LIHUE — The state attorney general’s office has been asking lawmakers to take a lie detector test in connection with an investigation into campaign finance reporting irregularities during the 2014 election.
At least five lawmakers have been asked to take the test, including state Rep. James Tokioka. Also being investigated is one of the most influential lobbyists in the state.
Tokioka, who represents District 15 (Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town), said that he and his campaign treasurer both voluntarily agreed to take the lie detector test, which they passed. But at least four other lawmakers refused the attorney general’s request.
“I know I’m innocent,” Tokioka said, explaining why he agreed to take the polygraph exam. “I just want to clear myself.”
The investigation stems from a complaint that was filed against Tokioka’s campaign for failing to properly report campaign contributions.
Tokioka acknowledges that his campaign made an error by filing late, and said that a campaign volunteer made an additional clerical error when entering information about a $500 donation from G.A. “Red” Morris, of Capitol Consultants of Hawaii. Tokioka said the reports have since been amended.
Tokioka said that the contribution was inadvertently entered as a personal donation from Morris, when it should have been recorded as a donation from one of Morris’ clients. According to Tokioka, that sparked concern that they were trying to conceal the source of the money.
“It was clearly a simple error and an honest mistake to put his home address on the campaign spending report,” Tokioka said.
Morris did not respond to multiple attempts over several days to reach him for comment.
Officially, neither the Campaign Spending Commission nor the state attorney general’s office have acknowledged that an investigation is ongoing.
According to spokesman Joshua Wisch, “The Department of the Attorney General never discusses any investigations, including whether we are even doing one.”
But Wisch did say the department is capable of conducting a polygraph test (commonly referred to as a lie detector test), which is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Tokioka said he was not aware of any other lawmakers from Kauai’s delegation being asked to take polygraph exams.
Maui Attorney Lance D. Collins specializes in good government issues, and was hired to file the initial complaint against Tokioka on behalf of three Kauai residents. He said the fact that the attorney general’s office is involved is an indication that the Campaign Spending Commission believed there was enough evidence to warrant referring the matter to the prosecutor.
“The Campaign Spending Commission does not overreact. They way, way under- react,” Collins said. “They always err on the side that someone has made an honest mistake.”
But Collins speculated that the attorney general’s office may not be going after Tokioka, but instead gathering information for a larger prosecution involving other lawmakers and campaign contributors.
“Him taking a lie detector test may have nothing to do with this case,” Collins said. “The evidence gathering may have nothing to do with him.”
Tokioka said he was only asked two questions during the polygraph exam, both of which focused on why the report was late and whether he did anything with Morris to take money without reporting it through the campaign filing system.
“If it was something bigger, they would have been asking me other questions,” Tokioka said.
Yet nearly a year later, the issue remains unresolved, and the attorney general’s office isn’t giving out any answers, including to Tokioka.
“I’m still responsible, so I want to make it right, just tell me what I did wrong and tell me what I need to do to fix it,” Tokioka said.
Tokioka stressed that he has been careful to not use his position as a sitting lawmaker to try to pressure the attorney general to clear him.
According to Collins, the state has two years to act from the time a complaint is filed.
“We filed the report late, and there was that discrepancy on the outside of the check that was given at the fundraiser. And we fixed it,” Tokioka said. “Guilty people don’t take lie detector tests.”