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The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.


Short takes, outtakes, our takes and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

Ways and means: The state legislator with the most campaign money to spend, according to the most recent financial disclosure filings, wants even more. Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz is inviting donors to a fundraiser Wednesday evening at Brickhouse at the WCIT Architecture office on Kapiolani Boulevard.

According to promotional material obtained by The Sunshine Blog (someone who got an invite sent it to us), the evening is billed as “A Night of Food, Fun, Fellowship & Entertainment.” Suggested contributions: $250, $500, $1,000, $2,000 or $4,000.

Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz has more money in his campaign account than any other candidate for the Legislature. He’s hoping to collect more at a fundraiser this week. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

WCIT Architecture — whose projects include hotels and resorts, commercial and residential properties — lists two of Dela Cruz’s business interests, DTL Hawaii and Aina Archaeology, on its website as strategic partners.

One veteran politico tells The Blog that Dela Cruz’s fundraising reminds him of the pay-to-play era where architects and engineers and developers ruled as part of a so-called Mega Club.

Dela Cruz already had nearly $1 million in his campaign account as of the end of 2022 and that total likely grew during the recently ended legislative session. But candidate committee reports covering the period from Jan. 1 through June 30 aren’t due until the end of July.

And alas, it appears the Senate money chair did not file an advance notice of the fundraiser with the state Campaign Spending Commission as required by law. At least there was no notice posted on the commission’s website as of Tuesday evening.

Shipping news: Speaking of pay-to-play, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins isn’t alone in the ongoing scandal involving former Hawaii defense contractor Martin Kao and two of his executives, Clifford Chen and Lawrence Lum Kee.

Our D.C. reporter Nick Grube has been following the U.S. government’s criminal case against Kao et al and the unfolding civil lawsuit against Kao by his former mentor Steve Loui. Read Nick’s latest analysis of the legal action here.

Now, new documents show Kao, Chen and Lum Kee may have funneled tens of thousands of dollars in questionable donations to other candidates across the country, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, the influential Republican from South Carolina.

Turns out those might have crossed the legal line.

Government contractors are not allowed to donate to political campaigns. They also aren’t allowed to give money to others to make donations on their behalf. That’s made clear in the Justice Department’s case against Kao, Chen and Lum Kee, where records show that the contractors were even putting donations to political campaigns on their company credit cards.

This email sent to Nick by a source shows a similar contribution to Lindsey Graham, one that appears to have been left out of the feds’ documentation of Kao and his associates wrongdoing.

As they say, the plot thickens.

Kao and crew have already pleaded guilty to the federal charges and are awaiting sentencing. But Graham might want to consider doing the same thing Collins did and donate the money to charity.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Blue Hawaii: In homage to one of the most famous episodes of Comedy Central’s “South Park,” an established local aloha wear company has introduced the Reyn Spooner X South Park Studios aloha shirt.

The shirt, along with beach towel and other accessories, were inspired by episode 11 in season 16, where Butters and Kenny visit Kauai. Titled “Going Native,” it features Elvis at the abandoned Coco Palms Resort, the Mahalo Rewards Card and malihini timeshare owners.

From Reyn Spooner’s South Park aloha wear line. (Screenshot/2023)

“Everyone who’s lived here for any length of time could recognize the arrogance, the culture co-opting, the easy entitlement,” Honolulu magazine writer Michael Keany wrote in 2012 about the episode. “We’ve all seen too many real-life examples not to.”

Be it further resolved: The Legislative Reference Bureau has released its 2023 Session Reports, which includes a list of bills passed and legislative statistics. Also included are resolutions and concurrent resolutions adopted by the Legislature.

A resolution is a measure expressing the will, wish or direction of the Legislature but does not have the effect of law. A concurrent resolution requests action or states the Legislature’s position on an issue.

Here’s a smattering of approved resos that caught The Blog’s eye:

  • Affirming and supporting solidarity with the free and independent people of Ukraine.
  • Requesting the establishment of a Hawaii-Taiwan Friendship Taskforce.
  • Requesting a working group to identify solutions to mitigate and control the population of feral chickens and roosters across Oahu.
  • Urging Hawaii’s congressional delegation to lower the required minimum blood level quantum for Hawaiian home lands from one-quarter Native Hawaiian blood to one-thirty-second. 
  • Requesting a study of eliminating the state’s safety inspection requirements for motor vehicles. 
  • Urging Congress to discuss the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence.
  • Strongly urging the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a formal ethics code for justices.
  • Requesting the national Conference of State Legislative and Council of State Governments to update their findings on positive and negative consequences of term limits.
  • Urging Microsoft to consider building a data center in Hawaii.
  • Designating Nov. 22, 2023, as Kimchi Day in Hawaii.

Read this next:

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.


Latest Comments (0)

The irony is so thick here with art imitating life. That Reyn Spooner is no longer a Hawaii company seems very fitting for a South Park "aloha shirt" made in China via this California company. This company (like Longs Drugs or other brands that long left Hawaii or no longer really exist) continues to trade on the goodwill it once enjoyed when it was actually based in Hawaii and made a product here. Reyn's was sold to a private equity firm on the mainland a decade ago and closed operations (except retail stores here) It is a parody unto itself worth of South Park. That a cartoon shirt is being called an "aloha shirt" is appropriately fitting as well. Can't wait for the Reyn Spooner "Duke's of Hazard" shirt complete with confederate flag.

Civil_Cynic · 7 months ago

Agree with the elimination of the "safety" inspection scam. What's the point of being an abiding citizen when virtually every third car you see on the street has an expired safety tag ranging from a few months to YEARS with ZERO repercussion???

WhatMeWorry · 7 months ago

Makes you wonder what you get for $250, $500, $1000, $2000, or $4000?If it looks like pay-to-play, then more often than not it is. I suggest a fundraiser for more ethics reforms for the legislature.

Greg · 7 months ago

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