Wednesday, October 7, 2015         

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GOP ad attacks Hanabusa's husband

By B.J. Reyes


A new television commercial by national Republicans against Colleen Hanabusa and her husband ranks among the "dirtiest Hawaii has ever seen," the Democrat's campaign says.

"There is nothing lower in politics than launching unfair attacks on a candidate's family," Hanabusa campaign spokesman Richard Rapoza said in an e-mail. "Every time we think the Republicans can't sink any lower or get any dirtier, they find a way to get even uglier.

"But this ad has to be the dirtiest Hawaii has ever seen, trying to sway voters with false and defamatory statements about Colleen's husband," Rapoza said. "We're confident that voters will see through this and turn away from the politics of character assassination."

Hanabusa, the state Senate president, is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District.

The ad was paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of the national GOP charged with winning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. The committee stood by the ad.

"Colleen Hanabusa's comments are quite two-faced, given that her and her allies have been misleading voters and personally attacking Charles for months while our ads have merely laid out Hanabusa's record," NRCC spokeswoman Joanna Burgos said in an e-mail.

The ad rehashes the legislative battles in 2002 and 2003 to grant $75 million in tax credits toward the development of a "world class" aquarium at Ko Olina, in Hanabusa's district. The aquarium was the brainchild of Ko Olina master developer Jeff Stone.

Hanabusa introduced the legislation in 2002, but it ultimately was vetoed by then-Gov. Ben Cayetano. Hanabusa sued Cayetano over the veto. The legislation was reintroduced in 2003 and, after being vetted through the legislative process again, was signed by Gov. Linda Lingle in May 2003.

Less than a month after the law was signed, Hanabusa's then-fiance, state Sheriff John F. Souza III, bought a townhouse in the Kai Lani development at Ko Olina from Stone. The NRCC ad characterizes the transaction as a "sweetheart deal" for Souza, who married Hanabusa in August 2008.

The time line is not in dispute, but Hanabusa's campaign said all transactions were aboveboard, citing a 2004 Honolulu Advertiser story that reached the same conclusion. Souza purchased a unit that was one of six purchased by Hawaii Land Development, a Stone company, and made available for resale to the developer's family, friends and business partners.

"The $569,000 price Souza paid for the three-bedroom, two-bath unit appears to be generally in line with prices that Stone's company charged other buyers," the article states.

Stone had said his company routinely provided mortgage loans to buyers, and the 6 percent rate given to Souza was higher than Souza could have gotten elsewhere.

Rapoza said Hanabusa introduced the tax credit legislation to support a business in her district. Lawmakers typically introduce legislation at the request of constituents.

"The Republicans want to take these two completely separate and completely aboveboard incidents and distort them into something negative," Rapoza said. "They think they can convince voters that two plus two equals five. Voters aren't going to buy it."

According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the NRCC spent $131,864 on its most recent ad buy in Hawaii. The NRCC has spent about $253,000 on the race since Oct. 16.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC's Democratic counterpart, has been on the air in Hawaii since before the special election won by Djou in May and has spent more than $1 million in the state.

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