Wednesday, October 1, 2008


CAN A THREE-LEGGED DOG COUNT TO FOUR? There actually are ongoing local Kaua`i political campaigns but with a little more than a month go you wouldn’t know it from the coverage by the local newspaper.

In the last two days they’ve told us the explosive “news” about quilting, Easter Seals (in October), baking, the bold-faced name-dropping exploits of the Happy Camper, promos for the Mokihana Festival, student music programs, Jewish New Years and new bus routes but nary a word about the doings, statements and activities of the 16 people running for council and mayor on Kaua`i.

Though we’re not expecting much at least they have, after a little PNN prodding, re-scheduled their formerly cancelled “forum” (look for it way way way down at the bottom buried in a separate article) we reported on last week, even now calling it a “debate”.

99% of their political coverage has been comprised of fluff pieces of basically free advertising for all the candidates (the first one’s free) and a batch of laughably-naive, softball questions and rote, stump-speech non-answers to their candidates’ questionnaire.

The one recent attempt at analysis was a somewhat strange district by district analysis of the precinct reports – an out of context examination of the numbers with no exhibited knowledge or analysis of Kaua`i demographics and no island-wide comparisons at all, just some random, useless regurgitation of the stats within artificially drawn state house districts.

And we certainly haven’t seen any analysis or even mention of campaign contributions and expenditures in this or any election year from the local paper despite the fact that they are now readily available on-line and, as we were reminded today, carry heavier fines for non-compliance this year.

According to Derrick DePledge’s blog post today

(S)ome may have overlooked that the bill passed by the state Legislature last session also included increases in the penalties for filing late campaign-finance reports.

Brian Schatz, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawai`i, said he has been hit with a $500 fine for a late report for his old campaign committee. “We made an error in missing the deadline,” he explained.

The state Campaign Spending Commission has posted a
warning about the larger fines on its Web site.

The fine for a late report is $50 per day for the first seven days and then $200 per day thereafter. The fine is $300 per day for filing late second preliminary primary and preliminary general election reports for candidates and late preliminary primary and general election reports for PACs. There is a cap on fines so as not to exceed 25 percent of the contributions or expenditures in the report, whichever is greater.

But our local newspaper seems fixated on serving its advertisers, rather than the electorate with not one mention of the campaign spending reports that pour in every few weeks..

But that s tradition at the local paper as was evidenced in the way for years Kaua`i candidates routinely broke the law by buying votes from non-profit organizations via the illegal disbursing of more money than the limits allow or actually doing it during campaign season.... until Bryan Baptiste was caught doing it on a massive level never seem before in the state.

It’s just one example of what can happen when a newspaper doesn’t do its job.

Seems that although contributions to community organizations and non-profits from campaign coffers are limited to $4000 a year in total and “no contribution from campaign funds shall be made from the date the candidate files nomination papers to the date of the general election.” Baptiste “spread it around” while on the campaign trail nonetheless

And the commission didn’t fool around (remove tongue from cheek). After Baptiste was safely ensconced in a second term in office they fined him “$6,000 for exceeding the state limit for contributions to community groups by $17,255 over four years.” according to a one and off article in the local paper in 2007.

As the campaign spending commission found in a 2007 “Conciliation Agreement”

7. Mr. Baptiste filed nomination papers for office on July 18, 2006.
8. The Respondents made contributions of $21,226.14 to various community groups, during the election period.
9. Respondents made $17,226.14 in contributions to community groups which exceeded the $4,000 “cap” in sections 11-200(b)(3) and 11-206(c)(3), HRS.CA 07-14
10. Respondents made seven contributions totaling $730 to community groups after filing nomination papers.

According to the article:

Barbara Wong, executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission, said the group had the authority to levy a fine three times that of the excess amount donated.“He could have paid $51,000 (in fines),” she said, adding that many of the contributions in question were between $10 and $15.

But as usual, despite its responsibility as the only newspaper in town to delve into these things TGI once again didn’t live up to it’s professional obligations.

Almost all real newspapers routinely assign reporters to take the time to peruse the records and dig out this kind of thing- and do it while it matters, in the middle of the campaign, not just report on the actions taken to punish the perpetrators years later

This was not easy in the past- records were slow in being filed and were not available on-line. But that was true everywhere yet newspapers across the country would routinely do the leg work to uncover these kinds of things as they were happening.

But now that half the leg work is “click work” there is no excuse for this kind of slap in the face to the community the local paper supposedly “serves”, according to it’s masthead

Why? Well as we said last week anyone who can add 2 and 2 can see that the lack of investigative efforts is one “2” and the revenue generated by candidate ads in the paper every day for months on end is the other “2”.

Baptiste’s $6000 slap on the wrists was nothing compared to what a story about him buying votes from community groups would have done if it was discovered during the campaign.

When all you need to pull the wool over the electorate’s eyes is a compliant lap dog in the watch dog’s house, it again makes us ask “can’t anyone play this game”.

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