Amongst Capitol insiders, Al Hee’s fall from grace was not at all unexpected. Legislators have long been aware of his shady dealings as parts of both Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. and Waimana Enterprises. His bad behavior was quietly tolerated because he was a well-connected political insider. Like taking candy from a baby, Al Hee stole from Native Hawaiians while he made contributions to elected officials — and lawmakers looked the other way.
For those who would like to get up to speed on Al Hee’s dealings, I would suggest this article from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. In a nutshell, Hee received millions of federal dollars to provide telecommunications services to Native Hawaiians living on Hawaiian Homelands – necessary because many homesteads are located in remote areas on neighbor islands where no such service exist. Money from these grants were used (via Sandwich Isles Communications and parent-company Waimana Enterprises) to fun the college education of his children, a California property for them to live in while they attended college, exotic family vacations and weekly two-hour massages.
While Hee has been convicted of tax evasion, Waimana Enterprises and Sandwich Isles Communications are attempting to distance themselves from Hee to avoid the fallout. The ruling political elite are hoping the extensive contributions that Hee, his companies and his employees made to elected officials will not come to light.
Some of the money held by these companies, intended for the benefit of Native Hawaiians, was diverted by employees to campaign coffers while elected officials looked the other way. These employees directly benefitted from Hee’s shady accounting.
In light of this, all contributions from Hee and related sources can and should be considered tainted. These contributions were made at the expense of Native Hawaiians and perpetuated this pattern of theft while lawmakers allowed this to happen.
Data aggregated from the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission looked only at Hee, Waimana Enterprises, Sandwich Isles Communications and individuals who were flagged as employees of either company. It is likely that other related contributions exist that were made to intentionally avoid scrutiny. For those interested, the full list of contributions can be viewed here.
Former governor Neil Abercrombie benefitted to the tune of almost $43,000. Across his initial gubernatorial race and his failed bid for reelection.
While the Department of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) is now actively looking into the matter, they have not always been so proactive. It is not a matter of the director, as the current DHHL director (Jobie Masagatani) has been at the helm under both administrations. The change in posture can only be attributed a change in the governor’s office. No contributions to David Ige came up as part of this search.
Each of the elected officials on the list directly benefitted from the injustices that were done to Native Hawaiians. They also benefitted from Hee’s theft and tax evasion. But more importantly, money that was earmarked for the benefit of Native Hawaiians was instead used to finance Al Hee’s lavish lifestyle and lawmakers who ignored this abuse.