The Advertiser has received thousands of documents from the Lingle administration — 21 boxes — as part of a request under the state's open-records law for material related to Hawaii Superferry.
The documents have led to two stories in the newspaper in January, with a third on the way, hopefully this month. Some of the documents provide interesting insight into the executive branch.
For example, there is an e-mail from John Garibaldi, Superferry's chief executive officer, to Linda Smith, Gov. Linda Lingle's senior policy adviser, in January 2005. Garibaldi thanked Smith for quickly contacting U.S. Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget personnel on behalf of the project.
At the time, Superferry was awaiting formal approval from the federal Maritime Administration for a federal loan guarantee on the construction of two high-speed catamarans.
Garibaldi, in his e-mail to Smith, attached a draft letter of support for the project for the governor to sign and send to then-OMB director Joshua Bolten. (Bolten has since become White House chief of staff.)
"We would appreciate the issuance of the letter as soon as possible," Garibaldi wrote.
Lingle drafted a letter, on executive letterhead dated the very next day, that was nearly verbatim to what Garibaldi had provided.
The main differences involved Lingle's first person account of the importance of the project.
From the Garibaldi draft:
I began working with the Hawaii Superferry principals soon after my election and quickly realized that support of this project should be one of my highest priorities.
To that end, I directed all parts of my government, including my personal staff, to work with Hawaii Superferry to assess the viability of their business plan.
We have concluded that they have a viable, strong business plan that will have a high probability of success.
As a result, I have directed my Department of Transportation to give its highest priority attention to identifying the needs for port facilities to accommodate this ferry service on the Islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.
In support of that requirement, I have committed the State to providing these port facilities on an expedited basis and have included in my budget that is being submitted to the legislature for next fiscal year a total of $40 million.
From the Lingle draft:
I have directed my Department of Transportation along with members of my senior staff to work closely with Hawaii Superferry, Inc. to give priority attention to identifying the port facilities needed to accommodate this ferry service on the Islands of Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai.
Further, I am seeking the development of port facilities on an expedited basis and have included $40 million for Harbor infrastructure improvement in my budget for the next fiscal year specifically for this project. This budget request has been submitted to the state legislature and is pending their review at the present time.
Asked about the practice, Russell Pang, a spokesman for Lingle, noted that the Garibaldi draft was revised before being sent out. He said it is not uncommon for the governor to receive drafts of letters from people or groups who want her signature and support.
"From time to time, organizations do submit for the governor's consideration a draft," Pang said.