Recently, dirty politics took on a whole new meaning in Hawaii.
Now two lawmakers are in all kinds of trouble.
That’s because these Democrats were caught with wads of cash in one devastating scandal that stinks to high heaven.
We often hear references to figurative cesspools in politics, but now two former lawmakers are in hot water for taking bribes for shaping legislation affecting real cesspools.
Hawaii’s former Senate Majority Leader, J. Kalani English tried to hide an envelope with $5,000 in cash when FBI agents pulled him over last month.
The retired lawmaker had just left a meeting with a business owner who benefited from cesspool legislation English had ensured died in the legislative process.
Prosecutors say English received more than $18,000 in bribes including Las Vegas hotel rooms and cash for a crab dinner for friends and family visiting from Tahiti.
The 54-year-old retired in May 2021 citing the long-term effects of COVID-19.
But he’ll likely need to come back out of retirement to pay for the long-term effects of dishonesty.
“Kalani is extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for his actions,” his attorney, Richard Sing, said in a statement. “He has cooperated fully with the Federal Government and will be taking formal responsibility in the form of a guilty plea to be completed in the coming days.”
A second official from the Aloha state is also in deep trouble.
Representative Ty Cullen is accused of accepting casino chips and cash payments valued at $23,000.
He recently resigned from his office and now he, like English, is facing a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
According to court documents, both men accepted bribes from a business “well positioned to avail itself of publicly financed cesspool conversion projects.”
Back in December 2019 the business owner, who isn’t identified in the court documents, asked Cullen if he needed any “help” and Cullen responded saying he was “paying plenty of debt.”
Both men received $5,000 in January 2020.
At that time English told the person paying the bribes, “I can definitely use that right now. All the mortgages have become due.”
“It just seemed like such a setup for a joke, to tell you the truth, people talking about cesspools and politics,” Stuart Coleman, executive director of the group Wastewater Alternatives and Innovations said.
Coleman works for a group that’s been trying to get the 88,000 cesspools around the state cleaned up.
But he said he didn’t realize what was happening when those bills kept dying in during the legislative process.
“It’s frustrating to see now that there was actually political games being played behind the scenes,” Coleman said.
An estimated 53 million gallons of raw sewage is seeping into Hawaii’s ground water and shoreline each year.
It seems that even in paradise, Democrats have a knack for creating nasty, smelly messes someone else has to clean up.
Stay tuned to Blue State Blues for any updates to this ongoing story.