Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

Tougher disincentives needed on donations

So Geolabs-Hawai'i gets slapped with a $64,000 fine for making excessive political donations to Gov. Ben Cayetano, Mayor Jeremy Harris, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Maui Mayor James "Kimo" Apana and others. Oh yes, and they've agreed not to make any political contributions for the next four years.

Even though that's the largest fine ever issued by the state Campaign Spending Commission, it's really not oppressive stacked up against what the Kalihi-based engineering firm has earned in government contracts over the years.

Where, then, is the disincentive for those who want to use campaign contributions to curry political favor? Clearly, it's going to take more than a fine that pales in comparison to profits.

In the case of Geolabs, the company has landed $660,000 worth of non-bid contracts from the Harris administration alone since 1998. It also has won consulting jobs on major federal and state projects, such as the H-3 freeway and the Maui state airport.

In its settlement agreement with the state Campaign Spending Commission, the firm admitted to making $124,700 in excessive donations to political campaigns since 1996. Once the company had given the legal limit, contributions were made by employees, their spouses and other affiliates, who were reimbursed by the company for their contributions.

We suggest that in the future, those found guilty of deliberate campaign spending violations face a penalty that can serve as a realistic deterrent — something along the lines of a five-year ban on bidding for or receiving government contracts.

Of course, such a punishment should not apply to individuals and firms cited for minor campaign spending offenses and technicalities. We're hopeful that the case of Geolabs is the exception rather than the rule.