Political Tittle-tattle: News and Entertainment from Hawaii's Political Arena

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”Public Rally Set for Thursday, April 17, to Protest Unprecedented $460 Million Tax Hike on State Taxpayers”


No New Taxes! No New Taxes! will be the war cry by small business owners and other concerned citizens at the “No New Taxes” rally on Thursday, April 17 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Hawaii State Capitol.

Outraged by the plan by Senate Democrats to raise state taxes an unprecedented $460 million a year, Rick Hamada, morning talk show host on KHVH, is coordinating the rally and is urging small business owners and concerned citizens to join the protest rally scheduled during Hamada’s morning broadcast.

Democrats, with a few exceptions in the Senate, voted to raise Hawaii’s taxes by $460 million through three proposals:

*A 12.5 percent increase in the general excise tax ($180 million to $200 million);

*A 7-year plan that imposes a monthly tax on anyone with business interests, land ownership or residency in Hawaii to fund a socialist long-term care government fund ($100 million +);

*And to give the counties the right to tax anyone purchasing goods on Oahu an additional 1 percent sales tax in addition to the 4.5 percent general excise tax they increased ($120 million to $180 million).

The majority of Democrats in the House are voting for the long-term care tax increase, and voted overwhelmingly to support the new county sales tax proposal, though today announced they are not planning to support the new sales tax in conference committee negotiations with the Senate.

Those who are savvy to the legislative process warn anything can happen, however before session is over May 1 at midnight, and any of the proposals still alive may pass, even if one side says it is not supporting it.

The governor says she is not planning to sign into law legislation that will increase taxes, with the exception of allowing counties to impose the new sales tax because she believes counties should have more autonomy. However Democrat lawmakers are already counting the number of votes they have so they can override her vetoes of the long-term care and other tax increases proposed.

Hamada coordinated a similar all out “No New Taxes” protest in 1998 over then Gov. Benjamin Cayetano’s proposal to raise the state’s general excise taxes.

Hundreds of people turned out to what was deemed the “Hawaii Tea Party,” and Hamada and others who attended the rally were credited with sending an effective message to lawmakers that ultimately helped kill the tax increase proposal.

HawaiiReporter.com staff and supporters will attend the rally, along with members of Small Business Hawaii, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and the Hawaii Realtors Association. Those attending are asked to bring protest signs and old No New Taxes shirts from the 1998 rally. Anyone wanting a new No New Tax shirt at a cost of $12 can call HawaiiReporter.com at 524-4500 before the event. No shirts will be sold on state property. There is a limited supply.

”Most Legislators Keep ‘No Tax Increase’ Pledge, Two Don’t and One Makes National ‘Hall of Shame”’

To their credit, Democrat Sen. David Ige and Republican Sens. Fred Hemmings, Bob Hogue and Gordon Trimble, kept their Americans for Tax Reform “No New Tax” pledge, voting no to all of the major tax increase proposals by their Democrat colleagues.

In the House, Republican Reps. Bud Stonebraker, Barbara Marumoto, Galen Fox, Lynn Finnegan, Bertha Leong, Guy Ontai, David Pendleton, Cynthia Thielen, Mark Moses, Colleen Meyer and Corinne Ching also kept their pledge to vote no on new and higher tax proposals.

However, Sen. Cal Kawamoto, D-Waipahu, supported and voted for all of the major tax increase proposals, even proposing to raise gasoline taxes by 2 cents per gallon. For his blatant disregard of his pledge, Kawamoto made the national “Hall of Shame” on the Americans for Tax Reform Web site seen at https://www.atr.org

Rep. Bertha Kawakami, D-Kauai, also broke her pledge and voted for all of the tax increases in the House of Representatives.

”National Tax Freedom Day Comes on April 19 in 2003, Earliest Since 1992”

According to Tax Foundation calculations using the latest government data on income and taxes, Tax Freedom Day in 2003 will be celebrated on April 19th. That is the same date that Tax Freedom Day fell on during 2002, but 8 days earlier than in 2001, and 11 days earlier than in 2000.

Two factors are combining to make the average American tax burden
lighter in 2003, according to Tax Foundation Executive Director Scott
Hodge, including federal tax reductions in 2001 and 2002 and a slower economy.

The new report, Tax Foundation Special Report No. 122, “America Celebrates Tax Freedom Day,” was unveiled by Foundation economist Scott Moody, who traces the course of America’s tax burden since 1900, and explains why the overall tax burden has dipped sharply in the last three years, pushing Tax Freedom Day back into mid-April, after a string of later Tax Freedom Days.

Tax legislation being debated right now will affect the course of future Tax Freedom Days, according to Hodge.

“If the President’s retroactive tax proposal is passed,” comments
Hodge, “Tax Freedom Day will end up being one day earlier in 2003.”

”Taxes and Other Expenses”

The report also compares the number of days that Americans work to pay taxes with the price of other important categories of consumer spending.

“Americans will work longer to pay for government in 2003 than they
will for food, clothing, and shelter combined,” says Hodge.

Only in the last decade have taxes exceeded spending on these basic necessities, and federal taxes alone cost Americans more (74 days) than any other major budget item.

Tax burdens vary considerably from state to state, not only because of different state and local taxes, but because of divergent federal tax payments. Connecticut has the heaviest total tax burden and so celebrates Tax Freedom Day the latest — on May 9. Alaskans pay the least and are finished working to pay taxes on March 30. In Hawaii, tax freedom day comes on April 13, two days before the federal government tax filing deadline.

”Governor Names Supreme Court Nominee”

Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday named Honolulu Attorney James E. Duffy Jr. to the Hawaii Supreme Court and sent his name for consideration to the Hawaii State Senate, the body of lawmakers that must confirm him.

A long-time, old-boy Democrat insider, Duffy was heavily supported by top Democrats in the state, who also lobbied to get him appointed to the federal bench, but were unsuccessful. U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye was rumored to be pushing for Duffy, even offering a trade to Lingle to support Duffy in exchange for his support of her candidates still pending confirmation before the U.S. Senate. But Lingle told HawaiiReporter.com in yesterday’s press conference that neither Inouye nor his staff contacted her or anyone from the governor’s administration about the appointment.

Lingle stressed she was happy with Duffy’s appointment, but admitted she only had six candidates to choose from for the Hawaii Supreme court vacancy, which came with the retirement of Justice Mario R. Ramil. A list of six was submitted to the governor by the Judicial Selection Commission — a commission that was appointed Democrats, including former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano and the House and Senate leaders in the Hawaii State Legislature.

Though many people were surprised by her selection, it may have been a good strategic move for Lingle, who was earlier that day criticized heavily by the former head of the Democrat Party of Hawaii Walter Heen for not having quality judicial appointments (even though she had not made any).

Background on Duffy, submitted to Lingle, says Duffy was a former president of the Hawaii Bar Association and senior partner at the law firm of Fujiyama, Duffy & Fujiyama. He has a broad background in both plaintiff and defense work, and has concentrated his practice on personal injury matters; professional liability, product liability and life insurance claims; commercial law, family court and criminal law litigation. He is also experienced in arbitration and mediation, including advising business management on ethical, due process and other matters.

Lingle, who discussed a rift between the remaining four Supreme Court justices now serving on the bench, says Jim is a “skilled lawyer who is perceived by his colleagues as someone who can effectively bring people together.” Duffy says his mediation experience will help him work with the other justices, no matter the circumstances.

Over the past five years, Duffy has served as lead attorney for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and its board of trustees in litigation against the state of Hawaii in the ceded land revenue case, and as arbitrator, mediator and special master. He is licensed to practice in all Hawaii state and federal courts; Wisconsin state and federal courts for the East District; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and U. S. Claims Court. Duffy is a graduate of Marquette University Law School and College of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

”Conflicts of Interest Abound in State Legislature, Good Government Campaign Reform and Ethics Bills Die With Few Exceptions”

Sen. Les Ihara, D-Kaimuki, helped introduce a number of bills under a “good government bill package” that challenge the ethics and campaign practices of lawmakers in an effort to hold them accountable for their votes and actions.

The vast majority of these bills are dead or altered so severely that they are unrecognizable and in fact, bad government bills.

One ethics bill that was a key piece of legislation in the package is still a “clean” bill, not altered, but will not pass unless Eric Hamakawa in the House judiciary grants it a hearing and passes it as is to the governor for her signature, something highly unlikely, but possible with enough public pressure, Ihara says.

That bill is SB 1606, which addresses legislative ethics by defining conflicts of interest, setting up a legislative committee to council and police legislators who violate legislative ethics and in extreme cases, may recommend legislators not vote on a bill that financially or otherwise benefits them.

The bill also would require financial disclosure for legislators of any client or job that accounts for more than 25 percent of their income. For example, many of the legislators are also attorneys and represent companies that come to lobby them on bills. That should be disclosed, Ihara says.

A handful of legislators have blatantly introduced legislation to specifically help themselves or an organization they represent this year, in some cases without declaring a conflict, something Ihara and many others say is just plain wrong.

For example, Reps. Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa, and Cal Kawamoto, D-Waipahu, introduced legislation to exempt Wahiawa General Hospital from city zoning requirements that were holding up a major expansion project for the hospital, which included the construction of several new medical related businesses and facilities Oshiro was involved in. Both Oshiro and Kawamoto are on the board of the hospital.

Another bill allowed the automatic extension for 35 years of state land leases in Kokee on Kauai for families already residing there. Normally the leases, authorized by the state every 35 years, would be awarded to the highest bidder. However, Rep. Bertha Kawakami, D-Kauai, whose family resides there, was a co-signer of the bill that denied the leases from going out for bid, and instead automatically renewed them for 35 more years. Many other Democrat insiders and supporters also hold leases in the area. Kawakami, a powerful figure in the House, never acknowledged her conflict when introducing or voting on the bill.

Democrats in the House claim to have passed a bill reforming state campaign laws that now allow for rampant abuse by some candidates who do not have ethical campaign fundraising practices.

The investigations by a variety of state, city and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the state Campaign Spending Commission, of the campaign of Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, have revealed an ingrained “pay to play” system that encourages those seeking government contracts from the city to make political contributions to Harris. Other Democrat politicians in Hawaii, such as former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano, former Lt. Gov Mazie Hirono, and former Mayor of Maui Kimo Apana, have come under fire for this same practice of not only accepting, but encouraging, political contributions from those getting government work.

Bob Watada, executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, is frank about the House Democrats’ version of the campaign spending reform bill.

“It is just a bad bill,” Watada says about Senate Bill 459, once a solid reform bill that was tampered with by committee chairs.

Watada says the main problem with this legislation that Democrats are not only touting, but passing, is there are too many exemptions that allow even more loopholes to be created and more unethical and damaging practices to go on in secret.

“The bill is supposed to prevent those … getting government work from giving contributions during a certain period — period,” Watada says. But he says it exempts those owning less than 25 percent of a corporation (most have ownership of 15 percent or less or dilute their shares with family members), and exempts those giving under $6,000 per election cycle. The bill also stops the reporting requirement for gifts and in-kind donations under $1,000, which could add up substantially, especially in the House races where less money is raised and spent.

“In-kind donations, which they are now saying don’t need to be reported, could account for up to 50 percent of the total money raised, but the public will never know it because it will be swept under the rug,” Watada says.

Watada also points out the new legislation, if passed, would allow vote buying to become legal. Candidates could solicit gifts from companies that already have given them the maximum donation. In turn, the candidates can give the gifts to constituents in an effort to win their support and essentially buy their vote. At least two people currently in office are under investigation for this practice, including Sen. Cal Kawamoto, D-Waipahu, who is in charge of the government affairs committee in the Senate, and oversees the ethics of his fellow senators.

”Spammers Take Advantage of War in Iraq”

With the onset of war in Iraq, email from people marketing war-related merchandise has become the fastest growing new type of spam, according to SurfControl, an email filtering company.

The company’s global research team reported in March that in less than a month, war-related spam rose from an insignificant number to nearly 10 percent of all spam. The company bases its report on all spam collected and monitored for SurfControl’s anti-spam database.

Most of the war-related spam began to appear in mid-March, using patriotism and fear to sell everything from lapel pins to gas masks.

Among the most frequent war-related spam email messages were: American Car Flags to Support our Troops; Celebrate American Courage: Take 4 History Books for $1 Each!; Defenders of Freedom U.S. Coin; Discover Platinum American Flag Card; Honor our Military with Exclusive Collectibles; Show Your Pride (T-shirts); Show your support with a U.S. Lapel Pin!; Support our Troops (T-shirts); Terrorist Threat, Please Read! (Water filtration system); Israeli Gas Masks in Stock for a Limited Time!

The spam email selling gas masks, while not as frequent as many of the others, illustrates the rapid growth in war spam. Gas mask spam rose from zero in early February to 216 variations of gas mask spam by March.

Company official Paris Trudeau added that not only is spam a huge problem, but also junk mail, which while it is not attempting to sell any products can still tie up corporate email accounts.

”Anti-War Activists Picket Fox News”

In Hawaii, pro-American rallies are still being held every Saturday at Ala Moana Beach Park. Anti-war activists also continue to protest in scattered locations around the state.

In Washington D.C., the rallies tend to be more strategically placed. Take the one that happened right in front of the offices of Fox News.

Anti-war activists picketed the Fox News Channel offices to protest the network’s coverage of the war in Iraq, according to a report in the United Press International. Organized by Code Pink, Global Exchange, and Media Alliance, the first event drew about 75 protesters. In a letter to the bureau, Code Pink told Fox News it is not reporting the events in Iraq objectively.

“We are writing to remind the Fox News Channel that according to your own promotions, you are supposed to be ‘fair and balanced,'” the letter says. “You seem to have forgotten this motto in your coverage of the war in Iraq. You also seem to have forgotten some of the basic precepts of journalism — such as the one that journalists are supposed to report the truth.”

A Fox spokesman declined to comment.

”Former Hawaii Resident, Candidate for U.S. House, Featured in USA Today for POW Experiences”

Orson Swindle, a former resident of Hawaii, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, now a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission, was featured recently in USA Today.

In the article “FTC watchdog, ex-POW focuses on lifting spirits,” reporter Jayne O’Donnell unveils some of the horrible ordeals Swindle survived as a POW for six years during the Vietnam War, including 20 sleepless days of beatings while chained to a stool. He returned to America March 4, 1973.

Today, at the FTC, Swindle and four other commissioners cast votes on consumer protection and antitrust matters ranging from mergers to Internet spam and eye-surgery scams, O’Donnell reports.

“It’s also an odd spot for the man who ran Ross Perot’s populist presidential campaign, helped launch Jack Kemp’s free-market Empower America and nearly discontinued loans to Georgia farmers when he ran Georgia’s slice of the Farmers Home Administration under President Reagan,” she says.

Swindle, she says, is a spirit booster for FTC’s staff in the nation’s capital, where fears of war-related terrorist attacks have many on edge.

In an email to managers, Swindle wrote, “We are gonna be fine now and in the future.” He added: “The war in Iraq will be over soon. We can be proud of our forces. Our cause is just, and war is unfortunate, but necessary from time to time.”

”’To reach legislators, see:”’ “Representatives at a Glance” and “Senators at a Glance”

”’Send any tittle or tattle you might have to Malia Zimmerman at”’ mailto:Malia@HawaiiReporter.com ”’Send complaints elsewhere. Compliments and news tips accepted here.”’