Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Campaign contributions: bringing the plague to Hawaii

by Larry Geller

Economist Joseph Stiglitz referred this morning to the role of campaign contributions in politics as a plague:

AMY GOODMAN: Why is Obama saving these bankers?

JOSEPH STIGLITZ: Well, we could all guess about the politics. We know one of the problems about American politics is the role of campaign contributions, and that’s plagued every one of our major problems. Under the Bush administration, we couldn’t deal with a large number problems, like the oil industry, like the pharmaceutical, the healthcare, because of the influence of campaign contributions. Now, my view is, one of the problems is that whether it’s because of that or not, it lends an aura of suspicion. The fact that there was so much campaign contributions from the financial sector at least raises the concern. [Democracy Now, Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz: Obama Has Confused Saving the Banks with Saving the Bankers, 2/25/2009]

Indeed it is a plague. Were it not for the role of big corporate money in national politics, we would no doubt already have single-payer universal health care in this country, as they do in other industrialized countries, for example. The banks, rather than the bankers, would have been saved, which is the focus of much of this morning’s Democracy Now interview.

Speaker Calvin Say and Judiciary Chair Jon Riki Karamatsu introduced HB539, which started with a $25,000 limit which was bad enough, and without supporting testimony, was amended by Karamatsu to blow away the limits on corporate contributions entirely. Karamatsu had the amendment under his hat. It’s very likely that the whole thing was pre-arranged, which would explain the lame excuses Karamatsu was caught mouthing on video during his committee hearing on the bill.

It’s also an example of abuses of democratic process at Hawaii’s legislature, one that’s been ripe for reform for some time. 

Was this a setup by Say and Karamatsu to kill the campaign finance reform movement in Hawaii?

David Shapiro, as usual insightful and fearless, nailed Karamatsu for resurrecting Cal Kawamoto, in his column today in the Advertiser, Feeding off corporate campaign donations:

Karamatsu invoked fond memories of discredited former Sen. Cal Kawamoto, who was cited by the Campaign Spending Commission for buying votes with charitable donations, among other violations, and then tried to pass legislation limiting the commission's oversight of legislators.

"You guys put pressures ... on how much we can give to nonprofits. If not, we get busted like Cal Kawamoto," Karamatsu griped. "Every time we're getting sex-abuse fundraising letter and domestic violence fundraising letter ... He helped all these kids, and he got blasted for it. You're tying our hands on what we can do here."

Voters got tired of Kawamoto's campaign spending shenanigans and gave him the boot in 2004 by a huge margin.

So how do legislators respond to this clear message from voters? They put Cal Kawamoto Jr. in charge of the Judiciary Committee to try to legitimatize the unethical practices Kawamoto was booted for.

(check out Shapiro’s complete remarks at the above link or on the editorial page in today’s paper.)

The federal government and 21 other states prohibit these contributions. Say and Karamatsu seem intent on bringing a plague to Hawaii.

Let’s see how it goes today at the Legislature. I’ll post the votes here when they are released.

Have you emailed your representative on this yet? Or, you can reach all representatives in one click at .



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