Thursday, July 26, 2012
Ethics Commission awakens, slaps wrists firmly
by Larry Geller
Is the giant awake? A state ethics commission is designed to ride herd over the antics of negligent or sometimes malicious lawmakers and state employees who may think that laws apply to everyone but themselves. It’s an essential function to protect the integrity of government.
On July 24, the Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued a press release listing up both Senate and House candidates who failed to file financial disclosures as required by law, and indicated that they would be fined all of $25 each. Ouch! That must smart. But it’s all they can do.
The amount is set by statute—that is, the legislators themselves determined that they will subject themselves to only a slap on the wrist if they fail to file. The fine amount is less than the cost of a decent dinner for one in Honolulu.
The statute also requires that the Ethics Commission release the list of names, which they have done. Perhaps the list of names will have more of a deterrent effect than the tiny fine.
It’s not exactly “disappeared news” since KITV and a Civil Beat blog carried the list. But the Star-Advertiser seems to have skipped the story. They did post a short breaking news article on-line only, as far as I can detect with a search of my daily paper. Ethics Commission fining 22 legislative candidates for not filing financial disclosures was posted on the evening of July 24 and is credited to the AP. There is no list of names. The AP story was given little editorial scrutiny, it seems. For example, it stated that “more than 160 candidates filed their statements by the Monday deadline” whereas the Ethics Commission release gave the precise number as 163. Why fudge the data when you have the exact number staring out of the page?
For the record, here is the list, snipped from the Ethics Commission release.
CANDIDATES FOR SENATE:
Michelle Kidani (Financial disclosure statement was received after statutory deadline)
CANDIDATES FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
Colin Hanlon (Financial disclosure statement was received after statutory deadline)