Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Money in politics – keeping us from decent health care and more

by Larry Geller

Today’s Democracy Now (on Oahu, 7 a.m. channel 54 or 10 p.m. channel 56 or any time at features the obstacles that the Obama administration has placed in the path of single payer health care, which is favored by the majority of Americans and provided by other industrialized countries. Despite Obama’s support of single payer in the past, its “off the table” now. Why?

You know already that the obstacle is the money paid by the health insurance industry for lobbying and to fund politician’s campaigns at all levels of government (that’s right, part of the money that should go to your health care is being spent by insurers to make sure you don’t get health care).

In the headlines at the top of the program is the report that former US Ambassador Charles Freeman withdrew his name from nomination as the country’s top intelligence analyst because of pressure from the Israel lobby, one of the biggest and most influential payers of politicians you can find.

Here in Hawaii, although advocates and watchdog groups have stopped the House bill that would have allowed serious money to flood into the coffers of Hawaii legislators, don’t think for a moment that the all-clear siren has sounded. There is still a tsunami watch in force. Separating money from politics is an ongoing chore.

Karamatsu Fund Raiser

Tonight is the $150 donation fund raiser for House Judiciary Chair Jon Riki Karamatsu. It’s being held at a location out of his district and during the legislative session, while bills affecting potential donors will still come before his committee. You can bet he won’t be recusing himself when someone who will have attended his party tonight shows up in his hearing room.

Hmm, I suppose if legislators were required to do that, they’d never be able to get a quorum together.

Ian Lind identifies a McDonald’s party to be held for legislators today as a potential reporting violation and mentions the Superferry’s huge omissions in its campaign spending report (for which our Campaign Spending Commission chose to issue no fine, by the way).

And let’s be on the lookout to see if Bob Herkes holds another “Breakfast with Bob” fundraiser in town this year. The $100 donation event last year, held during the legislative session, was an island away from his constituents. Aimed at business and their lobbyists, it appeared to sell access for a price.

Bob was cheaper than Jon Riki, but let’s see how this year goes as legislators continue to find ways to fill their coffers with corporate money.

Where do we, as voters, stand with our representatives? Try an experiment. See if you can get an appointment with your representative or senator to discuss their vote on these campaign finance bills. I see lobbyists sailing through their office doors all the time. Can you get in to see your elected representative as quickly and easily as they do?



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