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”How Many Senators Does it Take to Replace One Morning Talk Show Host?”

KHVH Morning Talk Show Host Rick Hamada is on paternity leave, but it took three state Senators to replace him.

State Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai, was the official host, but he brought along with him for political balance two Democrats, State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Waianae, and State Sen. Donna Kim, D-Kalihi.

Hanabusa, who usually is on for one hour with Slom, Thursdays at 7 a.m., is the majority leader in the Senate. Kim is the vice president of the Senate.

Both Democrat leaders took a brief break in their discussions about corruption in the state of Hawaii to carry on with the regular Thursday, 8 a.m. feature, Terrible Test of Trivial Knowledge.

They beat out their call-in competitor, “Dan,” by one trivia answer. Dan may not have his pride for losing to the pair Slom deemed “Democrat Damsels,” but he did win a prize for taking the challenge.

”Senator Pans HVCB Rebuttal to Scathing State Audit”

The Hawaii Tourism Authority held a meeting yesterday to review the state auditor’s report on the management of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. State Auditor Marion Higa issued a scathing audit on the HVCB, the third since 1987, and presented her findings at the nearly 8-hour meeting.

Senate Vice President Donna Kim, D-Kalihi, who chairs the tourism committee in the Senate, attended the hearing where HVCB representatives rebutted Higa’s findings. Kim says HVCB officials had excuses for why they have not followed the contract with the state — “excuses for everything.”

Kim, who already has held two hearings on the audit in the last two weeks, and will hold another tomorrow, plans to convene a joint House-Senate Investigative Committee with subpoena powers much like the one Senator Colleen Hanabusa, D-Waianae convened two years ago. Hanabusa’s committee, set up to review the state’s more than $1.4 billion expenditures on special education, was the first and only such committee in the state, and has helped uncover fraud and waste in the state’s special education system, leading to fines and at least one criminal conviction.

”Felix Investigation Reaps First Conviction, Sentencing of Provider”

The first woman to be convicted for fraud in the Felix investigation by the state attorney general was sentenced yesterday in First Circuit Court by Judge Richard Perkins. Susan Puapuaga, 28, is accused of falsely billing the state for $2,000, by representing she performed services she did not and by double billing. Because this was not the first offense for Puapuaga, the judge sentenced her to two six month sentences (one for each case in which charges were brought against her) to be served concurrently. She also has to reimburse the state for the money she stole and pay a fine.

”Kim Counters Hawaii Reporter Column on Her Role in Senate”

Sen. Vice President Donna Kim, D-Kalihi, took several minutes during her interview on KHVH this morning to rebut a report that ran yesterday in this column.

Kim, who says she “hates untruths and lies,” says she was not the “architect” of the special Legislative session called a couple of weeks ago, as her fellow legislators have told Hawaii Reporter. In fact she says she was not even in town when the first caucus meeting was held to discuss the special session and did not agree with everything that happened in the special session.
She joked evidence that she was not in charge of the special session is the disorganization of the special session. That is because no agenda was handed out until the session was well under way and the Senate majority also did not agree on which bills should be overrode until minutes before the session began.

Kim says her recent questioning of governor’s representatives over a $4,100 expenditure on a local new crew to accompany the governor to Japan has led people to criticize her and say she is “attacking” the governor. The governor maintains the invitation to the news crew did not come from her, from her staff or from her budget, and that it was the HVCB’s decision to sponsor the news crew and the news station’s decision to accept the sponsorship. But Kim and her Democrat colleagues say the governor brought the news crew along on the trip to get good publicity for herself at the state taxpayers’ expense. Kim maintains she is not attacking the governor, but questioning people as she always does about state expenditures. She says she takes her role as tourism chair and the expenditure of taxpayer money serious, no matter who has to be questioned.

Kim also says she resents her fellow colleagues saying she has a vendetta against the governor because of some of the decisions the governor has made since coming into office in late 2002, because she does not.

Kim clarified her “anonymous” email that she received and presented to the governor’s senior communication director during Monday’s hearing. The email, which she says was from a person in Japan affiliated with the HVCB and therefore afraid to come forward, was not so critical of the governor as it was of the HVCB.

She says although she has used “anonymous” emails as a basis for criticizing the governor or her appointees, media’s reliance [specifically Hawaii Reporter’s column yesterday] on “political insiders” and statements by her legislative peers without naming names, is just as bad.

Her final statement on the air after more than 1 hour was if people are going to talk about her, or the media is going to report on her, to “please tell the truth.”

”Democrats Claim June Tax Revenues Justify Higher State Expenditures”

Democrat leaders in the House and Senate called a press conference yesterday to counter the governor’s claim that state revenues are down, leading her to make $150 million in cuts to the state budget lawmakers passed at the conclusion of the state’s 2003 legislative session.

Democrats pointed to June state revenue figures, derived from personal income tax and general excise tax payments to the state. The June figures are up substantially from May, leading Democrats to say the governor does have the money to pay for the human service programs that she cut from the state operating budget in her vetoes, but they restored through a veto override of SB 1305.

Democrats did not acknowledge June figures are artificially inflated, that corporate income tax is down substantially and that July tax figures already are down from last year. But Republicans in the Legislature, and the governor, did counter their statements through the media.

Republican lawmakers say any economist or anyone looking at revenue figures know to look at indicators for more than one month before making such drastic assumptions.

”Harris Supporters Breathe Sign of Relief After Engineer Let Off Conviction With Easy Sentence”

The man who is one of the leading abusers of the state’s campaign spending laws, SSFM President Michael Matsumoto, was sentenced yesterday in First Circuit Court. Matsumoto, who used several of his employees to launder money to Harris by fronting their campaign contributions, has given more than $400,000 to other Democrat politicians including the former governor and former lieutenant governor and former Democrat Mayor Kimo Apana, but was only standing trial on the Harris contributions.

The conviction is bitter sweet for prosecutors who have been investigating the campaign spending practice of Honolulu Major Jeremy Harris and his administrators for nearly two years.

That is because Matsumoto is the first of several professionals in the construction industry to be convicted in the investigation, but prosecutors were disappointed by the light sentence he received.

Prosecutors wanted Matsumoto, who pled no contest to money laundering nearly $200,000 to Harris’ campaign, to face severer penalties, including a $54,000 fine, for his admitted offenses and for skipping two appointments with prosecutors where he was to take a lie detector test.

However, First Circuit Court Justice Carl Sakamoto, known as Judge “Dankamoto” for his liberal tendency to let convicts off with “deferred acceptance pleas,” let Matsumoto off with no jail time and predictably a “deferred acceptance” because he is a “good citizen” that had already suffered enough damage to his reputation.

Instead Matsumoto was ordered to pay a $15,000 fine and perform 300 hours of community service, and will have his record wiped clean if he stays out of trouble for 5 years.

Other engineers and architects arrested in recent weeks for similar offenses and dozens of other professionals, who will face similar charges to be brought against them by city police and prosecutors, are relieved by the treatment Matsumoto received in court.

But law enforcement close to the investigation into the Harris campaign say this may not be the end for Matsumoto. Matsumoto was only standing trial for money laundering in the Harris case. They say charges could also be brought against him for money laundering $200,000 to the campaigns of former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and former Maui Mayor Kimo Apana. That is if the state Campaign Spending Commission refers its findings to the city prosecutor. Matsumoto will pay the state Campaign Spending Commission thousands of dollars in fines for making false name contributions, or money laundering.

Matsumoto’s firm is just one of the companies in Hawaii that “pays to play” in the government contracting business. SSFM has received millions of dollars from the city for development of such projects as the Central Oahu Regional Park, expected to cost taxpayers more than $45 million.

More than 100 companies are under investigation, with many already fined in the thousands of dollars, by the state Campaign Spending Commission. Many of those cases are then referred to the city prosecutor for criminal prosecution. As a result of those cases and other independent investigations by city police and prosecutors, nearly one dozen people have been arrested.

”DBEDT Deputy Director Receives National Recognition From Colin Powell”

DBEDT Deputy Director Raymond M. Jefferson will receive the Harrison H. Schmitt Leadership award from Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday, July 29 at 4 p.m. in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin Franklin Room in Washington, D.C.

Jefferson has been selected as one of two recipients to receive this Leadership Award for Alumni of the Fulbright Student Program this year.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State has created this new award to honor recent alumni of the U.S. Fulbright Student Program who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in, and dedication to, public service, learning and mutual understanding.

Named in honor of distinguished Fulbright student alumnus Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt, noted scientist, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator from New Mexico, the award will be given periodically to showcase the achievements of Fulbright alumni and highlight critically important sectors of society.

“This is quite an achievement for Ray, and a true reflection of his leadership and his commitment to public service,” said Gov. Linda Lingle. “We are honored to have someone of Ray’s caliber in our administration who is willing to contribute his talents and experience in helping to make Hawaii a better place.”

Jefferson was chosen for his commitment to country and community. Jefferson’s life exemplifies the spirit of the award. First, as a West Point graduate and an officer who served with distinction in the U.S. Army. Afterwards, as a Fulbright Fellow who helped physically challenged people in Singapore achieve their potential, and presently as deputy director of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

Jefferson graduated from West Point in 1988 with a major in leadership, and then served as an Army Officer for 11 years with Infantry and Special Forces units; specifically, the Presidential Honor Guard, 3rd Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group, respectively.

In 1995, while attempting to protect his teammates from a hand grenade detonating prematurely, Ray lost all five fingers on his left, non-dominant hand. After recuperating, he attended Harvard’s Kennedy School, majored in Strategic Management, and graduated in l998 with distinction as a Littauer Fellow.

Beginning Harvard Business School that fall, Ray engaged in a variety of leadership and social entrepreneurship endeavors there and was fortunate enough to be recognized with several honors and distinctions (to include being one of three in his class to receive the Dean’s Award for outstanding leadership).

Upon graduation, he served as a White House Fellow from 2000-2001 and had work assignments as a Special Assistant to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Don Evans as well as at the State Department with the Under Secretary for Management.

Afterwards, Ray served as a Fulbright Fellow in Singapore from 2001-2002 where he analyzed how public sector leadership is exercised in Singapore’s Asian, multi-cultural environment. While there, he had discussions on leadership and public policy with Singapore’s senior decision-makers such as Prime Minister Goh Chok Tung and Ambassadors Tommy Koh, Frank Lavin and Chan Heng Chee.

Jefferson also engaged in a variety of social entrepreneurship endeavors to benefit youth at risk, wheelchair bound teenagers with muscular dystrophy and adults with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy).

As Deputy Director of DBEDT, Ray is the first person of African-American descent to serve in a cabinet-level appointed position in Hawaii. He has been instrumental in developing new initiatives to strengthen Hawaii’s economy and in helping Director Theodore E. Liu to reorganize DBEDT, develop and aggressively market Hawaii’s economic potential, and communicate these activities to constituents both here and abroad.

”Court Tells Clintons to Pay Legal Bills”

Talon News reports a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that former President Bill Clinton and his wife Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) will have to pay their own legal fees accumulated during the independent counsel investigation of the Whitewater land deal in Arkansas in the 1980s.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. ordered the Clintons to pay most of the $3.5 million debt, though they’d asked taxpayers cover entire amount.

Fortunately, the court disagreed as the investigation into the Clintons’ involvement in the questionable land deal was over seven years at a cost of $70 million.

Talon News reports the three judges did not believe the argument made by the Clintons’ lawyer that the Clintons wouldn’t have accumulated so many legal fees if it were not for their position of power in government.

“We harbor no doubt that in the absence of the independent counsel statute, the allegations surrounding the Clintons, Madison Guaranty, and Whitewater would have been similarly investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” opined the judges.

The charges against the Clintons did not lead to an indictment of them. Despite that the investigation did have serious consequences for the Clintons and others around them. The 14-page ruling by the appeals court showed the independent counsel investigation into Whitewater and other issues was instrumental in leading to 24 other indictments, at least 16 convictions, and the impeachment of former President Clinton. The U.S. Senate did not convict Clinton on the charges of impeachment brought to them by the House of Representatives.

Former President Bill Clinton also cannot recoup any expenses related to the Monica Lewinsky investigation because of a previous settlement with the independent counselor.

Clintons’ attorney argued in a statement his clients should be able to get a large portion of their legal debt retired because former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush were allowed to do so in expenses related to the Iran-Contra investigation.

But the justices refused the argument. “The facts and the numbers speak for themselves,” remarked Kendall. “The good news is that the partisan Whitewater smoke-and-mirrors investigation is finally over.”

Mrs. Clinton recently revealed she and her husband owe up to $6.5 million in legal fees as of the end 2002. But both have boasted about income they’ve made since leaving office, including an $8 million advance Mrs. Clinton received for an autobiographical book she recently had published, and millions the former President has received for speeches, appearances and contracts.

Talon News says the appeals court did show some mercy and allowed the Clintons to be paid $85,312.01 to pay for the review and response to the court’s final report, a unique expense to this particular case. The report said that repayment for independent counsel fees “should be difficult; that such fees will not be a common thing.”

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