Henry Giugni, political insider dies
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
By Derrick DePledge
Henry Kuualoha Giugni, a confidant to U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye who became the Senate's sergeant-at-arms, died yesterday of congestive heart failure at a suburban Maryland hospital. He was 80.
Giugni, who grew up in Pearl City, was a former Honolulu police officer and liquor inspector who was at Inouye's side from his first days in the territorial Legislature in the 1950s to the peak of his political power in the Senate. He was a trusted friend and troubleshooter, a devilish, likable, bear of a man who could also be hard-nosed and abrasive when it came to politics.
Giugni always marveled that a local boy could become sergeant-at-arms, the chief law enforcement and protocol officer in the Senate, where he would escort presidents and foreign diplomats and round up senators for votes. He turned his inside experience and the political contacts he made into a six-figure-a-year lobbying job at Cassidy & Associates, one of the most influential firms in Washington, D.C.
Inouye announced Giugni's death in a statement on the Senate floor and spoke of their "unbreakable bond." Later, in an interview, the senator said his friend had "a very serious streak in him that I don't think so many people saw."
"I needed someone to maybe bounce off ideas, or someone who felt confident enough to be critical when it was justified, and he was the one," Inouye said. "I told him, that's the nature of our relationship and our friendship. If you can't do that, I don't want you around me, because I can have dozens of people who can brown-nose you, if you know what I mean. They're all over the place."
Heather Giugni, one of his four daughters, said her father "brought color to our lives."
"There was a time when handshakes meant everything, and so did your word, and my father was the last of that breed," she said.
Giugni, who was of Hawaiian and Italian ancestry, was the son of a Pearl Harbor shipfitter and a school principal. He went to Iolani School and served in the Army in World War II. He started in politics as a messenger and Democratic operative before linking up with Inouye, who was a young star within the party.
He followed Inouye to Washington and, like the senator, became a political player and settled into a life far different from that in the Islands. Friends remember him as someone who lived large and with heart, who loved to smoke and drink and eat and play hardball to get things done for his boss. Even at some of the most stressful times, friends say, he was known to break into Hawaiian songs.
"He was just that kind of person. If he was in a room, you knew he was there," said state Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa), who was an aide to Inouye in Washington in the late 1970s. "Every political figure needs the tough guy, the hatchet man. But he had a heart that was huge."
John Radcliffe, associate executive director of the University of Hawai'i Professional Assembly and a veteran lobbyist, had known Giugni for three decades and described him as the definitive political aide.
"It's sort of like being in the Secret Service," Radcliffe said. "A good staff guy would take a bullet for his boss, and Henry would do it. Not only because he was loyal but because he thought it was right."
Inouye recalled how Giugni volunteered to serve as a driver for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. He also remembered how Giugni asked for permission to march with a Hawaiian flag in a civil-rights demonstration through the South.
"He said, 'I want the people to see we Hawaiians support Martin Luther King,' " Inouye said.
Inouye stood behind Giugni after two instances where he was caught up in campaign fundraising violations. In 1974, the senator's campaign violated federal campaign spending law by not reporting a $5,650 contribution that Giugni accepted from ship-building magnate and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. In 1976, Giugni, in exchange for immunity, admitted taking an illegal $5,000 contribution from an oil company lobbyist and lying to a federal grand jury. The lobbyist was acquitted.
Giugni also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge for accepting a first-class airline ticket to Honolulu from AT&T in 1988 while he was sergeant-at-arms and the telephone company was seeking a U.S. Capitol Police contract. He was given a year probation.
His family and friends said his selection by senators as sergeant-at-arms, a position he held from 1987 to 1990, was his proudest achievement. He was responsible for a $120 million budget and more than 2,000 jobs. Giugni, according to Inouye's staff, was aggressive about promoting minorities and women and expanded accessibility so the disabled could enjoy tours of the Capitol.
People who visited him at the time said he was delighted to show people from Hawai'i around and seemed to be as famous as some of the senators. Once, he was captured on national television flashing a shaka back to Inouye aides as he was escorting President Ronald Reagan to his State of the Union speech. Another time, on orders from Democrats, he tracked down then-U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., and had staffers carry Packwood to the floor so the Senate would have a quorum and could conduct business.
"I will remember Henry as one of the first friends who welcomed me and my family to Washington when I was elected to Congress nearly 30 years ago," U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, said in a floor statement. "His kindness continued over many years, and we knew him to be a loving husband and father. Millie and I always appreciated his visits, whether for business or a social call."
"He carried himself with a personal humility that is rare in Washington," U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, said. "At the same time, he was universally respected for his wisdom, insight and institutional knowledge. Those qualities made his advice widely sought after. I felt privileged to count him as a friend and an adviser."
For the past 14 years, Giugni was a lobbyist with Cassidy & Associates, working on defense, telecommunications, education and other issues.
"He was part of the glue that held this firm together," said Gerald Cassidy, the firm's chairman. "He was a master of the congressional process, of understanding Washington, and he was a great and loyal friend."
Giugni is survived by his wife, Muriel Roselani; daughters H. Kealoha Giugni, Deborah Roselani McMillan, Heather Haunani Giugni and Gina Pilialoha Giugni-Halbach; 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.
Inouye said he last saw his friend a few weeks ago, when he stopped by the senator's office with some sushi to share for lunch.
"At the time he was saying, 'Well, I'm gearing up for one more campaign with you, but don't ask me for another one beyond that,' " said Inouye, 81, who was elected last year to an eighth six-year term. "I'm going to miss this guy, because he's really one of a kind."
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.