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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Guam Bingo Initiative Advocates Allegedly Paid Supporters
Supporters paid $60,827 to campaign on public roadways

By Jerick Sablan

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 5, 2012) – The proponents of the failed bingo initiative paid more than $60,000 to their supporters during the last week before the General Election.

According to a financial report filed with the Guam Election Commission the Guam Japan Friendship Village Inc. paid $60,827 to supporters from Oct. 29 to Nov. 6.

This was the last week before the General Election when hundreds of supporters for the bingo initiative came out in full force along many of Guam's busy intersections.

Some of the supporters said they were given $40 to come out and wave at the events. The financial report does not break down how much was paid for each supporter nor who the supporters are.

Before then, supporters of the initiative were relatively silent.

The initiative would have allowed for-profit bingo at the former Guam Greyhound facility in Tamuning. The Guam Japan Friendship Village pledged to pay 20 percent tax on all gross receipts.

The report also showed the company spent $69,000 on attorney fees. The Japan Friendship Village hired two attorneys during its campaign.

Guam attorney Ron Moroni and Saipan attorney Jennifer Dockter, spoke on behalf of the Guam-Japan Friendship Village initiative. Takami "John" Hisamoto, the Hawaii businessman behind the controversial for-profit bingo initiative declined to comment throughout the campaign and instead left the two attorneys to speak on his behalf. However, the attorneys didn't have any specific answers to who else was behind the Japan Friendship village. It's unclear if the attorney fees are for these specific attorneys.

The group paid more than $189,000 to Inspire Ad Agency for media related costs. The group did a last minute campaign in the various media outlets with full-page ads, TV and radio spots. It's unclear where exactly the money went for media costs.

The financial reports show that all cash contributions came from the Guam Japan Friendship Village Inc. It's unclear from the financial report where or whom the money came from since all contributions are under the groups name.

Guam Election Commission documents don't provide information about the organization's membership or leadership, and neither do the group's articles of incorporation, which are on file at the Department of Revenue and Taxation.

The vagueness of the financial report has opponents of the initiative backing a bill that would require more transparency.

Bill 532

Jackie Marati, a spokeswoman for Keep Guam Good said the group supports Bill 532, also known as the Initiative Reform and Transparency Act of 2012 authored by Sen. Judith Guthertz.

Guthertz said the bill aims to ensure transparency and accountability for Guam voters.

If the bill becomes law, proponents would have to file several disclosure documents and police and court clearances with the Guam Election Commission.

A list of all shareholders or members of the organization which receives funds or spends money in support of the initiative would be required if the bill passes.

The bill states only bona fide Guam residents who were registered to vote during the preceding General Election would be allowed to introduce initiatives.

Those measures will ensure that initiatives will have full transparency for Guam residents before Election Day, Guthertz said.

Marati said the financial report is extremely vague.

"We don't know where the money came from or who it went to," Marati said.

Marati said names should have been listed in the financial report and didn't see why it wasn't included.

Marati said Bill 532 is a great start to get more transparency, but suggested amendments to the bill. She said if an initiative is struck down five times in a period of 10 years then a moratorium should go into place. It would place a moratorium of 10 years.

Another amendment would disclose who wrote the initiative, she said. It's unclear who wrote the initiative for the Guam Japan Friendship Village.

She said another amendment would require proponents to hold village meetings before a petition can be signed so that the public is informed of the measure.

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