Hawaii Senate Dem Majority Leader Gets 3 Years in Prison for Bribery

Why let Chicago, Detroit and New York have all the fun? Hawaii corruption by the party of crime also deserves a little attention.

English announced he was retiring last year due to health issues. His retirement will have to take place behind bars.

Former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, 55, pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in February, admitting he accepted bribes from a Hawaii business owner in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company involved in publicly financed cesspool conversion projects...

English “peddled the power and influence of his position as a Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader to enrich himself and betray the trust bestowed upon him by those he was elected to serve,” U.S. prosecutors said in a sentencing memo urging the judge to send him to prison for three-and-a-half years.

The sentence, a little more than three years, must send a “stern and lasting message” that corruption of elected officials will be punished, the memo said.

Not all that long ago, English was praising Obama.

“Hawaiians love Obama,” says J. Kalani English, a Democratic state senator. “He is one of us — he understands what aloha is, he understand what mana is.” 

Obama and English both understand "mana" really well.

English pleaded guilty in February and admitted to accepting cash and other payments totaling more than $18,000 from Honolulu businessman Milton Choy. English leaked documents related to a wastewater working group to Choy in exchange for cash payments. He also accepted more money to first introduce, and then kill a bill that could have benefitted Choy’s business.

“As the investigation progressed it became astoundingly clear that no matter the legislative ask, the answer from English would almost certainly be ‘yes.’ English’s behavior signaled that it was systemically normal for him to accept, and indeed expect, financial benefits in return for legislative favors,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Sorenson wrote in a sentencing memorandum Friday.

And the party may just be getting started.

Choy is a prolific donor, as are his immediate family members and business associates. Choy, his family members, and his employees from various companies have donated more than $356,000 to political campaigns since 2014, according to campaign finance data. Of that, Choy has contributed more than $160,000 to the elections and reelections of numerous Democrats.

Choy himself has donated to 55 campaigns — including 29 sitting lawmakers — since 2014. Money has gone to former Gov. Neil Abercrombie and current Gov. David Ige. He has most recently contributed to former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s campaign for governor, and to Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s campaign.

Culture of corruption.

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