HI House leader lawyers up as investigators probe his use of campaign funds
House Majority Whip Romy Cachola
By Malia Zimmerman | Watchdog.org
HONOLULU – State House Majority Whip Romy Cachola, D-Kalihi, has hired Honolulu criminal defense attorney Michael Green to represent him, as the state and county step up their investigation into Cachola’s financial records and reporting.
According to a complaint filed May 7 by the state Campaign Spending Commission, which oversees campaign fundraising and spending by state and county elected officials and candidates, Cachola used $64,000 of his campaign fund for personal use.
(See Romy Cachola complaint and Romy Cachola case-exhibits.)
The commission wants the money returned, and also plans to fine Cachola another $4,000.
Cachola’s own report to the commission shows that in 2008 he purchased a Nissan Pathfinder from New City Nissan for $30,000.
He has since spent campaign funds to buy fuel as often as three times a week, and put additional campaign funds toward car insurance, maintenance and registration, totaling $21,000.
Watchdog.org first reported on the unusual expenses in September 2013.
Cachola said then the Pathfinder “is purely for campaign use.”
“I felt the campaign needed a bigger car such as the Pathfinder, to accommodate signs, supplies and other campaign paraphernalia,” Cachola told Watchdog.org. “For personal use, the family uses our Lexus car, which is a pretty small car.”
Under state law, any candidate or political official who uses campaign funds for personal use must reimburse the campaign.
After Cachola made that statement to Watchdog.org, the Campaign Spending Commission opened its own investigation and hired investigators from the state attorney general’s office to follow Cachola for a week. During that week in January, Cachola used the Pathfinder only for personal affairs, driving to church, a golf course and to the state Capitol.
Cachola received $250 to $300 a month for his automobile allowance when he was in the Honolulu City Council from 2008 to 2012, for a total of $13,000, while also billing his campaign.
As a result, the Honolulu City Ethics Commission opened its own investigation into Cachola’s finances.
The Campaign Spending Commission was set to take action against Cachola on Wednesday, but Cachola’s newly hired attorney asked for a postponement so he could review the case.
The commission is also looking into 137 food and beverage purchases by Cachola totaling $9,000 charged to his campaign and $2,774 he spent on public relations expenses to determine whether they were campaign-related.
Cachola has had an extensive career in politics, serving in the Hawaii state House from November 1984 to August 2000, on the Honolulu City Council from November 2000 until 2012. He was re-elected to the Hawaii House District 30 during the 2012 election. Cachola has served as State House Majority Whip since 2013 and is a member of five legislative committees.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com