By Malia Zimmerman |Watchdog.org
HONOLULU — Former state Sen. Melodie Aduja, who was booted by voters 10 years ago after a scandal involving her campaign spending account, wants another shot in the Legislature.
Aduja, an lawyer first elected in 2000 as a Democrat to represent Kahuku and Kaneohe on Oahu, was under scrutiny by the Campaign Spending Commission in 2004 after the state agency opened a very public investigation into her campaign finances.
The investigation was initiated after the commission said Aduja failed to justify thousands of dollars in campaign spending and had made other campaign violations.
The investigation showed Aduja’s campaign issued $30,000 worth of checks to her former husband, Lee Williams, and never provided receipts, then Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Bob Watada Watada said. Williams subsequently was arrested during a Chinatown drug bust.
Aduja’s campaign also didn’t report a $3,000 loan that was issued or what the loan was used for, Watada said.
As a result, the commission fined her campaign $9,100.
After a negative media firestorm, Aduja lost the 2004 Democratic primary election to Clayton Hee, a former senator and elected trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
The following year, the Hawaii Supreme Court suspended Aduja from practicing law for three years for violating ethical rules governing lawyers.
Hawaii’s high court said Aduja mishandled her client trust account, which resulted in multiple violations of the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct.
Her law license also was suspended in California in 2005 for three years, and she was given probation for two years after the suspension.
Aduja won’t face Hee in the Senate race this election because he is running for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary.
However, Aduja must take on Gil Riverie, a former Republican House member, who is running as a Democrat in this election.
The Republican primary for the same Senate seat will also be competitive. State Rep. Richard Fale takes on former state Rep. Colleen Meyer.
Aduja didn’t return a call to her law office requesting comment.
Willes Lee, former chair of the Hawaii Republican Party who is now the national director for the Hawaii Republican Assembly, said it’s typical of Hawaii politics for politicians who have shown themselves to be less than trustworthy, or even convicted of crimes, to re-enter the political arena and subsequently be elected.
“The people in Hawaii should demand candidates who have not been indicted, be put in jail or disbarred,” Lee said.
Lee predicts Aduja will lose to Riviere, who he called “a super citizen.”
Lee said he believes Meyer will beat Fale in the GOP contest because “she is the only mature and experienced legislator in the Republican primary,” and then it will be up to the voters to choose between two former legislators, Riverie and Meyer.
Reach Malia Zimmerman at Malia@hawaiireporter.com