Wednesday, September 14, 2011


BUT WHAT'LL WE DO FOR EGGS?: There's jokes and then there's jokes. Our sometimes feeble, often offensive, attempts at humor are at least fairly innocuous in the grand scheme of things.

But, as happens all too often in Hawai`i, when those who police the ethics of politicians become the foxes guarding the hen house, the political joke is on us.

Recently though, a whirling dervish of accountability has taken up residence as the Executive Director (ED) of the State Ethics Commission (EC), and those who thought state ethics laws had been suspended under former director Dan Mollway are having conniption fits.

Some of our readers may remember Les Kondo as the head of the Office of Information Practices (OIP) who fought the good fight to bad results in the infamous ES-177 case that eventually surgically removed the incisors that the legislature had apparently given the OIP.

And now, as the new ED of the EC, Kondo has upset the cushy apple cart of one of the most repulsive of unethical practices- one that calls lobbyists "stakeholders" and appoints them to these "task forces" to essentially write legislation regarding the same subject upon which they lobby.

We've written extensively about our Kaua`i County Charter provision 20.02(D) which prevents anyone from "(a)ppear(ing) in behalf of private interests before any county board, commission or agency" if they sit on a board or commission- or presumably a "task force"- regardless of the subject matter.

The state law does the same if there is a nexus between the job of the lobbyist and the board or commission's kuleana.

But although the law is supposed to cover all bodies appointed by the governor or legislature, whereas Mollway looked the other way, Kondo has now included these "task forces" in the same category as any state appointed body- which of course they are.

And guess what? Shockingly, politicians don't like it.

According to Derrick Depledge's Political Radar blog

State Senate President Shan Tsutsui and House Speaker Calvin Say have asked state Attorney General David Louie whether the state Ethics Commission is correct in defining members of task forces as state employees subject to the ethics code.

In their letter the two wrote:

If individuals from the private sector who participate in these panels are now to be considered “employees” of the State for the purposes of the Ethics Code, we are concerned with the chilling effect on both the Legislature’s ability to gather information and on the constitutional right of these individuals (and their actual employers) to petition government.

This stupid argument has been going on for a week or so in the press and the blogs but no one can come up with the obvious and simple solution to the quandary.

On Kaua`i we had some board and commission members- as a matter of fact some members of the ethics board itself- lobbying the county council for money for their non profits while others were representing developers seeking zoning and zoning permits before the council and planning commission respectively.

And then they'd turn around and rule on the ethics of activities of those granting them their requests.

And just like with the state, they argued that their "rights" to petition the government were being violated. But that ignores the elephant in the room- that sitting on a board commission or task force is not a "right" but a privilege and you can simply step down from your position and let someone who does not lobby other government bodies take your place.

But nooooo. For some reason these pustules on the butt of democracy have been permitted to shed their crocodile tears without anyone telling them to get their asses out of government if they are coming to the government, hat in hand... especially if the subject matter of their appointment is the same as their lobbying, as is true in the case of the state ethics law.

Do we really need to give the guy who is being paid to lobby an extra boost in his efforts by allowing him to skew the actual report upon which the legislature will depend to write legislation?

What- massive campaign contributions aren't enough? Is your bundling finger broken? Did the manapua store close and now legislative staffers are stuck with crummy donuts?

It's simply amazing in this state how politicians, who've been getting away with murder for years, react when a new sheriff that is apparently not on the take actually tries to enforce the law. Why you should have seen them (if you missed it) when Kondo told them they couldn't keep accepting expensive tickets to events if the event didn't have a nexus to their legislative jobs. You'd have thought he was ripping the lollypops out of their lyin' pie holes.

It's bad enough when, as is the case, corporate America has placed its greedy boot heel on the throat of the democratic process. We don't have to have to actually open wide- or bend over- and allow them to place the whole boot where they can do their damage from the inside out.

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