Just back from the mainland, and digging through the backlog of email and newspapers.
I enjoyed Kevin Dayton’s story in Sunday’s Star-Adveriser, which raised questions about possible conflict of interest in Senate President Ron Kouchi’s financial ties to developer Kevin Showe, part-owner of thousands of acres of Big Island land being proposed for a state purchase or land swap in SB3071.
Dayton traces Kouchi’s ties with Showe through the Senate president’s financial disclosure statements.
Kouchi’s annual disclosure form filed with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission shows he was a shareholder in a real estate company called Leahi LLC from 2011 to 2015, and Kouchi’s 2016 ethics filing values that investment at between $100,000 and $150,000.
Leahi LLC lists Showe Land & Marine LLC and Kauai Development Manager LLC as its members, and Kevin Showe is listed as member and manager for both of those companies.
Leahi was involved with a group that was formed to purchase the site of the former Kyo-ya Restaurant at 2057 Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki, which was sold to Japanese investors last year for $30.5 million. Kouchi said the $100,000 to $150,000 in value listed on his ethics filing this year represented his share of the proceeds from that sale.
In addition, Kouchi reported being paid between $175,000 and $350,000 as community relations director for Showe Land & Marine since his election to the Senate in 2010, according to my own count.
Kouchi lost a bid for Kauai County mayor in 2002. He was elected to the county council in 2006, but narrowly missed reelection in 2008. In 2010, he was appointed to the State Senate by then Gov. Linda Lingle, and elected in his own right in that year’s General Election.
During his 2008 run for the council seat, Kouchi’s campaign material said he had worked for Showe’s company beginning in 2005. At that time, Showe was a partner in the Kauai Lagoons project, what was expected at the time to be a $1 billion resort development.
The proposed project is a multi-faceted resort featuring 520 acres of
residential oceanfront property, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course,
breathtaking coastline views, full-service spa, restaurant, and a 38-acre
freshwater lagoon with marina.
Kauai Lagoons is a collaboration with Marriott Vacation Club
International (MVCI) — a subsidiary of Marriott International, Inc. (NYSE:
MAR) — an affiliate of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, LLC, and Kauai
An estimated 750 homes will be developed, including Ritz-Carlton
managed, private ownership condominiums and townhomes; bungalows and
condominiums managed by Grand Residences by Marriott; Ritz-Carlton Club
deeded, fractional ownership residences; Marriott Vacation Club timeshare
villas; and estate home lots.
The Kauai Lagoons development project became one of Hawaii’s casualties of the recession, and is now getting off the ground under new ownership.
I don’t know how Kouchi managed that apparent conflict of interest as he served on the county council while also representing Showe’s interests in the development. That’s another bit of political history that needs to be sorted out.
Dayton reports that Kouchi facilitated at least a couple of meetings to discuss the possible Big Island land deal.
Kouchi said he set up a meeting between the late Sen. Gil Kahele and Showe shortly after Kahele (D, Hilo) took office in 2011 to allow Kahele to make a pitch for the deal, and attended a meeting last year between Kahele and state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case to discuss the Kapua lands.
Exactly who stands to benefit isn’t clear, since the state seems to have a legitimate interest in protecting the area from development, while Showe and his partners will obviously stand to benefit from a sale or land swap.