

Denby your Commentary is awesome thank you for bringing this to the for front, I agree w/this being more transparent about the side jobs, maybe the likes of Kahele , Vicky Cayetano, and other candidates who are working and feel its none of anybody's else's business how they are making money that is planned to be used to fund their Campaign and not get caught in something all politicians here in Hawaii know about "Corruption" so its basically like you force the Candidates to honestly state / declare the type of work on the side maybe it will force the Candidate(s) to actually base their campaigns on issues relevant to what may help get them in the position their campaigning for, rather than accusing the other candidates of these minuet issues .

unclebob60 · 5 months ago

Thank you for this insightful piece! This is why I read Civil Beat. I think it's interesting that some of the candidates who preach transparency make heavy use of LLCs and trusts to hide their income (like Ms. Iwamoto).

theythem · 5 months ago

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