Geothermal developers aim to unseat OHA trustee Apoliona

Two companies pushing for expanded geothermal drilling and development appear to be the primary forces behind the attempt by legendary prep football coach, Cal Lee, to unseat longtime Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and former chair, Haunani Apoliona.

Innovations Development Group Inc. and an affiliate, Honua Group LLC, which advocate development of geothermal resources on behalf of Native Hawaiians, have been the backbone of Lee’s campaign, according to reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.

With early and continued campaign support from the two companies, Lee has raised $71,019.83 as of October 22, compared to Apoliona’s total of $53,894.19.

Campaign reports show that for more than a month after Lee filed papers to run for Apoliona’s at-large seat, Honua Group and Innovations paid all of the campaign’s expenses, most of which were carried on the campaign’s books as loans.

The two companies paid to reserve the internet domain name,, rent a post office box, hire a public relations consultant, order campaign signs from a company in Los Angeles, and fly them back to Honolulu, and then run Lee’s first campaign ads in the Star-Advertiser.

As the campaign developed, funds from the two companies went to pay for fundraising expenses, interisland travel, more campaign signs, and other items.

Lee’s expense report, filed with the Campaign Spending Commission, lists $10,988.09 in expenditures made by Honua Group on Lee’s behalf. Innovations Development added another $8,771.93, according to the disclosure reports.

The two companies are reported to have made 47 separate loans to Lee’s campaign between June 15 and October 17, 2012, with a total value of $24,735.79.

Lee’s campaign reported repaying $4,113.45 by the October 22 cut-off date of the most recent campaign finance report.

In addition to paying expenses for the campaign, Lee received direct contributions from Innovations Development office manager, Ryan Matsumoto ($3,475) and corporate treasurer, Nainoa Kuna ($2,500).

Financial advisor Lee Erwin, who is listed as a member of IDG’s management team, is also the treasurer of Lee’s campaign organization.

Kuna is also co-manager of Honua Group with Roberta Cabral, state business registration records show. Cabral, in turn, is a director and “Senior Advisor” of Innovations Development. Innovations Development’s management team also includes CEO Pat Brandt and community advisor Mililani Trask.

Trask has recently been active speaking out in support of the controversial Public Lands Development Corporation in various public meetings and in published statements. Geothermal projects could be among those that would benefit from exemptions to zoning and environmental regulations available through the PLDC.

The two companies also made substantial contributions to OHA candidates Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey ($5,000 each), while Honua Group contributed $3,500 to OHA trustee Robert Lindsey.

55 responses to “Geothermal developers aim to unseat OHA trustee Apoliona

  1. Kipsan, if Cal Lee doesn’t know about politics, isn’t that a good thing? The way you state that is like “knowing politics” is a requirement to be in OHA. That’s the problem! OHA’s been all politics for many years. Self serving “politicians”, who have their own agenda and line their own pockets with our OHA money. All the internal wheeling and dealing has got to stop.

    What does Cal Lee know about Hawaiian issues? Instead of questioning him on a blog, why not ask him directly. He knows enough to begin changing the “status quo”. He will listen, not just “muscle” people into a vote like some current trustees. At the very least, he will not be pushed around nor intimidated into a vote. He will do what is right for the common good, and stand onipa’a when it comes to what is right.

    What has Cal Lee done for Hawaiians? Surely you jest! Such an off handed, pointless question, which shows you have not done your “homework” on this candidate. His record speaks for itself. Frankly, being the primary caretaker of his own beloved mother speaks volumes.

    You are correct that name recognition is not enough. With that I can agree. The lives Cal Lee has touched and groomed for many years don’t just know his name, they know his character and leadership qualities. I hope they all remember to vote, and bring some sense of honor back to OHA.

  2. Hi Ian.

    Excellent piece. I disagree with the PLDC, however, since it is not ceded land. My kupuna never ceded any of their land to anyone, to any entity, or to any American government. Thus this is not public lands. Anyone who says otherwise is committing treason against Queen Lili’uokalani and should be tried for treason for betraying her.

    As for the geothermal development, I do not mind other modes of energy. However what their supporters are advocating is that taxpayers subsidize their projects. Me personally this money in the form of taxes is better “spent” on the keiki and mo’opuna instead. Ke Ali’i Bernice Pauahi Bishop Style 🙂

    Again… great post!

    • B.S. – Geothermal doesn’t even have tax credits or tax incentives. Its the cheapest form of clean energy that’s a firm power generation. And guess who owns it? Right, the Public and native Hawaiian.

      • Please keep it civil instead of writing “B.S.” Your point can be made without being crassy.

        With that stated… in the Feasibility Study of Direct Geothermal Use, February 2007, for the Kapoho/Pohoiki are the research team at the County of Hawai’i Department of Research and Development state,

        “The feasibility study found that geothermal direct use is technically feasible but only marginally economically feasible.” P. 7

        In addition on page 8

        “Annual revenue is expected to be $1.21 million based on a lease rate of $200/acre-year and a geothermal heat rate priced at $1.32 per therm (100,000 Btu), a 50% discount of the prevailing
        average fuel rate of diesel and propane. The anticipated payback period for the
        project is 26 years without financial subsidies, and 7 years with $9.2 million in
        financial subsidies.”

        It is right there. $9.2 MILLION in subsidies which is the form of taxes to be paid by hardworking people and redistributed to geothermal companies which use OUR money as positive leverage for their personal gain.

        Mahalo to Ian’s research.

        • Only one foreign owner (Israeli) company has reaped this benefit from the US Government. ORMAT/PGV is the only State approved geothermal plant in Hawaii. This monopoly along with HECO needs to be broken.

          Why can’t we manage our own resource? I say we can! Let Hawaiians and OHA look at the millions foreigners made off the backs of our people.

          OHA can make a difference if they get their heads together, set aside egos, and self serving antics.

          I wish Mililani Trask would run for OHA!

          Mr. Lind, as an aside, the title of this article is somewhat misleading and “sensational”, unless the IDG, Honua Group, & Mililani confirmed to you that was their intent. After reading Mililani’s response here, it is apparent they were not interviewed for this article.


        • Thank you.
          I appreciate the reference, and I’m sure others do as well.

  3. Part of the problem with the OHA election is that only a small minority of voters are paying much attention to the candidates, which means the results are unlikely to reflect majority opinion. A small, determined minority can have disproportionate influence in selecting the trustees.

    There is an easy way to help voters focus on the OHA candidates. Have a two round election, using the primary to winnow each race down to two candidates for each seat and allowing voters a chance to focus on the two top vote recipients as we approach the General Election.

    Such a change does not require major changes. It is easy to implement and there is no good reason for not subjecting the OHA election through the same two-stage election process we use for almost all other races.

    Look at this specific contest for the at-large trustee position. This article focuses on Cal Lee versus Haunani Apoliana, but there are several other candidates. I voted for Walter Ritte, as I think Walter is a person of great intelligence, integrity and who refuses to limit his choices to the pat answers allowed by the political and economic establishment. Now that we see the networks lining up behind Lee and Apoliona, does that mean those of us who pick another candidate will be wasting our votes?

    • Kolea brings up what i advocated for in both my elections for OHA in 2010 and 2012 and thats election reform. There is no primary only a general and that favors the incumbent big time along the fact that OHA spent resources on a rock the vote or Mana i ka leo initiative but left out its own office, why? The current trustees are comprised of two factions at war with each other over who controls the chairman seat, and the one that is not in control right now is seeking to remove incumbents and replace them with people that will endorse them. Geothermal for all its great and good potentials is really being sought as a cash cow for certain interest groups! With the potential revenues being estimated in the billions a little name recognition can go very far.

      I myself am against it simple because the people of that area have not had a explicit chance to participate in working, maintaing, and overviewing the safety and cultural aspects of such a project. Till that happens then i would support it.

  4. I would like to remind everyone to look at the previous professions of some OHA trustee’s, Waihee was a bartender; Linda Dela Cruse was a singer; Haunani was a social worker …. then look at the mechanism created to keep us Hawaiian down, with no primary in a statewide election, there are so many things that are divisive to the Hawaiian people in managing their political affairs. We need leaders to change the entire voting process… Hauanani hasn’t and neither has any of the current At Large Trustee’s , why should they, it keeps them in their seat… who ever wins the At Large, please make these changes! It takes money to win and all the candidates know how hard a job it is to raise the kind of money that Cal and Haunani has, but I agree that others are willing to do because they see the need to make a change!

  5. There are several core issues here:

    1. The overall qualifications & general working experiences of the two leading candidates along with the record of the incumbent as well as the proposed changes each would bring to the table;

    2. Renewable energy issues – including costs & profits, distribution, cultural & environmental concerns, and the the possible/potential role that state and county agencies may play in approving/disapproving permits;

    Although the courts have ruled that all qualified Hawai`i voters can take part in OHA elections, I have never done so until now. I plan to do so later on today because this time the above issues will impact me personally & professionally.

    • There are several core issues here:

      1. The overall qualifications & general working experiences of all the candidates along with the record of the incumbent as well as the proposed changes each would bring to the table;

      2. Renewable energy issues – including costs & profits, distribution, cultural & environmental concerns, and the the possible/potential role that state and county agencies may play in approving/disapproving permits;

      3. The flawed election process still in play, hampering voters but empowering incumbents.

  6. Ian, did you bother to vet Haunani’s supporters? Actually, it is a rhetorical question. You didnt or know and wont tell. making you the only reporter in the State to invoke naivete on Apoliona. Sad to see you co-opted bud.

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