Saturday, November 12, 2011

She Said: Here's what Hata-Watanabe had to offer after a recent visit to

One of the numerous photos available via Google images
In response to our post, "Really? She's Treasurer of the Honolulu County GOP Committee?" (TVT) received the following via email from Liz Hata Watanabe. As you'll see, her response is that of a professional "victim" designed to engender guilt and sympathy but absent anything to refute the "facts" as we've outlined them previously, nor does she display any regret or acknowledge wrongdoing or failures. If what we've previously represented was hogwash, why even acknowledge it with this reply? Socio-path; Borderline Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

She Said...
Allow me to confirm some of your information. [Nothing that follows serves to confirm anything we've reported]

I started the O Lounge, successful business for many years. [Then why hide your books from HLC inspection?] During the course of its lifespan I had a child and took a step back and allowed a GM to run the operation. After some of these "claims", and per my attorney listed above, Micheal J. Green [The damsel in distress turned bully who copied four men in her message to us, including her attorney] I was targeted and in fact documents were falsified, and not by our organization. That is still an on going situation within the Honolulu Liquor Commission. [TVT has found nothing via HLC nor has Watanabe produced anything concrete, that suggests there were falsified documents or that there's any real activity continuing. She backed down and withdrew herself  to avoid any further risk that might  possibly result in a revoked license.]

I'm surprised you would jeopardize my husband's safety, or even my children's safety by publicizing what he does for a living as my husband has worked "plain clothes" for many years and could potentially be targeted by the convicted criminals he has rid our streets of. [TVT did not "Out" her husband. She has exploited and exposed her own family pimping herself out to reporters who will write fluff pieces without investigation. Here's one example where she exposes her husband's career in a cover story from 2008.]

Allow me to mention that my grandmother suffered from terminal liver cancer and I preferred not to disclose that to the public and made the choice to care for her during her last very painful year of life. 

At that time in for her and the memory of my late grandfather I started a foundation to assist children in shelters and transitional homes. [Sounds good but what has been accomplished? The tax-exempt nonprofit hasn't reported much if any income; and how many people faced losses as a result of the $387k bankruptcy?]

The "Hawaii's Big Deal" was to introduce these ideas... It was never intended to go further than that, and the "board" decided to take a different approach. I do not make the decisions alone. And not that it matters, but I was the investor of this show. [The Board = a couple family members and Matt Matsunaga; plus Hawaii's Big Deal had her party promotion fingerprints all over it]

It is belittling to have to give an explanation to you or anyone else about my life or my doings. [Then why are you? This is what happens when you thrust yourself into the spotlight repeatedly.] What you have done is made me out to look like a horrible person who conducts illegal activity. I have worked to do tremendous good for the community and the young children of our islands. [Again, nothing concrete or substantial to offset the facts that she was repeatedly fined for serving alcohol to minors -- including several instances that flew in the face of regulars at the same time her license was suspended and on probation; nothing that explains why she was hiding her books from investigators; and then there's the matter of the $387k bankruptcy as necessary and blessed by her attorney. As long as she could keep the dirty little secrets hidden it was all good, now that TVT has exposed some, she's angry.]

Perhaps if you had asked I could have informed you that the bankruptcy filed under advisement of legal counsel, Philip Miyoshi, also cc'd was 100% business debt. Not one cent was personal, I invested close to a million dollars cash and unfortunately for the "little fish" like myself could not fight for what's right with the "corporate big fish". Of course I'm sure you'll selectively use this information to portray something else. [Again nothing substantial; and worse yet, the notion that because an attorney advised it as a strategy or gave it his "blessing" she's been absolved of any sin.  My goodness, he's just an attorney!]

Maybe you should "pick" on those really ruining the party, or are you and have you been part of that regime and for that reason attack the new members?! Are you hoping to perpetuate what has shamefully taken place for years! [Huh?]

This is outrageous you would attack me being that I have not touched a single cent from the county funds. Until now all moneys have been appropriated by the party's treasurer. I am the county treasurer under advisement from the county chair. [That one has broken the law and had serious failed financial doings and would be serving as "Treasurer" of a nonprofit or other organization doing public good is worthy of disclosure or, if need be, exposure. You'd have demonstrated character if you'd stepped down or otherwise not assumed the role.]

Your accusations are hurtful and politically charged. These comments are also very misleading and obviously intended to tarnish my reputation. [It's regretful you've had your feelings hurt. But accusations?  We've posted truth that's verified through multiple sources/resources and provided the back up documentation for examination or otherwise directed readers to discover such independently. We couldn't make this stuff up.]

Regardless, I doubt you will correct any of your misinformation, I thank you for your time and hope that on subsequent stories that God lead you to do the right thing and cover both sides of the story, as all good reporters do. [Wow! She's invoked motherhood, the good name of her grandfather and God without ever acknowledging the mistakes, demonstrating regret or being completely truthful.  And yet in addition to the other details we've exposed, there's also the matter of a personal injury suit against Costco!  I know right... It just keeps getting better and better.  Again, we couldn't make this stuff up if we tried!]

Feel free to contact me at anytime. I'm always available.

[Liz, here'a bit of advise... you may want to let the bankruptcy court know you formed a limited liability company in April in which you're the only member and its manager; and that you're the founder and steward of the Hata Foundation. Just 'cause it's tax-exempt nonprofit doesn't mean you or others can't be paid or otherwise pay expenses and you certainly wouldn't want to risk losing your tax-exempt status 'cause you failed to disclose.]


Blogger's Note: During our process of discovery we came across an article that had been posted on when HLC revoked the liquor license at Harbor Court Bistro.  We were surprised to see that 79 comments had been left attached to that article. This same shallow rhetoric, failure to demonstrate regret or understanding of others and that she is a controversial and polarizing character are ever present in those 79 comments.

Failed Nightclub Owner is a Shameless Self-Promoter

Elizabeth Hata-Watanabe, a self -promoter spins
the truth about her unfortunate circumstances
Oahu resident Liz Hata-Watanabe self identifies as an “entrepreneur” and “philanthropist” – and sometimes she plays the “Mommy” card.  If anything, she’s a self-promoter extraordinaire: a bankrupt  law-breaking spouse of a cop with a track record of little ROI.

Liza Hata-Watanabe was busted for 
serving alcohol to minors & 
hiding ledgers from regulators

Do a simple Google search on Hata-Watanabe (see aliases below) and at first glance, it looks like she is a successful, connected, upstanding business woman who cares about community and kids.  But if one digs a little deeper, it’s clear that underneath all that too-good-to-be-true PR exterior are troubling issues.  This Mommy's a wolf in sheeps clothing!

O Lounge for sale after 5 years in operation

By Nina Wu
The O Lounge on Kapiolani Boulevard is up for sale after five years in business. Owner Elizabeth Hata Watanabe says it's been a good run, but her priorities have shifted since her second son, now 3 months old, was born.

"It's gotten tough," she said. "Any business is a 24/7 job, and this type of industry requires someone to be there."

Unlike other clubs, Hata Watanabe said there are no other partners or investors.

The 9,764-square-foot O Lounge space is listed for sublease at $10,740 a month, including two large bar areas and a full kitchen.

"The O Lounge does very, very well with our fundraisers and charitable events," said Hata Watanabe. "We have private bookings until the end of the year that we're going to accommodate, and by selling, I'm able to pass this on to someone else."...

The Truth is...
O Lounge Nightclub
  • Hata-Watanabe’s (EHW, LLC) O Lounge had repeatedly been cited and fined by the Honolulu Liquor Commission (HLC) for serving alcohol to minors.  Repeatedly!
  • Hata-Watanabe’s O Lounge had been the subject of increasingly more punitive action by HLC after repeated offenses including numerous instances of serving minors.  And at the time the article referenced above was published, her liquor license had been suspended and she was on probation.
  • Hata-Watanabe failed for four years to make the O Lounge books available for inspection by HLC.  This would imply that since she originally opened the O Lounge doors, she had likely never allowed inspection of the books.  What was she hiding?  She certainly wasn't running a Studio 54 scam?
  • Hata-Watanabe made the decision to shutter the O Lounge because she had a suspended liquor license, the possibility of a revoked license and pending HLC inspection of her books which she feared.  That she says she put the O Lounge on the market was a silly PR smoke-screen to protect her carefully crafted image.  She was covering up the severity of her failed circumstances as the operator of a night club.

Harbor Court Bistro
  • Hata-Watanabe (EHW-II, LLC) applied for and obtained a temporary liquor license for a certain class of operation (restaurant) at Harbor Court Bistro which she'd previously opened and then once she had the temporary license in hand, took liberties to operate the space at Harbor Court Bistro in a way that required a different class of license (nightclub).  She knew what she was doing. (Star-Bulletin Blogger unknowingly document the very incident that got Hata-Watanabe in trouble with HLC)
  • Hata-Watanabe's temporary liquor license at Harbor Court Bistro was terminated/revoked.  Yes, residents of the building in which the Bistro was located signed a complaint/petition urging HLC to revoke or deny the license but the fact that Hata-Watanabe/O Lounge was already under escalating scrutiny by the Honolulu Liquor Commission had to be a contributing factor. Perhaps someone even encouraged the residents' petition to substantiate termination and avoid further adjudication.
  • Hata-Watanabe made the poor business decision to open the Bistro without a liquor license in hand. Reportedly she had invested half-a-million dollars in the Bistro before she had a license.  One must wonder how she explained that to investors who must have taken a bath. All the publicity Hata-Watanabe captures for herself suggests she's a smart business person; then consider the circumstances in which someone with the experience she claims and her conservative GOP credentials puts the cart before the horse.

Officer Kevin T. Watanabe
Of particular note, while Liz Hata-Watanabe was serving liquor to minors and hid her financial books from the Honolulu Liquor Commission, her husband Kevin T. Watanabe was a 20+ year veteran officer with the Honolulu Police Department.

For reference, these are some off the aliases for Liz Hata-Watanabe: Elizabeth C. Watanabe, Elizabeth Hata Watanabe, Elizabeth Hata-Watanabe, Elizabeth H. Watanabe, Liz Watanabe.

Pacific Business News articles featuring Hata-Watanabe:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Founder of tax-exempt nonprofit produced 'Hawaii's Big Deal: Poker Tournament,' a reality TV show called the 'closest thing to legalized gambling in The Islands'

Hawaii's Big Deal: Poker Tournament produced by Elizabeth Hata-Watanabe with the nonprofit, tax-exempt Hata Foundation.

click arrow below to view video here

Elizabeth “Liz” Hata Watanabe is the former owner of failed Honolulu nightclub and restaurant operations (O Lounge & Harbor Court Bistro).  She ran into multiple problems with the Honolulu Liquor Commission and then filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Subsequently, she founded the Hata Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit that was to help families and children in need get back on their feet. The Board of the Hata Foundation is controlled by extended members of  Hata-Watanabe’s family with one exception, Matt Matsunaga, the son of former U.S. Senator “Spark” Matsunaga. 

While newspapers suggest various fundraising events and parties have been held over the last couple of years to benefit the Hata Foundation, there apparently hasn’t been enough raised to cause the group to file IRS Forms 990 – or at least that’s what’s implied. 

Photo by Bruce Asato
Rather, during 2010, Hata-Watanabe reports it was with the nonprofit, tax-exempt Hata Foundation that she produced Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament, a reality TV show with a cast of more than 72 people and centered on a multi-round Texas hold’em poker tournament filmed over a course of several weeks at the Aloha Tower Marketplace.  Last fall, the show aired Saturdays on KHON-2  (reruns were to also run on The CW).  See: In the Mix: ‘Hawaii’s Big Deal’

The first season of Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament crowned a champion, Nicole Matsui, by October 2010. 

According to Honolulu news accounts, winners of Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament were told they’d be treated to all expense paid trips to Las Vegas and entered in ESPN’s Poker After Dark Tournaments or something similar. 

A KHON news anchor described Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament as the closest thing the Islands had to legalized gambling.

During Spring 2011, failing to produce a second season of Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament, Hata-Watanabe and gambling industry lobbyist John Radcliffe linked up.  They organized a for-profit entity, Citizens for a Better Way, LLC, and through that so-called ‘citizens’ group spent $40,000 lobbying for a scheme that would have approved a commercial casino in Waikiki – potentially at the Aloha Tower Marketplace where Hata-Watanabe’s TV show Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament took place.  Despite their best efforts, that scheme failed to win legislative approvals. 

It's not clear where Radcliffe/Hata-Watanabe got the $40,000 they spent on lobbying and advertising activities during March & April but in June 2011, Elizabeth Hata-Watanabe filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy  (Case: 11-01679).

See also:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lobbyist John Radcliffe was the First Person to Contribute to Neil Abercrombie's Campaign for Governor of Hawaii

It's understood in Hawaii political circles that lobbyist John Radcliffe is close to Governor Neil Abercrombie. There friendship spans more than a generation.  As Abercrombie was launching his campaign for Governor, Radcliffe acted as an operative spinning circumstances in the press intended to clear the field. And when Abercrombie was elected, Radcliffe was one of a handful of intimates whom Abercrombie asked to vet and recommend people who would fill key rolls and appointments in Abercrombie's administration.

As demonstration of their relationship, consider that campaign finance disclosure records on file with the State reveal that the very first person to financially back Abercrombie's bid to become Hawaii's Governor was John Radcliffe.  He wrote a check for $2,000 to Abercrombie for Governor on March 4, 2009.  Over the course of the campaign, Radcliffe's immediately family would contribute nearly $12,000 in aggregate to Abercrombie's campaign committee.

Throughout most of the first decade of the new century, Radcliffe has been registered as a lobbyist representing the Hawaii interests of Detroit casino syndicators (Michael Malik & Marian Ilitch) who want to develop a Waikiki gambling hall. Radcliffe has been retained by the Detroiter's PR firm, Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group (MRG).  Tom Shields, often quoted as a spokesperson for the Detroiters, is founder and president of MRG.

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Hawaii Governor's New Communications Director was Paid Lobbyist for Int'l Gambling Magnate Sol Kerzner

James Boersema: Communications Director for Hawaii Gov.
Neil Abercrombie; nightclub owner; ex-gambling lobbyist.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie took office in December 2010. Yet by early October 2011, Abercrombie’s Chief of Staff and her Deputy plus his Communications Director and a spokeswoman, each abruptly resigned citing generically the desire to spend more time with their families. Really?

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.

Honolulu Advertiser
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.

Honolulu Advertiser
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...

Star Bulletin
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"...
USA Today: Cash-strapped Hawaii considers legalized gambling

Really? She's Treasurer of the Honolulu County GOP Committee? Has Anybody Checked the Bank Accounts Lately?

The Website for the Honolulu County GOP Committee lists the group’s Treasurer as Elizabeth Hata Watanabe.  Really?  Do they know Liz’s track record?

Liz, as she’s known in party/club circles, was the owner operator of a failed nightclub, the O Lounge.  Yes that enterprise failed as a business.

While Watanabe did a tremendous job promoting herself and her club among reporters, it would appear that the nightclub was not a financial success.  She shuttered the doors to the night club in the wake of escalating scrutiny by the Honolulu Liquor Commission – for additional insights, review the HLC agendas/minutes in 2008 & 2009 . 

Besides being cited and fined multiple times for serving alcohol to minors, Watanabe apparently hid her books from HLC investigators for four years – pretty suspicious don’t you think?  Especially considering her husband was a 20+ year veteran of the Honolulu PD. 

The adjudications against The O Lounge for three violations of 281-78(b)(1)(A), HRS (selling, serving or furnishing liquor to minors), for violation of Rule 3-84-78.52 (stacking) and for violation of Rule 3-81-17.54(d) (failing to make readily available for inspection its books and records for the last four years).  HLC – 7/24/08

The O Lounge pled no contest and was fined a total of $4,000 for two repeat violations of Section 281-78(b)(1)(A), HRS (selling, serving or furnishing liquor to a minor). The Commission also placed the licensee on probation for six months effective Sept. 11, 2008.  HLC - 9/11/08

[While on Probation] Allegations against The O Lounge were proved, and the licensee was fined $2,000 for a repeat violation of Section 281-78(b)(1)(A), HRS (selling, serving or furnishing liquor to a minor). HLC - 1/29/09

[While on Probation] Allegations against The O Lounge were proved, and the licensee was fined $2,000 for a repeat violation of Section 281-78(b)(1)(A), HRS (selling, serving or furnishing liquor to a minor). HLC – 2/5/09

Reviewed the six-month probationary period for The O Lounge and decided to continue the probation, suspension, age restriction (21 and over) and required that special events be approved by HLC enforcement before the event.  HLC – 3/19/09

As things were about to blow up, she closed down the bar and told her reporter friends that she was going to focus on her roles as a mother and wife, do something more family oriented, maybe a children’s TV program – and instead got herself involved in a short lived realty TV show, Hawaii’s Big Deal Poker Tournament.  That show lasted for several months and she lead people to believe there would be a second season of the show.

 Nothing ever materialized and it’s suggested the show didn’t pencil out.  Or perhaps investors said, “No” or “no more,” to a scam that had no ROI.

Then on June 14, 2011, Elizabeth Hata-Watanabe filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Case: 11-01679).

The woman repeatedly allowed alcohol to be served to minors, hid her nightclub’s ledgers from regulators for four years and filed a personal bankruptcy; yet, the good people at the Honolulu GOP Committee think she’s the best person to be their Treasurer?  Somebody better check that organization’s books – if they can find them.  Better yet, somebody better go check the GOP Committee’s bank accounts.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Boyd Gaming establishing first-hand knowledge of and developing customer base in Hawaii, could prove valuable to Waikiki Gambling Hall Operator

Paul Chakmak, EVP  & COO
Boyd Gaming Company 
Paul Chakmak [Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer]

...Moving to Downtown Las Vegas, we saw continued strength as EBITDA rose nearly 6% on higher revenues. It's important to note that this EBITDA growth came despite an $850,000 year-over-year increase in fuel costs at our Hawaiian charter service, a trend that we expect to continue in the fourth quarter.

At the property operating level, EBITDA rose about 11% as all 3 properties recorded year-over-year growth. This performance is being driven by growing strength in our Hawaiian customer segment; visitation and play among geographic Hawaiians was up significantly during the third quarter. There are several factors playing in our favor in Hawaii. First and foremost, Hawaii's economy has been strong, providing our customers greater confidence and more discretionary income. And second, we continue to be successfully in marketing to our Hawaiian customers, which help drive growth in this market segment. Importantly, we are better positioned to take advantage of growing demand from Hawaii after putting a Boeing 767 into service on our Hawaiian charter route earlier this month. This aircraft gives us 12% increase in available seats, allowing us to fly in more than 6,000 additional customers per year based on our current 5-flight-per-week rotation while improving the customer experience...

Capitol Consultants of Hawaii

Boyd Gaming Company
George A. “Red” Morris, president and lead lobbyist at Capitol Consultants of Hawaii was registered as Hawaii lobbyist for Boyd Gaming in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Morris experienced a hiatus from Boyd Gaming during 2009 and for most of 2010 but reported in November 2010 and through 2011 that he was once again a lobbyist for Boyd Gaming.

Detroit Casino Syndicators (MotorCity Casino)
Lobbyist John Radcliffe, Morris’colleague at Capitol Consultants, has been registered as a lobbyist for Detroit casino syndicators during periods that parallel Morris’ attachment to Boyd Gaming with one exception, Radcliffe was re-registered to lobby for the Detroiters for the better part of 2010.

Since about 2000, the Detroiters have made numerous attempts to legalize gambling in Hawaii and obtain approvals to establish and operate a Waikiki casino.  Now they also count as an associate former Hawaii Gov. John D. Waihee III, an attorney, lobbyist and Hawaiian Homelands champion.

Conflicts of Interest? Or Partners?
The Detroiters' schemes in Hawaii have mirrored those that got voters to approve (1996) gambling in Detroit  and secured the rights to develop and operate a Las Vegas-style commercial casino in the Motor City.  In those efforts, Las Vegas-based Circus Circus (Mirage Resorts) had been a silent, even secret partner and then originally the managing partner of MotorCity Casino.

It could be presumed Morris and Radcliffe are representing substantial competing gambling interests under the same roof and in an environment that risks creating potential conflicts; however, understanding the Detroiters' history, one could assume that the Detroiters and Boyd Gaming are operating in the spirit of partners or with an understanding of likely partners eliminating any concerns about or the potential for conflicts.  Boyd is certainly gaining valuable experience in and understanding of  the Hawaii market and developing a relationship with Hawaii-based customers/guests.

Hawaii's 'Citizens for a Better Way' isn't a 'Citizens' Group After-all

Elizabeth "Liz" Hata-Watanabe:
She's not what she claims...
Citizens for a Better Way (CFBW)  isn't a grassroots "citizens" group at all.  Rather, it was organized in April 2011 as a for-profit limited liability company with involvement of a self-identified "entrepreneur" and "philanthropist" whose success and ethics are questionable at best.

Citizens for a Better Way, L.L.C.
CFBW showed up on the Hawaiian political scene during 2011, established with support from the Capitol Consultants of Hawaii lobbying firm, as the so-called 'citizens' champion for proposed legislation that would legalize gambling in Hawaii and approve development and operation of a Waikiki casino.  However, records on file with the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs indicate the group is actually  Citizens for a Better Way, L.L.C., a for profit, Limited Liability Company, incorporated in Hawaii and registered with the state on April Fool's Day (4.01.11)!

Elizabeth Hata Watanabe, a self identified entrepreneur and philanthropist who subsequently filed bankruptcy, is designated in official documents as the only member of the LLC but not liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the company. She is also reportedly also LLC's manager and agent of record.

Note: it would appear that the mailing address and organizer's (Watanabe) address as reported on the Articles of Organization are both P.O. Boxes. A Google search of the third address included on the Articles of Organization and reportedly that of the Agent of Record (98 751 Kuahao Pl., Pearl City, Hawaii, 96782) suggests the address is also shared with Buzz's Original Steak House (a dba for Bosh Ltd.), Transouth Financial, Associates Financial, CitiFinancial and Grace Bible Church Pearlside.  Perhaps Watanabe failed to provide a Suite number, or another P.O. Box or some space belonging to someone else.

Scam to Avoid Disclosing Funders? 
By organizing as a for-profit company, CFBW can avoid disclosing its funding sources -- at least temporarily. Political or grassroots committee have to disclose contributors. However, if CFBW was really organized for purposes that are primarily political or advocacy in nature or if it turns out the nature of its activities are primarily such, then Watanabe, Radcliffe and any others involved in this scam are certain to become the focus of investigations by Hawaii's Attorney General, the IRS and/or the FBI.

Watanabe Bankruptcy
If CFBW is in fact a for-profit entity of which Watanabe is the manager and only member, some mention of Citizen's for a Better Way, L.L.C., would likely be included in the disclosures Watanabe has made to the federal court in the matter of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Case: 11-01679)  filed 6.14.11 as Elizabeth C. Watanabe (aka Elizabeth Hata Watanabe) 91-209 Kupiapia Place, Ewa Beach, Oahu, 96706, with counsel from attorney Philip W. Miyoshi.  Watanabe established CFBW about ten weeks before filing bankruptcy.

March-April 2011 Lobbying Expenses: $40,000
CFBW, the limited liability company, is required to disclose funds spent on political and lobbying activity. It did report on 5.31.11 that it had spent nearly $40,000 on "Advertising Media" activities during March & April 2011. Clearly that didn't come from Watanabe's personal bank account. Last Spring, CFBW established a website, Facebook page and YouTube presence.  It has produced and distributed three videos, at least two of which have or will air on cable TV in Honolulu before the end of the year.  News stories last Spring reported CFBW was behind robocalls (pre-recorded, automated telephone messages) to Hawaii voters encouraging them to call their legislators to urge legislators to cast pro-gambling, pro-casino votes.

Citizens for a Better Way, L.L.C. - 2011 Organization Statement

Capitol Consulants of Hawaii: Double Dipping Gambling Conflicts, Resume Padding Lies or Harboring Secret Partners?

When it comes to public disclosure of political campaign finance and lobbying activities, the State of Hawaii is akin to something you might find in a small unsophisticated backwoods town controlled by “Good Ol’ Boys.” There is no consistency. Record keeping and access to records are spotty. Electronic filing means emailing documents and databases are misunderstood. What is available for examination is either elementary or unnecessarily cumbersome and sheds little light. The most recent campaign finance disclosure available online date back to 2006 elections. Sunlight is something only found at a beach.  It’s clear that in Hawaii they don’t take public disclosure seriously. Nevertheless...

John Radcliffe
Lobbyist John Radcliffe
John Radcliffe is employed by Capitol Consultants of Hawaii (Capitol Consultants) a Honolulu-based lobbying firm.  The firm’s website identifies Radcliffe as Vice President and Lead Lobbyist.  Among others industries and special interests, he is closely identified as a lobbyist for labor.

By his resume, Radcliffe maintains he was first retained in 2001 to lobby for Detroit casino syndicators Michael Malik and Marian Ilitch, through their mouthpiece and politico Tom Shields; Lansing-based PR firm Marketing Resource Group.  It was reported extensively that the Detroiters launched an expensive 2-year unsuccessful push for the legalization of gambling in Hawaii in 2000 but public records for that period are not readily accessible so we were unable to confirm lobbying registrations or expenditures.

Although Radcliffe and his Detroiter clients have admittedly failed to file timely lobbying disclosures in the past --  at onetime even saying a lobbying report hadn’t been filed because it was “lost in a Michigan snow storm” -- can confirm Radcliffe was registered to represent the Detroiters in 2005, 2006 and 2007-2008.

TVT has been unable to find any records indicating Radcliffe registered to represent the Detroiters during 2009 when Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican who opposes gambling in Hawaii, was still in office. 

But when the race for Hawaii’s next governor began in 2010, Radcliffe again registered to represent the Detroiters. 

And when Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, was elected Governor, he asked Radcliffe to help him identify key staff members and make key appointments. Radcliffe again registered as lobbyist for the Detroiters in 2011.

G. A. "Red" Morris
Lobbyist George A. Morris
George A. “Red” Morris is President and also a Lead Lobbyist at Capitol Consultants. He and Radcliffe are associates but Morris also maintains separately G. A. Morris, Inc.  As part of a resume that Morris shares via the G.A. Morris website, he claims  Marketing Resource Group (Detroiters) as a client from “2000-present.” 

TVT was able to confirm that Morris had registered as a lobbyist representing the Detroiters in January 2010 but according to the Hawaii State Ethics Committee Website, Morris was terminated as the Detroiters’ lobbyist a couple months later on April 30, 2010. However, TVT has found no other official lobbying disclosures to suggest Morris had ever reported lobbying for the Detroiters prior to 2010 despite the representations on Morris’ resume.

And given that Morris’ resume claims he was a lobbyist for the Detroiters from 2000-present, TVT was surprised to see that Morris’s resume also indicates Boyd Gaming as a Morris client from “1995-present.” Boyd is a publicly traded (NYSE: BYD) Las Vegas gambling conglomerate with casinos throughout the U.S. 

TVT has confirmed that Morris was registered as a lobbyist for Boyd Gaming in 2005 and from 2006-2008; and again following the 2010 termination as lobbyist for Marketing Resource Group.  As with Radcliffe, TVT found no records that he was registered to lobby for the either Detroiters or Boyd Gaming in 2009.  

Conflicts? Padded Resume Lies? Double Dipping? Secret Partners?
That Morris could have represented the Hawaii interests of Boyd Gaming at the same time he was representing the interests of Detroit casino syndicators is curious; although, clearly that’s what Morris’ resume suggests.  And why would Morris make misrepresentations on his resume?  Or did he?

Likewise, that Morris and Radcliffe, both principal lobbyists with the Capitol Consultants lobbying firm, could represent both the Detroiters and Boyd Gaming at the same time without a conflict is curious.

Typically, either circumstance would be recognized as presenting conflicts that clients wouldn’t tolerate; unless of course, Boyd Gaming and the Detroiters had no conflicts but rather, had shared interests in Hawaii.

Are Detroiters Again Fronting for Las Vegas?
If Morris wasn't misrepresenting circumstances on his resume, it is possible that while he only registered as a lobbyist for Boyd that he considered himself a lobbyist for the Detroiters if, in fact, the two entities had been coordinating efforts to legalize gambling in Hawaii and establish casinos on Oahu.

As a publicly traded company, Boyd might have to disclose its efforts to advance gambling in Hawaii and establish a casino.  If another group was fronting for Boyd's interests, Boyd might avoid the need for disclosures.  If the effort was unsuccessful, Boyd's shareholders wouldn't realize it as a failure by Boyd thereby minimizing any negative impacts to stock values.

In the mid 1990s, when the Detroiters were working to get gambling approved in the Motor City, they fronted for Las Vegas’ Circus Circus.  They secretly funded a last minute multi-million dollar advertising push as part of the campaign to win voter approval for gambling halls in Detroit and a partnership agreement that surfaced after the campaign made it clear the Detroiters had been “reimbursed,” by their Las Vegas partners, for the costs of the campaign.

There’s a stigma among voters and elected officials toward big Las Vegas gambling interests so they prefer to remain silent partners until approvals are in-hand.  The Detroiters are comfortable and able to front for their Las Vegas colleagues who have deep pockets and greater tolerance.  A couple of years ago, it was discovered that one of the Detroiters’ original MotorCity Casino partners, Herb Strather, was fronting a proposed Massachusetts casino, as they had in the mid 1990s, for South African gambling magnates Sol Kerzner and Len Wolman.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Lobbyists Spent $40,000 Manufacturing So-Called 'Citizens' Group Support for Oahu Casino Scheme

Citizens for a Better Way | Hawaii
April 30, 2011 Disclosure
In Hawaii, the so-called "Citizens for a Better Way" group (CFBW) was set-up last Spring by pro-gambling lobbyist John Radcliffe and his associates at the Capitol Consultants of Hawaii lobbying firm to create the appearances of a "grassroots" movement supporting their client's pro-casino objectives.  There is no organic grassroots activity; rather it's all been manufactured by Radcliffe.

CFBW filed a lobbying expense disclosure form on May 31, 2011 for the period from March 1 through April 30, 2011 and reported spending $39,093.10 on "Media Advertising" during that two month period.  During that period, Radcliffe and company created a website, Facebook page and YouTube channel for CFBW and produced at least three videos created using a familiar public affairs round-table format (think local version of Meet the Press).  According to CFBW's website, two of those videos will air four times each during November 2011.

That they spent nearly $40,000 is significant given CFBW has not disclosed where that money came from and others have reported CFBW President Liz Watanabe filed personal bankruptcy the month after she filed the lobbying disclosure.  Certainly it didn't come out of her checking account.

Radcliffe and George A. "Red" Morris are lead lobbyists at Capitol Consultants of Hawaii.  While neither were registered as lobbyists for gambling interests in 2009, both Radcliffe and Morris were registered in 2010 as lobbyists for Detroit casino syndicators, via the Detroiters' PR firm Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group.  The Detroiters represent the same Mainlaind casino syndicate that pushed legalization of gambling halls back in 2000.

While Radcliffe continued to be register as a lobbyist for the Detroiters in 2011.  Morris reports his arrangement with the Detroiters was terminated in April 2010.   But in November 2010, Morris was retained by Boyd Gaming Corporation and continued that representation through 2011.

At the time Capitol  Consultants of Hawaii was manufacturing the pro-casino websites, videos, etc. for the CFBW "grassroots" lobbying effort that Liz Watanabe was recruited to manage; Capitol Consultants' two lead lobbyists were registered to lobby on behalf of established gambling interests: (1) the Detroit casino syndicate that includes Marian Ilitch, owner of MotorCity Casino; and (2) Boyd Gaming Corporation which operates casinos in Las Vegas and elsewhere throughout the U.S.

Radcliffe was registered as a lobbyist for the Detroiters from 2005-2008. Morris was registered as a lobbyist for Boyd Gaming Corporation from 2005-2008.  While Morris wasn't registered as a lobbyist for the Detroiters from 2005-2008 his resume indicates the Detroiters were his clients from "2000-present."

It's not curious that the Detroiters and/or Boyd would have written a check for $40,000 to launch CFBW but rather that those two sophisticated gambling enterprises, one of which is publicly traded, could be represented by lobbyists under the same roof without concern about potential conflicts makes one wonder.  Especially because the legislation that Radcliffe et. al. have surfaced during the last two legislative sessions allows for just one casino on Oahu and not two.  If the Detroiters and Boyd were planning to partner on a single Oahu casino then any concern about a conflicts at Capitol Consultants would disappear.

Finally, as a reminder, during the two year push for gambling in Hawaii that culminated in 2002, they also manufactured a so-called "grassroots" group to backstop traditional lobbying efforts. The Coalition for Economic Diversity spent more than $200,000.  That campaign was managed by James Boersema who is now Governor Abercrombie's Communications Director.

Candidates for Suffolk Co Exec Support Shinnecock Casino Development, With Conditions

excerpted from candidate surveys conducted and published by

Suffolk County Executive Democratic Candidate 

What is your position regarding the Shinnecock Nation's effort to gain the right to create a casino on their sovereign land? 

SB: I support their efforts because of the tough economic times we are in but bringing gambling is a short-term solution to Suffolk's significant economic challenges. If we are to turn this economic around, we need to leverage the assets we have - research institutions, natural beauty - and make it easier for businesses to come and grow in Suffolk County rather than being distracted by the allure of gambling. 

Suffolk County Executive Republican Candidate 

What is your position regarding the Shinnecock Nation's effort to gain the right to create a casino on their sovereign land? 

AC: Casinos have become a huge economic engine for areas throughout the nation. Everyday Nassau and Suffolk County residents travel by ferries to the Connecticut casinos or by bus or car to Atlantic City. The bottom line is we should have a casino but, the site that is chosen must create the least amount of negative impact on the quality of life of surrounding property owners as possible. I am deeply concerned that as a site, the Shinnecock sovereign land would create numerous quality of life problems. That said, I plan work with the Shinnecocks and their developer to identify a site elsewhere that would be appropriate for a casino. 

Former Los Coyotes Chairwoman Dies at Age 91; She Supported Barstow Casino Plans but Grew Intolerant of Detroiter Michael Malik

Los Coyotes Elder Katherine Siva Saubel
Keeper of Cahuilla Culture, Language
Katherine Siva Saubel, a former chairwoman of the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has died at age 92.  She was one of the last fluent speakers of the Cahuilla (Kah-WEE'-yuh) Indian language, who helped document the lore of the Southern California tribe.

Her nephew, Kevin Siva, tells the Los Angeles Times she died Nov. 1 at her home on the Morongo reservation near Banning.

Saubel was born in 1920 on the Los Coyotes reservation in San Diego County and was the eighth of her parents’ eleven children.  When she was four, her family relocated to the Palm Springs area where it is believed she was the first Native American woman to graduate from Palm Springs High School.

She married Mariano Saubel, a resident of the Morongo Reservation, in 1940.  They were married 45 years and the parents of a son. 

Saubel worked with researchers to produce a Cahuilla dictionary and grammar book and preserved the songs and medicinal lore of the threatened culture. In 1964, she helped launch the Malki Museum near Banning, the first nonprofit museum found and managed by American Indians on a reservation.

The Cahuilla (pronounced ka-wee-yah), once one of the largest California Indian tribes, are concentrated in Riverside and San Diego counties. Among the more prominent Cahuilla bands are the Morongo and the Agua Caliente band in Palm Springs.

In 1998, as an activist, Saubel brought electricity to the Los Coyotes Reservation near Warner Springs in San Diego County. She would later be embroiled in a bitter fight to eject certain tribal members from the Reservation.

Then, for the better part of the first decade of the new millennium, Saubel served as Los Coyotes’ Chairwoman.  In partnership with Barwest LLC, a Detroit-based casino syndicate organized by Marian Ilitch and Michael Malik, she attempted to establish an off-reservation casino for the Los Coyotes Indians in Barstow (CA), midway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. 

After experiencing a string of failed schemes and disappointing setbacks, Saubel grew increasingly frustrated with and skeptical of Mike Malik.  When she could no longer take his bullying and intimidation she simply terminated Los Coyotes’ exclusivity agreement with Barwest.  Malik was furious.  Saubel told reporters Malik was ‘The Devil’ and alleged he was responsible for ‘seducing’ younger members of the Los Coyotes tribe. 

Subsequently, Malik and his operatives had Saubel removed as Los Coyotes’ chairwoman.  As her replacement he recruited the young and inexperienced Shane Chapparosa, one of the younger members of the tribe whom Saubel had accused Malik of seducing.

Saubel received an honorary PhD in philosophy from La Sierra University, Riverside, California, and was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by theUniversity of California at the University of California, Riverside.

Funeral mass and burial for Dr. Saubel are scheduled for Nov. 8 at St. Mary’s Indian Mission and St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Banning.

Among the various tributes to Dr. Saubel:

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