James Boersema: Communications Director for Hawaii Gov.
Neil Abercrombie; nightclub owner; ex-gambling lobbyist.
To experienced political operatives, it signals something big is amiss in the Governor’s office. This is typically the kind of housekeeping a Governor’s office might undergo after being re-elected to a second term but not the sweeping changes you’d see during the first months of an administration.
The Governor didn’t miss a beat and within days had appointed James Boersema as his new Communications Director. A controversial night club owner with Public Relations experience, Boersema has been a paid advocate for mainland and international gambling interests dating back to 2001. Previously Boersema escorted former Governor Ben Cateyano on a political boondoggle to a billion dollar gambling resort in the Bahamas and was spokespan for a $200,000 Hawaii pro-gambling advertising campaign paid for by South African gambling magnate Sol Kerzner.
John Radcliffe, lobbyist for Detroit casino syndicators who has a history of coordinating pro-gambling campaigns with Boersema, has played a key role helping Gov. Abercrombie identify and recruit senior staff and appointees.
As the gubernatorial campaigns got underway in 2010 and gambling promoters began renewed efforts to legalize gambling in Hawaii, Boersema helped them re-ignite the debate.
Now Boersema has Abercrombie’s ear crafting policy and communications strategy to help the Governor advance his agenda and get re-elected.
Gambling industry top-spending lobby here
By Johnny Brannon
A group called the Coalition for Economic Diversity, which includes casino developer Sun International Hotels Ltd., reported spending $44,979 on lobbying during the March-April reporting period, more than any other organization. The Coalition was also the top spender during the Ethics Commission reporting period that covered January and February, when it spent $89,044 on lobbying.
Of the $134,023 reported, $48,771 went to media advertising, $41,066 went to preparation and distribution of lobbying materials and $18,957 went to telephone and communication bills. Direct compensation to lobbyists was $10,311 and $14,112 for unspecified fees. The rest went for food and beverages.
Coalition spokesman James Boersema did not return a call for comment.
Two groups back local gambling
By Johnny Brannon
... The Coalition for Economic Diversity is headed by Jack Seigle, a Honolulu campaign consultant and public-relations executive. It spent most of the money on lobbyists, a poll, an economic impact study, and expert testimony before the Legislature, according to a report filed with the state campaign spending commission.
The group also spent $13,000 on T-shirts and "organizing grassroots support," and donated $1,000 to a foundation that is renovating Washington Place, the governor's home, the report shows.
Gov. Ben Cayetano visited Atlantis last year with the group's chief lobbyist, Jim Boersema, and met with Sun executives. But Cayetano said the trip's main purpose was to inspect the resort's enormous aquarium.
Boersema said neither Sun nor TSA had provided any more money to his group since they gave the initial $200,000. He declined to disclose what other businesses or individuals make up the coalition, but said it included business owners, union officials, and members of neighborhood boards and others who support gambling.
They may become more visible soon, but some are leery of publicity. Boersema said he received abusive and threatening phone calls when his involvement in the group became known...
Bad economy boosts interest in gambling
By Katherine Nichols
...But Jim Boersema said he visited casinos in the Bahamas and found them empty during the day. Instead, people were out on the golf course and enjoying the beach. They went to the restaurants, shops and casinos at night, he said. Boersema, who testified on behalf of Unity House, an organization that assists families of union workers, owns Matteo's Restaurant and Zanzibar Nightclub in Waikiki.
"Nobody's trying to turn Hawaii into Las Vegas," he said. "This should be a stand-alone casino" with nothing more than a bar to encourage people to patronize local shops and restaurants. Suggestions that floated through the hearings included transforming a dormant movie theater into a casino, and possibly requiring local residents to stay in a Waikiki hotel to gain entry into the casino in an effort to boost commercial activity.
"Right now, we don't get a lot of (residents) in Waikiki," he said. "'There's nothing to do down there'; that's the complaint I hear over and over." Boersema is not a paid lobbyist but works with Radcliffe, who is associated with Marketing Resource Group, a Lansing, Mich., firm with clients that would bid on the opportunity to construct and manage a casino in Hawaii.
"Gambling has become more acceptable to people," Boersema said. "Practically every place in the world now has gambling. It just happens to be part of society nowadays"...