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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 16, 2010

The man with 2 faces

The memory of Rod Tam a sorry specimen still sitting on the City Council after filching public money for private lunches had barely faded from the headlines when along comes another disturbing case of flagrant dishonesty.

This time it involves John Henry Felix, the former councilman whose failed comeback in 2009 has now landed him a $50,000 campaign-financing fine, the biggest ever paid by a Hawai'i politician.

It's hard to square Felix, a generous philanthropist, proud Eagle Scout and winner of the Jefferson Award, with self-interested shenanigans like these. But this kind of fakery should strip the sheen from his resume.

Here's the offense: According to the state Campaign Spending Commission, Felix falsely reported $115,000 in loans to his campaign as if they were made from his personal account. Unacknowledged in the record were the two major lenders to his campaign: attorney William C. McCorriston and dentist Lawrence Tseu, who provided a total of $165,000.

Like Tam, Felix has written all this off as some sort of accounting mistake. His lawyer says the rush to get the campaign moving on a short special-election timetable added to the confusion.

That's lame. For starters, Felix deposited the checks from McCorriston and Tseu himself, and then wrote the checks from his personal account to the campaign. Was he doing it with his eyes shut? How could he miss it? This is a guy who's the CEO of one of the state's largest insurers, HMAA.

Don't forget: Similar hidden campaign loans for a lot less money landed candidate Dalton Tanonaka in the federal lockup in 2005.

So why no prosecution in a much bigger case? Why no prosecution in a case a commission member described as "one of the more egregious things we've seen"?

Clearly, Felix has more influential friends than Tanonaka.

A decade ago, the city fined Felix for running an unlicensed wedding chapel that he tried to pass off as a home-based business.

The fines piled up while Felix sat on the council crafting laws that govern everyone else.

Felix should have learned a hard lesson from that debacle. We certainly thought he did.

The Advertiser endorsed Felix for a return to the City Council last year and it's obvious now we made the wrong choice.