Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Dirty tricks: Senate arranges a corporate windfall for itself and endangers clean election bill

by Larry Geller

For crying out loud. Who would think that our legislators would stoop to tricks like this?

HB661 was a hard-fought bill that would allow the Hawaii County Council to hold publicly funded elections if a candidate wished. It was a giant step forward along the path to removing corporate influence from Hawaii politics. The County Council voted for it and supported it. The bill made steady progress through the House and Senate. Until yesterday.

Yesterday Senate President Colleen Hanabusa installed a big ATM machine outside her office. Yup. On a voice vote on the Senate floor, the senate voted to adopt floor amendment 6, which added most of the contents of SB2204 but instead of a ban on contributions, which is what advocates had been fighting for, they raised to $25,000 the corporate cap on campaign contributions. Right now, the corporate limit is $1,000, pending the outcome of a court case challenging the law.

Yes, thanks to Sen. Hanabusa, the money machine will be open at our state legislature. Unless this dirty trick is reversed.


Open for Business

Senate leadership wants to let contractors, developers, or any large corporation wanting to buy influence know that they are open for business (the guy in the pic above is supposed to be a contractor making a deposit, it's the best I can do...).

$25,000 buys a lot of influence, it's no small change. When a corporation gives that much, it expects plenty in return. Corporations are not philanthropic organizations, you know. They invest in legislation, given the chance.

So now the Senate is saying, "Shower us with money! We're here to do your bidding! Give, give give us your big bucks!"

With this amendment, corporations can give up to $25,000 but there is no limit on what legislators can receive! Yup, it's like having an unlimited charge card.

The dirty trick is that this evil amendment has been stuck onto a really good bill. What to do now? Should we fight to defeat the bill, killing any chance of Clean Elections this year? Should we fight to pass it, thereby opening the floodgates of corporate money into legislators' pockets?

Given all the testimony throughout the session, what should happen is that the amendment should be withdrawn. HB661 should be passed to simply allow the Hawaii County Council to choose publicly funded elections as an option.

Sen. Hanabusa has long had a tight relationship with corporate money. Maybe you noticed the article in yesterday's Advertiser on how her close buddy (?) Jeff Stone used some of his aquarium tax credits but isn't delivering the aquarium, Credits got used, but no aquarium.

Stone's claiming of credits re-ignites some controversy that has swirled around the aquarium development plan proposed through legislation in 2002 by Hanabusa and Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kahala, Hawai'i Kai).

The Legislature in 2002 approved the initiative, but then-Gov. Ben Cayetano vetoed it on grounds that the tax credit would mainly benefit one interest group and could be spent on projects defined too broadly. Cayetano also argued at the time that hotel, condo and time-share developers would build at Ko Olina without the promise of a taxpayer-financed aquarium.

Hanabusa, an attorney, sued Cayetano over the veto and re-introduced the bill in January 2003. The Legislature approved it that year, and it was signed by Lingle.

If you believe that a cozy relationship between corporate interests and state government is not the best way to govern Hawaii, please take a moment and call, fax or email Sen. Hanabusa. You can also email all senators at Yup, it's easy, and it's important. Ask that the floor amendment to HB661 be taken out. Here's how you can reach Sen. Hanabusa:


P.S. There's a rumor that Sen. Hanabusa might run for governor. If so, wouldn't she want to do the right thing? So ask her to pull that amendment out of HB661.


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