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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 2, 2006

Halt in public service airings

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle announced yesterday that she and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona will not appear in any public service announcements in the Islands this year because they do not feel it is appropriate during an election year.

"I notified my cabinet of this decision last November, and strongly believe it is the fair and right thing to do," Lingle said in a written statement.

"We will not use our position or afforded opportunities for any government-sponsored or nonprofit public service announcements during this year's election cycle."

Aiona agreed. "Although it has been done in the past, and does not violate any rules or regulations, we do not feel it would be appropriate," he said.

The decision does not apply to public service announcements from the National Governors Association and the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

Several Democrats have been critical of the Republican governor for appearing in public service announcements that have been partially financed by state money. Politicians from mayors to the president are often invited to do the announcements, but some Democrats believe that Lingle's appearances have been crafted to build her image and help her politically.

State House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa), has proposed a bill this session that would prohibit public officials from appearing in the announcements during the three months before an election. It would apply to announcements that are paid for in part by public funds or are for state programs.

The bill would not prohibit officials from appearing in announcements relating to an emergency or natural disaster. A hearing on the bill is scheduled before the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon.

The majority leader said last night that Lingle made the right decision. "She's already exposed herself enough already with what I thought were bogus PSAs," Oshiro said.

State Rep. Brian Schatz, D-25th (Makiki, Tantalus), said Lingle showed good judgment. "But it probably makes sense for us to make a law so it doesn't depend on the good judgment of any politician," he said.

State Rep. Blake Oshiro, D-33rd (Halawa, 'Aiea, Pearlridge), the vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said lawmakers would likely discuss amending the bill to cover only elected officials or those running for public office. They will also likely consider changing the prohibition from three months before an election to after the July 25 filing deadline for candidates, which is less than two months before the September primaries.

Oshiro said he wanted to help give voters clear distinctions between public service announcements and campaign commercials.

"It just makes sure the playing field is level for everybody," Oshiro said.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.