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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 22, 2004

Republicans file ethics complaint

By Gordon Y.K. Pang and Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The Hawai'i Republican Party yesterday filed complaints with the state Ethics Commission charging that Democratic lawmakers violated ethics laws and rules when they held a news conference in the State Capitol courtyard on Tuesday to announce candidates in this fall's elections.

GOP Chairman Brennon Morioka said the Democrats did not obtain a permit to hold an event on Capitol grounds as required by the Department of Accounting and General Services, which oversees state facilities. Morioka said it is also a violation of state law to campaign on state property except in areas where a permit can be obtained.

"I'm just hoping that the Ethics Commission will find that they did violate ethics rules, we're just looking for a level playing field," Morioka said. "If the ... Democratic legislators and candidates are going to be trying to hold the Republicans and the governor to a higher standard than themselves, I think that's clearly unfair."

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki, D-22nd (McCully, Pawa'a), said there were no violations at the Capitol Tuesday because the candidates had gathered not to electioneer, but to hold a press conference. A permit, he said, is only required for a demonstration or a large public event. "It was not campaigning, it was not a rally, it was not a demonstration, it was a press conference to provide information to the public," he said. Saiki noted that in previous years, when nomination papers were filed in the lieutenant governor's office, candidates from both parties often brought along supporters wearing campaign T-shirts and holding signs.

The fair treatment section of the ethics code prohibits using state time, equipment or other facilities for private purposes, which includes campaigning.

State Ethics Commission executive director Dan Mollway yesterday said he could not talk about specific complaints for confidentiality reasons. But, he said, the commission has never examined whether the term "facilities" applies to open areas such as the Capitol courtyard.

On June 1, Republicans held a press conference in the first floor lobby at the State Office Tower to announce that about 10 of their candidates were filing their nomination papers, a gathering that also included supporters wearing T-shirts and holding signs.

Administrative rules require groups to obtain a permit for gatherings at state buildings where there are at least 25 people, said Comptroller Russ Saito.

Morioka said he would like to send a message to the Democrats. "They need to know that if they're going to claim ethics as an issue for themselves, then they need to follow the rules as well."

Saiki, however, said, "I think what the public should be concerned about is that if this complaint is an indication of the type of campaign that will occur this year, then we're in for a very long summer."

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com. Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com. Reach either at 525-8070.