Saturday, May 03, 2008


Ferry lobbying expense issue breaks into print

by Larry Geller

Ferry Lobbying Expenses

A good story at the top of the front page today. It correctly notes that the Superferry company's erroneous filing of a low report was initially discovered by Ian Lind:

The Ethics Commission first questioned Superferry's lobbying expenses in response to an April 10 letter from Ian Lind, a freelance writer and blogger who works for state Rep. Lyla Berg, D-18th (Kuli'ou'ou, Niu Valley, 'Aina Haina).

Lind expressed skepticism about the accuracy of the Superferry reports, and yesterday said Mollway's decision not to take action against the company "isn't very satisfying."

He said it's unlikely company officials or their agents were ignorant of lobbying disclosure rules, partly because he has written on numerous occasions about lobbying activities at the Legislature, including those of Superferry.

Lind also felt the reporting form, which includes categories for media advertising, preparation and distribution of lobbying materials, compensation paid to lobbyists, and other specific items, is neither vague nor ambiguous.

"Their public relations consultants and paid lobbyists, I'm sure, are very aware of what the rules are. If it wasn't intentional, it was certainly negligent. The negligence is the damage to the public's ability to be sure its rights were protected in this whole legislative decision-making," he said.

I'm a little mystified why Ian's action is associated in this article with his employment by state Rep. Lyla Berg.

But the main disappointment, of course is that the Ethics Commission is so far declining to hold a hearing and is willing to let the ferry company off the hook completely. Had Ian not written his letter, the original report, for only $21,960, would likely have remained unchallenged indefinitely.

As the article notes, the company even outdid well-known high-spenders from Pharma. But the pill pushers may have reported their activities as the law required, while the ferry company, I can't resist, steered us wrong.

High Road The rules for filing the lobbying expenditure are easy enough. You can find information on the Ethics Commission website here. The form is here. You can see how clear it is. Just fill in the expenses, pretty easy, not like income tax. The Superferry's reports are here.

It's not like the Superferry can't pay that tiny fine, they aren't even being required to do so.

Ok Hawaii companies, you have the message now from the Ethics Commission itself (forget their inspiring  cartoon): File whatever you want and see if a blogger happens to catch you.

That's Hawaii's new filing law (de facto). And shucks, if you're caught, it's only $500 anyway, and that's really unlikely too.

Add ethics laws to the long list of other laws that are simply not enforced in Hawaii. That's an ethical issue all its own, isn't it?

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