Mahalo, Dave! You made my morning.
I’m at the Washington Hilton, where the American Society of Criminology is holding its annual meeting. Meda is in and out of conference sessions and meetings with publishers, coauthors, and colleagues, so I’m on my one much of the time.
I was up early this morning. Still in bed, the room dark, I quietly reached for my iPad and checked the Star-Advertiser web page, where I noticed Dave Shapiro’s Volcanic Ash column regarding the city’s rail project. I clicked through and read the column. Buried at the bottom was something I hadn’t seen before.
One factor distinguishing Ansaldo from other bidders is the Italian company’s attention to making local political connections.
Ansaldo’s “responsible managing employee,” according to the state order fining Ansaldo $150,000 for not having a Hawaii license, is contractor Thomas Enomoto, whose company is known for ties to local elected officials.
Enomoto’s company gave City Councilman Nestor Garcia, the former Council chairman, a $30,000-a-year part-time position as a safety manager.
Ansaldo’s local spokeswoman is Carolyn Tanaka, who held a similar position with former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s campaign for governor.
A quick search of state contractor licensing records at the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs confirmed Enomoto’s position with Ansaldo.
Ah, what wonderful political baggage Enomoto brings to this project! He is a veteran of the political influence and patronage game in Hawaii. I joined the staff of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin early in 1993, and was writing about Enomoto’s influence within just a couple of months, following up on investigations done while publishing my earlier newsletter, Hawaii Monitor.
As I review some of this ancient history, keep in mind the old axiom: “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
While there haven’t been any direct questions aimed at Enomoto’s actions while representing Ansaldo, there’s more than ample history to suggest this is something to watch closely.
So here are a few of those early stories.
“Developer flouts limits on donations,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 1993.
A Honolulu developer and political ally of Gov. John Waihee is at the center of a network of companies and business associates contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns over the last six years.
A computer analysis of campaign contributions has found that Thomas T. Enomoto, with at least 16 associated businesses and seven individuals, gave more than $260,000 to political candidates and committees since 1987.
“Raceway Park got nonbid contract to use state land. Developer Enomoto is linked to the operation , which also enjoys a city tax break.,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, June 1993.
State records show that the escrow agreement and lease were signed on behalf of Hawaii Motorsports Center by Enomoto. The Star-Bulletin reported earlier that Enomoto and a group of sevel individuals and 16 companies have contributed more than $260,000 to political campaigns since 1987.
“State raids airport-system funds,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 1993.
After exhausting funds authorized by the Legislature for the purchase of land in Ewa from Campbell Estate, state officials raided highly restricted airport funds for another $65 million to complete the 1991 purchase of Hawaii Raceway Park and the Hawaii Meat Co. feedlot.
The two parcels made up the most expensive part of a $110 million condemnation of Campbell Estate land at Kapolei, the largest land acquisition ever untaken by the state.
“The Fast Lane,” iLind.net, undated.
Many political observers traced the race track deal to then-Gov. John Waihee’s personal enthusiasm for racing fast cars. Waihee reportedly required members of his cabinet and other insiders to join in the ritual of high speed driving. Tom Enomoto was one of those insiders.
Evidence turned up in the form of a Hawaii Raceway Park register disclosed during discovery in a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Hawaii Meat Co. These rough notes from the register indicate days then-Gov. John Waihee’s signed in at the track and those signing in at the same time. These are rough notes from the original document and may contain misspellings. Copied from court records.
“Audit tells state: Replay $76 million in airport fund flap.” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 1995.
The audit, released April 28, was particularly critical of the state’s use of airport funds for the 1991 purchase of 161 acres of land in Kapolei, including the site of Hawaii Raceway Park. The audit concluded that state officials knew the land was not needed for airport purposes although they publicly claimed, and have continued to claim, that the acquisition was part of an ongoing expansion of Honolulu International Airport.
When the land purchase agreement was signed in November 1991, the state had already abandoned plans for a land exchange and knew tenants were not interested in moving to the site near Campbell Industrial Park, the audit found.
State transportation officials were “unable to provide documentation to support that the land was needed for airport purposes” when the audit team was in Honolulu last summer, the audit notes.
“Suit claims deal helped Waihee pal. The Kapolei land sale was structured to help Tom Enomoto, the documents suggest,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, May 1995.
KEY state officials negotiating the 1991 purchase of land in Kapolei privately requested that the deal include benefits for a company involving Tom Enomoto, a close friend and campaign supporter of then-Gov. John Waihee, according to documents made public in a pending lawsuit.
According to the documents, state planning director Harold Masumoto asked for the company to be given a new five-year lease to operate Hawaii Raceway Park, with an option to renew for another five years. The state could not award a similar lease directly without going through a public auction process.
The state’s plan, not made public at the time but conveyed to Enomoto and others, was to later move the racetrack to the nearby ocean-front site of the former Hawaii Meat Co. feedlot, where Enomoto’s company planned a new, privately owned racing facility, the documents say.
The documents were filed in court by attorneys representing the owners of Hawaii Meat Co., who are seeking to recover losses allegedly sustained as a result of the state’s purchase of the land.