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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Special session idea called GOP ploy

By Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writer

State House Democratic leaders said yesterday they wouldn't fall for a Republican "ploy" and call a special legislative session to override Gov. Ben Cayetano's veto of campaign spending reforms.

They accused Republicans of wanting a special session to grandstand on favorite issues during an election year.

"We don't want to let them use this as a ruse for them to play politics under the guise of campaign reform," said House Speaker Calvin Say, predicting the GOP would use a special session to bring up "whatever things that might sound good in sound bites and help them in the upcoming election. We're not going to fall prey to that."

The party leaders said there was time enough to fix the campaign spending bill next session and have it take effect for the next election cycle, as originally proposed.

House Republican Leader Galen Fox, who had been circulating a petition that called for the special session, said yesterday that Democrats could limit a special session agenda, and suggested Democrats were conspiring with Cayetano to make sure reforms wouldn't become law.

"We are trying to stop the practice of people piling money into the pockets of those who award contracts, and that could start as soon as the day after the coming election," said Fox, R-21 (Waikiki, Ala Wai).

He said Democrats running for re-election could now claim to have voted for campaign spending reform, while "I am deeply suspicious they knew the governor would veto it all along."

The bipartisan bill banned contributions by unions and corporations, and prohibited government contractors from giving money to candidates for executive office, such as governor and mayor.

Cayetano said he vetoed the legislation because it exempted legislators from the ban on contributions from government contractors. House leaders said yesterday that was because legislators do not award contracts.

Asked why Cayetano's objections should not be met in a special session, Say said, "We want to go out and improve it, listen to our constituents and bring it back next year."

Republicans "are not correct" in claiming that Democrats oppose campaign spending reform, said Say, D-18th (Palolo, St. Louis, Kai-

muki). "I am very proud of what we have accomplished this year," he said, "and we will continue to be successful in getting (the legislation) out next year and try to address the governor's concerns."

As to whether there would be less pressure to pass such legislation when House members are not up for re-election, Rep. Brian Schatz said, "We have heard the public's cries. ... They want us to fix the system, and that's what we are committed to do."

Schatz, D-24th (Makiki-Tantalus) said he was puzzled by the push for the special session when Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle has attacked the legislation as designed to keep incumbents in office.

"If you are a newcomer ... and you can convince the business community and the general community to support you, any restriction on that is favoring incumbents," she said in May.

Reach Walter Wright at wwright@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8054.