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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Lingle nominates two for Cabinet

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Linda Lingle's nominations of Mark Bennett as attorney general and Micah Kane as chairman and director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands will not encounter any roadblocks at the Capitol, according to the head of the Senate committee charged with reviewing both nominations.

Micah Kane, left, and Mark Bennett are the latest nominees for Gov. Linda Lingle's Cabinet.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Lingle announced the selections of the two key Republican Party figures yesterday.

Bennett has been counsel to the Republican Party of Hawai'i while Kane has served as the state GOP's executive director and chairman.

Both Bennett and Kane will make a little more than $86,000 annually and are scheduled to start their new posts Jan. 2. The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa said she expects colleagues in the Democratic-controlled Senate to look beyond party labels and look strictly on their qualifications and professional qualities.

Hanabusa, also an attorney, said she has gone up against Bennett in the courtroom.

Mark J. Bennett

Age: 49

Position: attorney general, state of Hawai'i

Previous jobs: partner, law firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon; Republican Party legal counsel; deputy United States attorney; adjunct professor, University of Hawai'i Richardson school of law.

Education: Cornell Law School, juris doctorate; Union College, Bachelor of Arts in political science.

Family: Wife, Patricia Ohara

Hobbies: Running, golf, bridge

Micah Kane

Age: 33

Position: Director and chairman, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands

Previous jobs: Hawai'i Republican Party chairman and executive director; government affairs liaison, Building Industry Association of Hawai'i.

Education: Master's in Business Administration, University of Hawai'i-Manoa; Bachelor's in Business Administration, Menlo College; Kamehameha Schools.

Family: Wife, Joelle Kane; daughters Ka'ili, Sunny and Ka'ohu.

Hobbies: Scuba; skin diving; spending time with family; landscaping.

"I never felt that Mr. Bennett acted in any way other than in a professional manner," she said. "He acted for his clients but it was never personal, he never got to a petty personal level."

Lingle, in announcing Bennett's nomination, said the seasoned litigator's experience dealing with state and city cases would work to his advantage.

Lingle, who was sworn in last week, has a number of Cabinet appointments left to make and she promised to make at least two more announcements later this week. To date, she has named Bob Awana as her chief of staff, Lenny Klompus as communications director and Georgina Kawamura as budget director.

Bennett yesterday said there are some state-related issues on which he has represented private companies and noted that he will recuse himself from those.

For instance, he represented Texaco in the state's antitrust suit against oil companies. Bennett will take no part in any decision on whether to continue the lawsuit against those companies, Lingle said. Instead, the state tax director and deputy attorney generals will advise her, as well as senior policy advisor Randall Roth.

A partner in the politically connected law firm of McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon, Bennett previously was an assistant U.S. attorney for a decade.

Bennett said that among the major challenges he would be facing as attorney general are a lawsuit brought against the state by SHOPO, the ceded lands issue, negotiations with Duty Free Shoppers over airport lease rent, and liability cases such as the one spurred by the Sacred Falls incident.

Hanabusa said Bennett has represented a number of interests.

"It shows you his breadth of knowledge in terms of being a litigator," she said.

The only question she has, she said, is with Bennett's experience as a manager since he would be "head of the largest law firm in the state of Hawai'i."

"I don't know of anything that gives me cause to question Mr. Bennett's integrity or his ability as an attorney," Hanabusa said. "I feel that unless there's something out there that I'm totally unaware of, I don't suspect he will have a major problem."

Micah Kane, left, was tabbed as director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, while Mark Bennett was selected for attorney general.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Hanabusa said she also expected senators to look beyond politics when reviewing the qualifications of Kane, who has been known for his sometimes pit-bull manner when dealing with Democrats.

"What's important to me in terms of Mr. Kane's appointment is the sentiment of the beneficiary class under the Hawaiian Homes Act," she said. "I anticipate we will hear loudly and clearly from them."

Hanabusa said she is heartened by Kane's stated commitment yesterday to reinstate the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust Individual Claims Review Panel that would resolve past claims.

"I always felt the way the state handled that issue was a real travesty," she said.

Kane said that his main goal will be to distribute homestead lands to all native Hawaiians holding a legal right and desiring such property within five years.

Kane also won an endorsement from the man he will be replacing — outgoing DHHL Chairman Raynard Soon.

"He's native Hawaiian, he's young, he has lots of energy," Soon said. "Most important, he's close to the governor and with a department like Hawaiian Home Lands, you need to have that close relationship."

Soon called Kane's five-year target for distributing homesteads to all who qualify "very ambitious." However, he said, "every Hawaiian would be happy to participate in a program that got us there."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.