iPad, DVDs Among Gifts From Film Studio to Hawaii Lawmakers

The Hawaii lawmaker who accepted an Apple iPad from a Hollywood film studio executive says she viewed the gift as a "good gesture" and a sign that the studio cares about Hawaii.

State Rep. Mele Carroll took an iPad, valued at $500, from Ryan Kavanaugh, founder and CEO of Relativity Media. The company lobbied for and supported legislation seeking to boost state tax breaks for film production in the islands. The company hired well-known Maui attorney Anthony Takitani as its lobbyist.

"At first I thought about not accepting it, because I don't usually take gifts," Carroll told Civil Beat. "In my heart, I know why I took it — it's a tool, and I thought it was a good gesture. I took it as a message: that he's not here just to benefit himself. He was truthfully finding a way for me to reach my constituents. I took it as a good gesture, not as a payment."

Carroll was one of 11 lawmakers who accepted two dozen Blu-ray DVDs from Relativity Media, valued at $360, according to a Civil Beat analysis of gift disclosures. One of the lawmakers who got DVDs was chair of the committee that advanced the bill early in the session.

At least five of the studio's executives submitted testimony in support of House Bill 1308 and Senate Bill 1550. The measures, neither of which became law, sought to make existing tax credits more generous — up to 35 percent on Oahu and 40 percent on the neighbor islands — for film and television productions done in Hawaii. Relativity Media says it has released 126 films — including "The Fighter," "Despicable Me," "The Social Network," — generating $15.3 billion in worldwide box office sales.

'Questionable' Gifts

It's against Hawaii law for lawmakers to accept a gift if it's obvious that the gift is meant to influence or reward the lawmaker. The state's Ethics Code requires lawmakers "disclose annually a gift or gifts that exceed $200 in value received from a single source."

Hawaii legislators accepted more than $137,000 in gifts last year.

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