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Newly Released Analysis of Campaign Contributions Shows All City Councilmembers Bought and Paid For

Kioni Dudley, Ph.D.

All councilmembers beholden to Honolulu Rail and D.R. Horton's Ho’opili development

by Kioni Dudley, Ph.D.
President, Friends of Makakilo, Inc.

September 8, 2015

The Friends of Makakilo, Inc. has investigated the campaign contributions of all city councilmembers for the period January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2014 and determined that all councilmembers received a great number of donations from entities that would profit directly from approval of the Ho’opili/Rail project. (Although the Ho’opili farmland can thrive with the Rail crossing it, as it does today, in the minds of the councilmembers and members of the construction industry Ho’opili and Rail cannot survive without each other. Thus we researched donations from both Ho’opili and Rail construction donors.) The lowest amount received by a councilmember was 40% of all contributions; three councilmembers tied for highest, receiving 72%, almost three-quarters of their donations, from the construction community. Chair Ernie Martin came in at 59%, which in his case was $268,000.

Name Total
Amount from
Ho’opili & Rail
Percent from
Ho’opili & Rail
Kymberly Pine $160,879 $116,801 72%
J. Ikaika Anderson $139,518 $100,668 72%
Ron Menor $ 48,405 $ 34,650 72%
Brandon Elefante $ 37,322 $ 24,292 65%
Ernest Martin $451,240 $268,017 59%
Trevor Ozawa $183,320 $104,550 57%
Joey Manahan $182,215 $ 83,512 46%
Ann Kobayashi $ 57,136 $ 24,450 43%
Carol Fukunaga $258,321 $104,565 40%

It is likely that these amounts considerably under-report the total contributions linked to those that will profit from a “yes” vote on Ho’opili and Rail, since no employer was listed for most donors, and it was not always possible to identify a spouse, relative, or employee of a principal donor.

See the attachments ["9 attachments"] below for ALL contributions. Donors connected with Ho’opili and Rail are highlighted in yellow.
We have concluded that the donations the Honolulu councilmembers have received from members of the construction community were so great that they compromised the independence of judgment and the freedom of choice that are  fundamental requirements in any unbiased, ethical, and valid vote.

Raising campaign funds is very, very difficult. Ordinary citizens just don’t give money to candidates. But unions give, contractors give, cement companies, designers and banks give. Developers like D.R. Horton, the developer of Ho’opili, gives—all of their leaders give…and their office workers give.  HART officials give; so do their employees. 

As a result, councilmembers get so much of their money from the construction community that they can never refuse them anything they want.

They know very well that if they do vote against a development project that all of that money will go to their opponent in the next election. 

In our study we included people who would profit directly from approval of both Ho’opili and Rail, since the city councilmembers are convinced that one can’t exist without the other.

So how much money are we talking about? According to our count, in the last election period, Council Chair Ernie Martin brought in $268,000, almost 60% of his campaign contributions, from people who would profit from approval of Ho’opili and the Rail.  With that much money at stake, do you think he could possibly go against them? 

Ikaika Anderson, Kymberly Pine and Ron Menor easily topped his percentage. They got 72% of their campaign donations, almost three-quarters of all they collected, from the building community. Can you imagine Anderson, Pine or Menor voting to save that farmland and against the people that gave them ¾ of their campaign chest? 

Let’s look at the other councilmembers: Brandon Elefante got 65% from builders. Trevor Ozawa got 57%. No chance they were going to sacrifice that in the next election by voting against the Ho’opili development. That’s six of the nine votes.

But the other three votes are also bought. Carol Fukunaga got 40% of her contributions from people who would benefit from Ho’opili and Rail. Ann Kobayashi got 43%. Joey Manahan got 47%. Knowing how hard it is to raise money from ordinary citizens, nobody is going to vote to save farmland and watch that money go to another candidate in the next election.

The result, then, is that every single councilmember is so obligated, so corrupted by money, that they can only vote one way.

This might be fine if the majority of the people on O’ahu wanted to see the island paved over, but the majority treasure the open space and the natural beauty of our paradise.

Before moving on, let me point out that the way the law is written, these campaign contributions are all legal. They are all reported—that’s how we found them—but it is very difficult to search them out. Councilmembers have no obligation to declare campaign contributions as a conflict of interest, no matter how much they receive. And for all practical purposes, there is no way the public would know about them.

Obviously the laws need to be changed.

The Friends of Makakilo is announcing today that we have taken our case to the City Ethics Commission.

We have asked them for an opinion on whether city councilmembers who are beholden to the construction community for between 40% and 72% of their campaign chest funds had the independence of judgment and freedom of choice to vote against the Ho’opili project. We are asking the Ethics Commission to give an opinion on whether all City Council votes approving the Ho’opili project were compromised, biased, unethical and invalid.

Further, we are asking the Ethics Commission to revisit and rewrite their Advisory Opinion #79, written in 1977, so that city councilmembers who have taken campaign donations from entities that would profit directly from their vote will be required to declare those donations as a conflict of interest before voting.

Finally, since all current city councilmembers are so completely beholden to the construction industry, we are asking for an opinion on whether the current council would be suited to vote on Ho’opili again should there be a re-vote.


Trump Says That as a Businessman, He Bought Politicians [Hawaii Political Info] Aug 8, 2015

Rail, development opponents take legal action against City Council [KHON2] Sep 8, 2015

Opponents challenge City Council votes on rail, Ho'opili projects [Honolulu Star-Advertiser] Sep 8, 2015

Did Political Donations Influence Honolulu City Council’s Hoopili Vote? [Honolulu Civil Beat] Sep 8, 2015

AK_list_January 2012-December 2014.xls33.5 KB
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