This year, for the first time, Maui Time weighed in with election endorsements. Despite our small staff and limited resources, we took the task very seriously—we sent out questionnaires, researched voting records, brought candidates in for in-depth interviews. And when all the information was gathered, we engaged in a lively debate over which political hopefuls deserved our stamp of approval.
Not every candidate we picked won, but we felt good about our selections. They were individuals we believed in—admittedly some more than others—and we were proud to support them.
Recently, information came to light that caused us to seriously question, and regret, one of our picks.
In a piece that ran exclusively at mauitime.com last week, we broke the story that Wayne Nishiki, who we endorsed and who narrowly won the South Maui County Council seat, took out a $100,000 business loan from developer Everett Dowling while out of office. The money, which Nishiki still owes, was disclosed in an ethics form that was filed over two months late and wasn’t made public until after the election. Nishiki supporters have blamed forgetfulness; we’re not buying it. By filing the form late, despite repeated reminders, Nishiki kept the loan out of the news until after it might have harmed his chances.
The motivation for pushing the loan under the rug is obvious: Nishiki ran the anti-big development campaign, hammered his opponent for taking developer dollars and told us shortly before the election “I’m an independent voice that hasn’t taken any money from developers.” Until the money is paid off, Nishiki will have to recuse himself from any votes involving Dowling Co. Nishiki promised voters he would stand up to the development community; now he won’t be able to vote in any case involving one of Maui’s most notorious big builders.
If Nishiki follows through on his promise to pay off the loan before he takes office (and we’ll be paying close attention to see that he does), that problem will be solved. But the issue of trust will remain. Nishiki should have told voters about the loan at the outset of the election. He should have filed his form on time. He can point out that others filed various spending forms late, but he ran as the candidate of unyielding integrity and unflinching independence. As such, he’s held to a high standard; that’s the way it works.
(To be clear, by pulling back our endorsement of Nishiki, we aren’t throwing our support behind Don Couch. We still have the same reservations about the contributions he took from developers.)
Above all, we’re disappointed. It should never come as news when a politician is shown to be less than honest. But we believed what Nishiki told us—and, more important, what he told the people of Maui. He let us all down. MTW