Friday, November 18, 2011

Ruse: Citizens for a Better Way, LLC

ruse  n. (rūs, rūz)

Definition:  strategem intended to mislead, deceive, or trick; conspiracy,wiley subterfuge.

Synonyms:  artful dodge, trick, deceit, deception, conspiracy, angle, sham, stunt, lie, ploy, maneuver, red herring, coup, dirty deal, gimmick, hoax, scheme, racket.

Example:  Citizens for a Better Way, LLC, is a ruse: bankrolled by secret interests who, for whatever reason, want to operate outside the norms of Hawaii's Ethics Commission; and designed by experienced labor and gambling industry lobbyists desperate for the appearance of "grassroots" support demanding approval of schemes to enable a Las Vegas-style casino in Waikiki.

Citizens for a Better Way, LLC at:
Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs
Hawaii Ethics Commission

New BMIC Chair Signals Tribe Won't Abandon Litigation that Shut-Down Vanderbilt Casino

New BMIC Chairman Kurt Perron
Kurt Perron, the new Chairman of the Bay Mills Indian Community signals to the Tribe and others that under his leadership, BMIC will not abandon litigation that has resulted in the tribe's Vanderbilt casino being locked up indefinitely and blocks any future casino development schemes the Tribe and its partner, controversial Detroit casino syndicator Michael J. Malik, Sr.,  had dreamed of for Port Huron & Flint Township.

No doubt, former BMIC Chair Jeff Parker had previously entered into Development Agreements with Malik or his affiliates protecting Malik's interests. Malik has indicated that his Blue Water Resorts syndicate and others have invested $15-25 million during the last two decades attempting to win approvals for his Bay Mills casino in Port Horn. Given that, it's not likely Malik will walk away from or be pushed away from BMIC.  He is known to be tenacious and a bully.

Those who've followed TVT regularly will recall several instances where leaders of the Los Coyotes Band of Indians attempted to part company with Malik or undertake business development strategies potentially in conflict with Malik's objectives; and in such instances, the Detroiter saw to it that those leaders were replaced and individuals loyal to him were installed in their place.

Tribe continues work on gaming issues
BAY MILLS — Bay Mills Indian Community elected new tribal leaders on Nov. 2, but the commitment to the current litigation regarding the Vanderbilt Casino remains the same.

“Our first day in office, Nov. 7, we formally agreed as a council to continue working together on our gaming issues, including our properties in Vanderbilt, Flint, and Port Huron,” said newly elected Tribal Chairman Kurt Perron. He is joined by another new face on the council, Joe LeBlanc, serving as vice-chairman. The rest of the council remains the same, as incumbents John Paul Lufkins, Richard LeBlanc and Bucko Teeple held onto their seats in the election.

The council’s actions come on the heels of an Oct. 19 General Tribal Council meeting of the Bay Mills Indian Community membership. At that meeting, Perron made a motion before the prior council to continue moving forward with the litigation. The tribal membership unanimously approved Perron’s motion.

"I am committed to working aggressively and diligently with the entire council to advance this litigation and related pursuits,” said Perron.

The tribe has a July 2012 court date scheduled.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sen. Wakai's Affiliate Included in Lobbyist's Bankruptcy; LLC Reportedly Established to Lobby for Gambling in Hawaii Omitted

According to Court Documents filed in the Elizabeth Hata Watanabe bankruptcy case, she owes High Impact Communications located in Honolulu, $3,841.45, noted as a claim for general business services billed in 2010. | Testimonials
High Impact Communications is a Honolulu public relations firm owned by Glenn Wakai.  Watanabe is featured on the firm’s website: “Testimonials” page. 
“High Impact Communications has been there for me every step of the way. I could not be more satisfied. Glenn’s media strategy and crisis management plans have been key to my profitability. He is quick to respond to requests, takes an energetic approach to projects, and is such a joy to work with.”
- Liz Watanabe, Business Owner

It’s unclear what purposes Watanabe, or her affiliate(s), retained Wakai to provide.  She had closed down her failed O Lounge nightclub (EHW, LLC) and a short-lived restaurant operation (EHW-II, LLC) prior to 2010 but had organized a tax-exempt nonprofit, the Hata Foundation, to raise funds for other charities; and in 2010, that nonprofit was affiliated with Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament, a reality TV show that aired on KHON Saturdays during Fall 2010.

Hawaii Sen. Glenn Wakai (D-15th)
As it turns out, Glenn Wakai, a Democrat, also serves as Hawaii State Senator, representing the voters of District 15: Kalihi, Moanalua Gardens, Salt Lake, Aliamanu, Foster Village, Hickam, Pearl Harbor, Pearl Ridge and ‘Aiea. 

Previously, Sen. Wakai served eight years in the State House of Representatives. He is the current vice-chair of the Senate's Committee on Economic Development and Technology, and is a member of the Committees on Ways and Means, and Agriculture.

Wakai was also a TV news reporter affiliated with KHON-FOX2 and KHNL News 8.  He formed High Impact in 2007.

According to the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii website, Wakai was to host the “Stars of Hope” fundraiser for Watanabe and the Hata Foundation in January 2011. Individual tickets were $100; tables of 10 seats $1,000; and sponsorships at $2,000. A blog associated with the Star-Advertiser notes that Sen. Will Espero was also Watanabe’s guest at the event; although there's been disclosure of any gift or payment to Espero.

Limited Liability Company Established &
 Managed By Elizabeth Hata Watanabe 
April 1, 2011, Watanabe reportedly organized and registered Citizensfor a Better Way, LLC (CFBW), with the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs (DCCA).  About April 2, she registered with the Hawaii Ethics Commission as a lobbyist for CFBW. Watanabe has not previously been registered as a lobbyist. CFBWs mission: Say No to Taxes…Yes to a Single Casino in Waikiki.  By all indications, Watanabe is partnering with career lobbyist John Radcliffe on this effort; but to what extent, is unclear because both have been mysterious and dishonest about details to date.

So, in her original Bankruptcy filing, Watanabe reported owing Sen. Wakai's firm  $3,841.45 but failed to inform the Bankruptcy Court of her affiliation with CFBW, a group she registered with DCCA about six weeks before filing bankruptcy. It's worthy of noting that Watanabe is the only member of CFBW and its Manager. On May 31st, about two weeks prior to filing bankruptcy, Watanabe, as manager of CFBW, made payments of nearly $40,000 related to “Advertising Media” expenses.  It’s not clear what, if anything, Wakai’s PR firm might have received.  Watanabe and Radcliffe have yet to truthfully disclose where that money came from and to whom it was paid.

Oddly, CFBW failed to report any payments to lobbyist Watanabe as part of its required disclosures for the period ended April 30, 2011; although, as noted above, she is registered with the Ethics Commission.

During Hawaii’s 2011 legislative session, Radcliffe and Watanabe pushed for approval of SB 1247, a bill that would have allowed one commercial casino to be developed in Waikiki at the Aloha Tower and Marketplace.  

As a member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Sen. Wakai voted to approve SB 1247, moving it forward in the legislative process. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blogger Speculates Hawaii's Gov. Abercrombie Poised for Gambling Flip-Flop

Gambling in Hawaii, Gov. Abercrombie Sees The Light for a Single Casino?

Well, no pun intended but, it’s “game on”. In an article this morning coming from The Star Advertiser, it was written that Gov. Neil Abercrombie is telling lawmakers he is willing to consider legalizing gambling next year.

Now I would link you to the article in The Star Advertiser in referring too but I don’t support their pay-to-view subscription policies. Anyhow…..

The issue of legalizing gambling in Hawaii has been on the legislative hot-plate for over 10 years. But within the same 10 years, the opposition to legalized gambling has put their foot down loud and clear.

So who wants the Casino? Citizens For A Better Way says there are real solid reason to support a single casino in Waikiki. They say over 3000 jobs to local people and a new tax revenue for the stat that will take the pressure off of social programs cut backs and teacher lay-offs.

So who doesn’t want a casino in Waikiki? For starters, the HPD and religious organizations and also the Boyd Gaming Corp., which operates the California, Fremont and Main Street Station hotels in Las Vegas, which are popular with Hawaii residents?... (More)

See also:

Hawaii Gambling Advocates Make Unsubstantiated Claims, False Representations; Won't Reveal Those Bankrolling Lobbying Campaign

Blogger's Note: John Radcliffe (a lobbyist & career union operative who is a confidante of Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie) and Elizabeth "Liz" Hata-Watanabe, his latest recruit, have failed to be forthcoming and instead demonstrate a conspiracy to mislead and even deceive Hawaii's journalists, voters, public officials and legislators in order to get approvals for their Detroit/Las Vegas clients to build a casino in Waikiki.


By Richard Borreca
Liz Hata Watanabe is not one to sit on the sidelines. The former nightclub owner and entrepreneur has a new cause: getting Waikiki a casino.

Watanabe founded Citizens for a Better Way, an organization she says has more than 300 active members lobbying for a casino to provide new jobs and a new business for Hawaii...

That Citizens for a Better Way (CFBW) has “300 active members lobbying for a casino” is curious.  They may have used mainland money to fund an automated robotic telephone poll or canvas of voters, among whom 300 said they would support the idea of a casino in Honolulu, but that hardly represents “300 active members lobbying.”

Further, that Watanabe represents she has 299 other people actively lobbying for their casino schemes and yet the Facebook page for CFBW, activated more than six months ago, only has 14 fans or “Likes,” suggests someone’s exaggerating the truth again.

Not to mention, when Watanabe organized CFBW she did so as a limited liability company and in the paperwork she filed with the Hawaii Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs she specifically designated that CFBW would only have one member and it was Watanabe.

When Jim Dooley, an investigative reporter for asked lobbyist John Radcliffe & Watanabe where they were getting the money to support CFBW and how much they’d spent lobbying, they refused to reveal where the funds were coming from and told Dooley they would spend “very little.” Very little? 

But when Watanabe was mandated to file a lobbying campaign disclosures report in May 2011, they had spent nearly $40,000 on “Advertising Media.” Very little? Out of 230 entities that reported they’d spent money lobbying in Hawaii, only four spent more than CFBW; the truth is, the pro-casino group fronting for mainland gambling interests was among the Top Five Lobbying Spenders!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Elizabeth Hata Watanabe's $387,000 Bankruptcy

From the notice published in Pacific Business News, July 7, 2011, Page 33:
Case: 11-01679
Filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Hawaii
June 14, 2011 | Case: 11-01679
Elizabeth C. Watanabe (aka Elizabeth Hata Watanabe)
91-209 Kupiapia Place, Ewa Beach, Oahu 96706
Philip W. Miyoshi, attorney
Subsequent filings in the case (see box below) suggest it is a $387,000 Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Two other lawsuits are referenced in the court filings:
  • Watanabe v. Costco, Case CV08-1-001118, personal injury;  and
  • Central Pacific Bank v.  EHW-II, LLC, Case CV11-1-0201, contracts.
Among her various debtors, High Impact Communications, a PR firm owned by Hawaii State Senator Glenn Wakai, for business services provided in 2010.  Hata-Watanabe had closed down her failed restaurant and nightclub in 2008 & 2009 respectively.  In 2010, her affiliate the Hata Foundation, a nonprofit tax-exempt organization which Hata-Watanabe founded and serves as caretaker & Director partnered with a reality TV show that Hata-Watanabe executive produced, “Hawaii’s Big Deal: Poker Tournament.”

Failing to get a second season of “Hawaii’s Big Deal” off the ground, Hata-Watanabe eventually found herself partnering with lobbyist John Radcliffe, a Democrat representing labor and gambling clients, and entangled in a group called Citizens for a Better Way, LLC, in which Hata-Watanabe reported she organized, was the only member and its manager via an April 1, 2011 filing with the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs. CFBW’s mission: Say No to Taxes…Yes to a Single Casino in Waikiki

Elizabeth Hata Watanabe
In disclosures filed with the Hawaii Ethics Commission and dated May 31, 2011, Hata-Watanabe represented that CFBW had spent nearly $40,000 lobbying for a Waikiki casino during March & April 2011.  She and Radcliffe refuse to disclose where the funds came from and who specifically the payouts went to. CFBW failed to report any payments to Hata-Watanabe.

Radcliffe and Hata-Watanabe specifically sought legislative support for SB 1247.  Senator Wakai had approved the bill February 24, 2011 as part of the Senate Ways & Means (WAM) Committee.

It’s unclear what services Senator Wakai’s PR firm had provide to Hata-Watanabe.  Further, it’s unclear what contact Hata-Watanabe might have had with Wakai lobbying for passage of SB 1247; amd also unclear who received the nearly $40,000 in “Advertising Media” payments made during March & April by Hata-Watanabe’s CFBW group.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hawaii's newest lobbyist spent big, catapulting her into the company of 'Big Boys;' Won't reveal identities of those who bankrolled schemes

Blogger's Note: John Radcliffe (a lobbyist & career union operative who is a confidante of Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie) and Elizabeth "Liz" Hata-Watanabe, his latest recruit, have failed to be forthcoming and instead demonstrate a conspiracy to mislead and even deceive Hawaii's journalists, voters, public officials and legislators.
Hawaii lobbying disclosures reveal that Citizens for a Better Way, LLC, (CFBWllc) a for profit enterprise organized on April Fool’s Day 2011 and purported to be a grassroots citizens’ committee, actually spent nearly $40,000 on a lobbying & advertising activity during March and April 2011.  The group was formed by gambling industry lobbyist John Radcliffe and associates at the Capitol Consultants of Hawaii lobbying firm.  Then they hooked up with Liz Hata-Watanabe, to help advance the lobbyists’ schemes intended to secure approval for a gambling syndicate from Detroit to develop and operate a Las Vegas-style commercial casino in Waikiki.

But when Jim Dooley ( queried them in April about their sneaky last minute efforts, Radcliffe and Watanabe danced around, played coy and Radcliffe told him they were spending “very little.” That's not the only lie he told in this conspiracy -- but more on that in the coming days.

In its infancy, CFBWllc spent very aggressively, and that catapulted the newbie to a place on the list of Hawaii's Top Five Biggest Spenders – 5th out of approximately 230 entities that spent money lobbying. Only four others spent more: trial lawyers, soft-drink beverage producers, Philip Morris and the teachers association -- notoriously big spenders across the country!

Hawaii's Top 5 Biggest Spenders
Lobbying Expenses
1.       Hawaii Association for Justice (trial lawyers)
2.       American Beverage Association (soft-drink beverage producers)
3.       Altria Clients Services Inc. and its affiliates (Philip Morris) 
4.       Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA)
5.       Citizens for a Better Way, LLC
$39,093.10 (TVT) has uncovered details, some which have already been shared, suggesting gambling lobbyist John Radcliffe -- a confidante of Gov. Neil Abercrombie -- and Radcliffe’s associates at Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, are the driving forces behind CFBWllc, their so-called "grassroots" "citizens" group; and Watanabe is their tool. 

Lobbyists at Capitol Consultants count among their clients a Detroit Casino syndicate (Michael Malik, Marian Ilitch/MotorCity Casino, Marketing Resource Group) and the publicly traded Boyd Gaming Company which has casinos in Las Vegas and across the U.S. and currently shuttles patrons back-and-forth from Hawaii to its California gambling halls. Both entities have significant investments and interests in Hawaii's gambling market.

Despite proof to the contrary, Radcliffe and Liz Hata-Watanabe, a person identified as the group’s founder, deny involvement by their gambling industry friend from Detroit and Las Vegas.  Then again, they have yet to disclose who is behind the group, truly.  After all, $40,000 isn’t a drop in the bucket -- especially since Watanabe has since filed bankruptcy.

CFBWllc was organized in a way to specifically avoid disclosing where the funding is coming from – at least for now. As structured, CFBWllc is only required to disclose expenses and even then, not detailed expenses, but buckets of spending as allocated into pre-established spending categories. Then again, that current simplified standard of reporting may be what contributes to their eventual downfall because they are amateurs with delusions of Jack Abramoff!

The next round of disclosures won’t be required until after the New Year.

Radcliffe and Watanabe have failed to be forthcoming and instead have, possibly with the participation of others, conspired to mislead and even deceive Hawaii's journalists, voters, public officials and legislators.  Examples like theirs contribute to the public's general mistrust of government and a belief, by many in our democracy, that corruption is the prevailing standard.

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