Tuesday, January 10, 2012
First ethics challenge of the 2012 session—state legislators warned not to attend farm feast worth $50 in fancy food
by Larry Geller
It will be interesting to see which state legislators defy an Ethics Commission warning against attending a posh farm promotional event scheduled for Wednesday, January 11. It will take place conveniently across the street from the State Capitol at the Hawaii State Art Museum from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. They (and the sponsors of the event) have been warned that attendance would violate the State Ethics Code.
If Hawaii state legislators want to meet farmers, all they have to do is visit one of the many farmers markets sprouting up around Oahu. The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA) and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation (HFBF) have an even more appetizing idea: why not set an expensive table over at the Hawaii State Art Museum and invite legislators and prominent businesspeople to feast on local produce?
Legislators wouldn’t have to shuck their own GMO corn, of course. The HCIA and HFBF have thoughtfully arranged to have local products prepared by Hawaii’s own Chef Hiroshi Fukui from the fancy Hiroshi Eurasian Tapas restaurant. His touch is part of what grows the value of the invitation-only event to an estimated $50 per attendee (admission is free of charge).
As Les Kondo, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, warned legislators in a memo dated January 9, 2011,
We are writing to advise legislators that based upon the information that we have received and reviewed, it is our opinion that the State Ethics Code prohibits the acceptance of this invitation by legislators.
Just because an event is “no charge” does not mean it has no value.
In applying the gifts law to “A Taste of Ag,” we considered that the value or per person cost of this event was not under $25 and was therefore not within the range of generally acceptable “food and drink” events. In fact, this particular event appeared to be a relatively “high end” or costly event in terms of the value of food and drink to be served to invited guests.
This event is clearly aimed at winning the hearts and minds of legislators. In addition to the fancy menu (see below) it will feature three keynote speakers representing the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association. As the sponsors clearly know, the best way to win someone’s heart is through the stomach. The keynote speakers are aimed at their minds. After all, this is their business: lobbying legislators (another interpretation of “winning hearts and minds”).
The sponsors certainly have an interest in potential lawmaking. As Les Kondo pointed out in his letter to legislators:
HCIA is a nonprofit trade association representing the agricultural seed industry in Hawaii. Its member companies include Dow AgroScience, Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Syngenta, and BASF. According to an economic analysis commissioned by HFBF, the Hawaii seed industry contributes approximately $144 million of economic activity to the state’s economy, including more than 2,500 jobs. HCIA states that demand by farmers for hybrid corn has made Hawaii expanding seed industry the number one agricultural commodity in the state.
Yes, the Orwellian-named Hawaii Crop Improvement Association is a shill for the GMO seed industry, a segment of Hawaii’s agricultural community with a great interest in winning legislator’s hearts and minds (side comment: I wonder if Chef Hiroshi’s dishes will be labeled as to which contain GMO crops?).
The sponsors are plowing ahead, however, and have left their invitations on the table.
Disappeared News hopes to see which legislators are willing to defy the Ethics Commission warning. Usually it’s necessary to wait for the session to begin before this kind of ethical temptation is placed before them. Speaking of temptation, check out the menu below.
What? Your invitation hasn’t arrived yet? Here’s what you’ll be missing:
Big Island Baby Abalone “Casino”
Marine AgriFuture sea asparagus and Wailea Agricultural Group heart of palm salad, roasted garlic aioli, shiso, tobiko, parmesan cheese, white truffle oil
Red Wine Steamed Hawaiian Red Veal Cheek
Nalo Farms cilantro pesto, yellow mustard aioli, Aloun Farms sweet corn
succotash, Naked Cow Dairy truffle butter jus
Bacon Wrapped Keawa Nui Farms Molokai Shrimp
Green papaya salad, Waianae choi sum, sweet miso glaze, Kats Higa Farm
green onion and ginger ragout
Nalo Farms Micro Green Salad
Ho Farms grape tomatoes, baby Japanese cucumbers, Keawa Nui Farms
baby shrimp, shaved Wailea Agricultural Group heart of palm, Kamiya Gold
papaya, angel hair potato, Hiroshi’s mustard sesame vinaigrette
Crispy Skin Mari’s Garden Tilapia
Shintaku haricot verts salad, Hanalei taro, roasted Hamakua pioppini
mushrooms, saikyo miso-sansho peppercorn sauce, pickled red ginger,
Nalo Farms micro shiso
Long Steamed Shinsato Farms Pork Belly
Torched Brie cheese, Ho Farms grape tomato salad, Big Island young
ginger, adobo sauce
Hawaiian Vanilla Bean & Puu Kane Farms Pineapple Panna Cotta
Kula Country Farms strawberry ice, mango sorbet, Nalo Farms mint
The Lawful Hawaiian Government will also be preparing excellent meals across the street on the grounds of Iolani Palace.
And, it will be an exciting and informative setting.
Pleases stop by. Everyone is welcome. Real Hawaiian and local style entertainment, politics and food.
The Lawful Hawaiian Government will be conducting their Manakau Kanawai (37th Legislative Session) with attendance by legislators from all islands.
This is the real deal, folks. Look forward to seeing you and answering any questions you may have or just talk story.