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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lawmaker vacating seat with one year to go

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer


  • Democrat
  • Born: Feb. 24, 1960, in Wisconsin; in Hawai'i since 1962
  • Job: Legislator, lawyer
  • Lives: Makiki
  • Political experience: House 1986-present
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    Longtime state lawmaker and consumer protection chairman Ken Hiraki said he will vacate his legislative seat and join Hawaiian Telcom as director of governmental affairs.

    The move, which will take effect Sept. 1, comes with roughly one year left in Hiraki's term as a Democratic representative for Iwilei, Downtown and Makiki. As chairman of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, Hiraki was involved in legislation affecting numerous industries ranging from healthcare and insurance to utilities including telecommunications services. He also was a key proponent for a law that goes into effect in September that will cap wholesale gasoline prices in Hawai'i.

    "My new position allows me a wonderful opportunity to still be involved in the governmental process while assisting Hawaiian Telcom, a company with a history of providing quality service to Hawai'i's consumers," said Hiraki in a written statement.

    Last August, Hiraki, 45, also advocated for public hearings in the recently concluded sale of Verizon Hawaii to The Carlyle Group. Verizon Hawaii since has become Hawaiian Telcom.

    Despite Hiraki's 19 years of legislative experience, state ethics laws ban the lawyer by trade from professionally lobbying on behalf of Hawaiian Telcom, or any business or individual, before the Legislature for one year.

    The post-employment law is aimed at providing a "cooling off period" and preventing former state officials from peddling influence, said Dan Mollway, executive director of the Hawai'i State Ethics Commission. However, the law doesn't prevent former lawmakers from researching issues or tracking legislation during that one-year period.

    Mollway said it's rare for former legislators to violate the state's post-employment law.

    "It has come up, but more than anything else because they didn't understand the law," Mollway said.

    Hawaiian Telcom, which is Hawai'i's major telephone company, said Hiraki's duties in his new role will conform with the state's post-employment law.

    "His many distinguished years of experience in public policy and consumer affairs have made him a well-respected advocate for consumers and a resource that will be valuable to our company in many different ways," said Joel Matsunaga, Hawaiian Telcom vice president for external affairs, in an e-mailed statement.

    Hiraki's exit from the Legislature shouldn't affect the balance of power in the Democrat controlled House. Under state law, Gov. Linda Lingle has 60 days to appoint a new Democrat legislator from Hiraki's district.

    Lingle said the public can recommend candidates by writing to governor.lingle@hawaii.gov or by sending a fax to 586-0006.

    "As I begin the process of selecting a candidate to fill the vacant seat, I welcome the public's input on recommendations on who they believe would be the best individual to represent the Chinatown-Downtown-Kaka'ako district," said Lingle in a written statement.