Records: Company at center of legislative bribery scandal a big political donor
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The company at the center of the legislative bribery scandal has political connections far beyond the two politicians who have admitted to accepting bribes.
Hawaii News Now is not naming the company or its owner because they are not identified in the bribery case documents or charged with a crime.
But according to its website, the local industrial cleaning company has received several government contracts. That includes a $1 million job to sanitize Oahu’s buses.
State campaign spending records show that since 2014, company employees and officers, its owner and his relatives and related businesses and their workers have donated nearly $300,000 to more than 50 political candidates in Hawaii.
“That alone means that this person is one of the more influential campaign donors in the state,” said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore.
The political donations included $19,000 to former Maui state Sen. J. Kalani English and $11,000 to former Waipahu state Rep.Ty Cullen ― who were both charged on Tuesday with taking bribes from the owner’s company. Both will plead guilty next week.
Campaign finance experts said the access company officials received from their political donations likely provided them with the opportunity to bribe the lawmakers.
“It opens the doors ― you are now in their social circles. You are considered a trusted ally,” said retired judge and former prosecutor Randal Lee.
“Therefore the elected officials will let you in and you’ll have more freer access to the elected official.”
Lawmakers said they were shocked by the allegations and that they plan to take steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
They’ll likely seek stiffer penalties against lawmakers who don’t report gifts from lobbyists and contractors, stronger and mandated ethics training and more transparency in the legislative process.
“It’s really disturbing and casts the entire Legislature in a bad light and we’ll see how the investigation proceeds,” said state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole, who represents Kaneohe.
House Speaker Scott Saiki said a new law passed in the wake of the Kealoha scandal could be used to take away some of the lawmakers’ pension benefits after they are convicted.
“This is really bad. This is public corruption. I’m not sure how much worse it can get,” said Saiki.
Copyright 2022 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.