Friday, August 11, 2006


Following the Health Insurance Money

Candidates for the Hawaii state House and Senate were supposed to have filed their campaign contribution and spending reports electronically this year, but the Campaign Spending Commission let them off the hook. (I've never understood how it can be that there are laws that simply aren't enforced in this state.) So the CSC had to scan in a pile of paper reports.

They did a quick job of it, though, with all reports expected to be available by this weekend. You can read the reports by going to this page on the CSC site.

I've anxiously waited for the data because I wanted to check into who gave what to lawmakers this past session, as bills that were critical to us ordinary citizens were manipulated by questionable legislative maneuverings so that we lost out.

“Corporations now may simply treat politics as a business expense, similar to advertising, research and development, or public relations. ”
-- How Business Campaign Contributions Subvert Democracy
by Dan Clawson, Alan Neustadtl, and Mark Weller
Of course, we know that corporate money influences decisions. If it didn't, then why would corporations continue to pay it out? Until we get Clean Elections in Hawaii we'll continue to lose as legislators make their corporate sponsors happy.

Ok, rolling up my sleeves, I dug in.

One of my biggest peeves this past session was the loss of insurance rate regulation because of amendments introduced by CSC chair Bob Herkes. The bills headed into that committee simply called for the sunshine provision of the rate regulation law to be lifted so that its protections could continue. Amendments sprung on committee members and the public favored the industry. At the same time, Rep. Herkes employed an "intern," Mark Forman, who was simultaneously the Executive Administrator for HMSA Foundation. But Rep. Herkes has already said that Forman did not influence him. So what did? Perhaps the campaign contribution reports are worth looking at.

In a KITV interview May 10, 2006 looking into the role of embedded interns in the legislature, HMSA's Cliff Cisco stated that responsibility for the health insurance rate regulation belongs not to Forman but to HMSA's registered lobbyist, Jennifer Diesman. So I wanted to see if her name appeared on Herke's list of campaign donors. (Sadly, the law doesn't require Forman's HMSA Foundation salary to be listed as a contribution to the legislator in whose office he works.)

Yup, her name is there. Have a peek at this:

(The full-size document is here).

Notice the date: it looks like 3/28/06. The hearing at which the supposedly industry-written amendment was sprung on the public was 3/22 and the committee voted on 3/23.

“The people of this country, not special interest big money, should be the source of all political power.”
-- Paul Wellstone
Well, at least HMSA had the good sense not to make a contribution right before the vote, though they didn't wait very much after the deed was done. Am I implying a quid pro quo? No. The timing means nothing, of course. And I could be misinterpreting Herke's bad handwriting. I imply nothing. You can decide for yourself on these questions.

Speaking of handwriting, I am still trying to understand this report. Take for example:

I would love to know who is giving these large sums, but I can't read the information. Why did the CSC accept this report? It should be marked D- for handwriting and returned to him to do over. I know my 4th-grade teacher would not have taken a paper from me which she could not read.

Speaking of 4th grade, there must be teenagers available to the candidates who chose not to use the on-line filing system who could have explained it to them if they needed help. Surely they have kids or grand-kids who would help them behind the scenes and avoid the embarrassment of demonstrating why using a computer would be a good idea for them. Never mind, I've seen some doctor's handwriting that's worse, but these days more and more doctors use computer prescription systems to avoid errors caused by poor legibility.

The public has a right to know who is contributing to a candidate or incumbent. Poor handwriting (and I haven't checked his math... ) obfuscates this information.


Post a Comment

Requiring those Captcha codes at least temporarily, in the hopes that it quells the flood of comment spam I've been receiving.

<< Home


page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Newer›  ‹Older