Colleen Hanabusa

BY JIM DOOLEY – U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has slapped down a Washington watchdog group’s allegation that she profited from personal loans she made to her campaign organization.

Colleen Hanabusa

In a news release, a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), likened Hanabusa to “a loan shark” for charging more than 9 per cent in interest on $125,000 in loans she made to her congressional campaign in the 2006 election.

Hanabusa campaign spokesman Richard Rapoza said in response that the Congresswoman didn’t make a penny on the loans. She first borrowed the money herself from Central Pacific Bank and then re-loaned it, at the bank’s interest rates, to the campaign, said Rapoza.

“The interest rates to the campaign on those funds reflect the rates charged by the bank, and interest payments were made directly to the bank,” said Rapoza.

“CREW’s allegations are false,” Rapoza continued.

In 2008 and 2010, the Hanabusa campaign paid $31,000 in interest on the loans and reduced principal by $2,854.

The information about Hanabusa was included in a larger report issued by CREW which purported to show “how members of the House of Representatives use their positions to benefit themselves and their families.”

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan made the “loan shark” comment about Hanabusa in a news release that accompanied the report.

“Most Americans open a savings account when they want to earn a little interest on their money.  Instead, Rep. Hanabusa is making a killing by investing in her own campaign,” said Sloan.

Rapoza said CREW never contacted Hanabusa abut the loans and is trying to attract attention to itself by being “loud and provocative.”

But the group is “misleading the public with inaccurate statements and distorted half-truths,” he said.

The CREW report on Hanabusa noted that her campaign reimbursed her husband, John Souza, $8,774 for food and travel expenses he incurred during the 2010 election campaign.

Rapoza said in response: “Every payment made to him (Souza) is fully documented. All of those reimbursements were for food at campaign events and for volunteer meals.”

To imply any impropriety in the reimbursements, Rapoza said, “is misleading and, frankly, insulting.”

The CREW report also noted that the election campaign of Hanabusa’s congressional colleague, Rep. Mazie Hirono, paid $7,700 and $7,500 in in 2008 and 2010 to rent office space from the law firm of Hirono’s husband.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com