Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Another powerful senator whose fundraiser was run by a GMO lobbyist

by Larry Geller

If you’ve viewed the video of the Senate Ag committee hearing of SB110 (Video of SB110 GMO zombie bill fail, 2/5/2014), you’ll note that Senator Nishihara took some time to discuss his views on the issue. He sounded quite sincere to me, but he did not go near the problem of pesticide spraying near homes or schools, for example.

It’s really not just a simple matter of whether anyone is going to become ill from eating GMO products. The senator could not have not known the emphasis that the Kauai County legislation put on controlling restricted pesticide use.

But we’ve pointed out that the senator seemed to have a rather close relationship with a key pro-GMO lobbyist: in fact, she ran a fundraiser for him. Now, that’s Access with a capital A.

I cannot find a senate rule against it. For sure, a lawmaker at any level of government, has a right to have anyone run a campaign or a fundraiser. But then, if a situation like this arises, it would be good for the lawmaker to recuse him/herself from anything to do with it, having thrown his/her lot in with one side.

I don’t feel like pushing on a single senator much more, particularly Senator Nishihara, whom I greatly respect. The problem is rampant in our State Legislature.

The records on the Campaign Spending Commission website don’t go back beyond the 2014 election year, so it is hard to do quick research without going over there, but I quite easily turned up another example.

Sen. BakerBelow is a notice filed by Senator Rosalyn Baker for the 2014 election cycle. Note who is listed as the Person in Charge of Fundraiser—again, it’s Alicia Maluafiti, the GMO-industry lobbyist. Our GMO lobbyist seems to have been a very busy person last year.

Now, should a GMO labeling or other bill come before Senator Baker’s Commerce and Corporate Consumer Protection Committee, would we be in a similar situation? Would she even hear a pro-labeling bill? In our feudal-democratic state government, a committee chair has the power to kill a bill by refusing to hear it. Of course, should that happen, it would no doubt please a certain group of lobbyists.

It would be far better if legislators would simply not involve lobbyists in running their campaigns or fundraisers. But if they do, at least we ought to take note and press for ethical (in the common usage of the word) behavior.

Again, there is no legal reason why a legislator should not let anyone on the planet run their fundraisers. It’s cool. Really. But then they are obligated, in my humble opinion, to be careful not to act in any way that could be interpreted by the public to indicate that they have been “bought.” I don’t know any other way to say it.

Download FundraiserBaker120913-1


I think Sen. Nishihara was stalling, hoping Sen. Watai would show up to vote yes.
Add Sen. Kidani to this list, above.

Quite likely. Of course he could have called a recess and sent vassals out to locate Sen. Wakai.

That would have been too obvious. Watai must not have been answering his phone.

Actually, during the hearing for the county preemption zombie bill SB110, Nishihara did call a recess. It wasn't until all other business was concluded that Nishihara was forced to proceed. Senator Dela Cruz had to tap Nishihara on the shoulder to tell tell him there was nothing else that could be done to stall.

Given how much effort Senator Nishihara, and his "handler," GMO lobbyist Alicia Maluafiti, have put into this, I cannot believe Nishihara had the votes and "would have won if Wakai was there." He, of Alicia, would have recessed the hearing and gotten Wakai there, by hook or by crook. Instead, Clarence just sighed and took the vote, defeated.

Legislators often make themselves unavailable when they do not want to vote in a way which others feel strongly about. It may not have been worth it to Wakai to vote either yes or no.

If, on the other hand, we have learned Wakai was truly unable to be there, I hope someone will share that story.

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