This is a tough one, folks. But ethics aren’t always convenient.

I’m talking about Civil Beat’s ethics here, not Vicky’s. She has a much different and legitimate view of what happened last week at the state Campaign Spending Commission.

This would have been her regular column space. So I wanted to explain why she’s not here.

You probably read the news stories last week about the Campaign Spending Commission investigation and finding that her gubernatorial campaign had coordinated with a super PAC to produce an attack ad against Josh Green in the governor’s race.

Campaign Spending Commission General Counsel Gary Kam outlined the commission’s findings in allegations of coordination between Vicky Cayetano’s campaign and the Victory Calls super PAC.

I wasn’t there to witness any surreptitious meetings between people involved in the campaign and the PAC. Likewise, I’m not privy to the commission’s investigation or its material beyond what its general counsel, Gary Kam, kind of rushed through at the public meeting last week and later elaborated on to our reporter, Blaze Lovell, in an interview. The commission did most of its airing of the case against Vicky in executive session, behind closed doors.

Vicky insists there was no collaboration and that the commission did a shoddy investigation. She is vowing to fight it and has Loretta Sheehan, a former federal prosecutor and longtime Honolulu attorney, representing her.

Nonetheless, the commission did find evidence that coordination took place via the sharing of information contained in the campaign’s opposition research book, the negative stuff on the competition that campaigns routinely dig up during elections so they have ammo against the other candidates.

The investigation by the commission — the official body that investigates such things — needs to be taken seriously and at face value. Otherwise, why have a public body that acts on behalf of the public? We need to trust the work it does until proven otherwise.

You probably also read that we are making an extraordinary effort this year to put more attention on government accountability and transparency, including when it comes to ethical leadership. Ethical behavior by our leaders is arguably the most important thing we should demand from the people who represent us or seek to.

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So it just wouldn’t be right for us to continue giving someone who has been found to have committed a serious ethical and legal transgression the kind of access to sway public opinion that comes with reaching tens of thousands or more readers through a regular column. Our columnists are also paid, and that means we have more responsibility to make sure our own house is in order.

I’m disappointed for sure. Vicky had a lot of good ideas for columns including on public policy, business and the economy and even some women’s and civic issues. I think she was just starting to get her feet on the ground as a writer and would have produced some interesting and provocative pieces that we could have all learned from.

It’s not easy sticking your neck out as a columnist or a candidate, by the way. I was very glad that someone of Vicky’s stature in the community, with her deep knowledge of and love for Hawaii and its people, was willing to brave the biting comments and second-guessing of anonymous commenters that come with being a Civil Beat columnist and still try to contribute thoughtful ideas. 

But now we are short a columnist and frankly could use a couple more. Let me know if anyone else out there would like to give it a try. We’re always interested in elevating the voices and ideas of people who are willing to help make a difference.

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