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Hanabusa criticizes GOP ad suggesting corruption

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The campaign of Democratic congressional candidate Colleen Hanabusa has slammed a TV ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee that suggests actions in 2003 by her then-fiance may have been corrupt.

Hanabusa spokesman Richard Rapoza called the ad "the dirtiest Hawaii has ever seen." It tries "to sway voters with false and defamatory statements about Colleen’s husband," he said in a statement released Saturday.

Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, on Monday defended the commercial, which she said began airing Friday and will continue until the Nov. 2 election.

"Obviously, Colleen Hanabusa has a problem with cause and effect relationships, since she refuses to acknowledge that her votes that strangle small businesses and raise taxes on middle-class families are hurting Hawaii’s economy," Burgos said.

The 30-second ad states that in 2003, state Sen. Hanabusa won passage of her bill granting a $75 million tax break that benefited Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone. At the time, Stone was proposing construction of a "world-class aquarium" at Ko Olina.

The ad contends that soon after the bill became law, Hanabusa’s then-fiance, John Souza, got a "sweetheart deal" on a condo from Stone. "Hanabusa: Coincidence or corruption. You decide," the ad states.

The ad doesn’t mention that GOP Gov. Linda Lingle in 2003 signed the Hanabusa legislation and later appointed Souza as state sheriff. He resigned the post in late 2004. Souza and Hanabusa, now the state Senate president, married in 2008.

In his statement, Rapoza noted that Hanabusa had unsuccessfully sponsored a similar measure in 2002, and that then-state Rep. Charles Djou voted for it. Djou, a Republican, is seeking re-election next week to Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District against Hanabusa.

According to a March 2004 Honolulu Advertiser story, Souza bought one of six townhouses in the Kai Lani development from a company owned by Stone.

The story stated that Souza’s $569,000 purchase "appears to be generally in line with prices that Stone’s company charged other buyers." It also reported that Souza’s unit cost about $32,000 less than a comparable one bought by Stone’s father from Stone’s firm.

Souza and Stone were friends and business partners at the time.

Rapoza said Stone was not the developer of Kai Lani but had owned the six townhouses.

"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."

Hanabusa, a lawyer, began her legislative efforts on behalf of Stone’s aquarium concept by sponsoring a tax credit measure in 2002. At the time, she worked out of a downtown Honolulu law office that was subleased by Souza from Stone, according to the Advertiser article.

Then-Gov. Ben Cayetano vetoed it that year and Hanabusa sued the governor, arguing he had taken the action too late. She later also filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the Ko Olina Community Association over the city’s plans to extend the life of a landfill adjacent to the resort.

The aquarium was never built.

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