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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Free show called ethics violation

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

State lawmakers attending Friday's annual fundraiser of the Hawaii Transportation Association political action committee must pay for their tickets or risk violating the state ethics law pertaining to gifts.

Dan Mollway, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, issued the warning to lawmakers yesterday after a complaint filed against the transportation industry group by Citizen Voice, a government watchdog organization.

Each of the 76 members of the state Legislature received an invitation to attend "an evening of entertainment" at a private showing of the musical group Society of Seven LV at the Outrigger Main Showroom in Waikiki from the Hawaii Operating Transporters Political Action Committee.

HOTPAC is the political action arm of the Hawaii Transportation Association, which lobbies on behalf of truckers, transportation companies and others in the private transportation industry.

Mollway, in his memo, said accepting or using the tickets would violate the gifts section of the state Ethics Code. The law states that a legislator or other state employee cannot accept gifts "in which it can reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the legislator or employee" or "is intended as a reward for any official action."

Mollway declined to comment specifically about the Citizen Voice complaint. But in general, he said, "you can't accept gifts if they're given by someone who is subject to the official action of a government official."

Gareth Sakakida, managing director for the association and HOTPAC treasurer, said all lawmakers are invited to the annual event each year, regardless of how they vote on bills, and in the past several years, an average of about half a dozen lawmakers attended the event.

Sakakida said no lobbying is done at the event and no one has complained about the practice in the past.

A ticket for the fundraiser is $50, which includes the price of the show and one free drink.

George Fox, Citizen Voice executive director, said he has no doubt that the association is seeking to curry favor with lawmakers.

"Nobody gives me tickets to the Society of Seven or any other damn thing because I can't give them anything back," Fox said.

Fox also filed a complaint with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com.