Sunday, February 4, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, February 4, 2001

Cayetano trip: What's with all the secrecy?

Apparently Gov. Ben Cayetano has had it about up to here with questions about his trip to the Bahamas in December to look at a big new casino and aquarium there.

He told reporters he is through taking questions about the trip and would appreciate belaying the innuendo that there was anything untoward about the matter.

Fair enough. Governors are entitled to travel. They’re entitled to travel even for purposes of inspecting world-class aquariums. Even to travel to inspect world-class aquariums that are part of the attraction at a world-class resort and casino operation.

Even if the operators of that world-class resort and casino have launched an expensive effort to convince Hawaii to accept gambling and such a resort/casino here.

Even if that travel happened in the company of a long-time friend and gubernatorial aide who is now a consultant and was in the process of deciding whether he would become a lobbyist for that very same casino operator.

Even if that travel happened also in the company of another long-time gubernatorial friend who happens to be a developer and builder active in the very area where the possible resort/casino might be built.

Governors are entitled to all this. But they gotta expect questions.

Much of the mystery around all this has been self-created. The trip began in a great secrecy, with few if any on the governor’s staff aware of precisely where he was going or what he was up to.

And it took a while for the multiple purposes of the trip to unfold. At first, it was a trip to look at the resort aquarium and talk to officials in the Bahamas about telemedicine.

Only later did it become clear that Cayetano - long a doubter about the value of gambling - might have had reason to look at the casino operation at Sun International's Atlantis Resort there. Shortly after he returned home, Sun launched a big PR campaign here to promote a hotel/casino.

Then there was mystery and confusion surrounding the presence of his former aide and friend Charles Toguchi, who clearly was in the process of becoming a lobbyist for the hotel/casino company to push its idea of a gambling-funded higher-education fund in Hawaii. To his credit, he dropped the idea quickly.

Only Cayetano went on taxpayer expense for this trip, and it was a legitimate expense. The others paid their own way, or at least someone other than the taxpayers funded the trip.

So it adds up to something the public would have a great deal of interest in hearing more about.

Maybe there’s an object lesson here: If you have nothing to hide, don’t.

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