Wednesday, February 25, 2009


A QUICK ONE WHILE HE’S AWAY: One of the hallmarks of a good con game is misdirection. On the street-corner of course there is no pea under any shell because the hand is only quicker then the eye if the eye is distracted at a crucial moment.

And in the legislature while thousands are distracted by the civil unions bill the other measure we mentioned yesterday- the one to open the flood gates to corporate cash for politicians- has received little if any attention..

The Sierra Club finally woke up to this sleight of hand, sending out an appeal to it’s members this morning to contact legislators to try to kill off the outrageous attempt to open the spigot of corporate cash via House Bill HB 539.

Citing a Feb 22 Honolulu Star-Bulletin Editorial they told members that

With all of the recent attention on “clean” elections, ethics, and money in politics, HB 539 is a huge step in the wrong direction.

and asked they write and say to their reps

What does campaign finance reform have to do with Hawaii’s environment? Plenty! When campaign contributions influence how elected leaders vote on environmental policy, the environment usually loses. Many of the largest campaign contributors in Hawai`i have a significant impact on the environment, such as the utilities, oil companies, and developers. That’s why I am opposed to HB 539, which would allow corporations to give an unlimited amount of money to Political Action Committees.

But the biggest bombshell was Dave Shapiro’s column in today’s Honolulu Advertiser where he referred to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jon Riki Karamatu as “Cal Kawamoto Jr.”

For those who don’t remember Kawamoto he was the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee who was charged with all sorts of fundraising and financial mischief and was the reason that “CleanElections” reforms died in the legislature for almost a decade until he was dumped by voters fed up with his self-serving paternalism.

The column contains the best brief description of the specifics of history and dangers of the bill we’ve read yet saying the Bill would:

increase the limit on corporate PAC contributions from $1,000 to $25,000 per election, but ended up approving unlimited corporate donations...

Legislative leaders claim their passage of the $1,000 limit on corporations in 2005 was inadvertent, but reformers like Sen. Les Ihara say that alleged mistake was "the most significant campaign reform legislation in the last two decades."

The bill would also repeal the ban on out-of-state contributions, some say to allow Congressman Neil Abercrombie to fill his war chest for his reported run for governor in 2010.

Shapiro then describes Karamatsu’s rational as “outrageous reasoning”. and describes his “rambling lecture to Barbara Polk of Americans for Democratic Action Hawai`i.”

Shapiro writes

Lawmakers usually defend special-interest campaign donations by piously citing the free-speech rights of the special interests.

But Karamatsu defended legislators' rights to collect more corporate money — and for uses other than campaigning.

Karamatsu said, "The costs (are) rising. I mean all of us here know what it is like ... it costs thousands of dollars to just do mailings. Those costs have gone up extraordinarily."

Nonsense. Campaign spending is already too high. A study of the 2006 election by the Campaign Spending Commission found that winning House candidates spent a hefty average of $40,000 and winning Senate candidates spent $80,000.

The big bucks are easy for incumbents to raise from special interests and a major barrier to challengers — a big part of the reason 40 percent of incumbent legislators ran unopposed in 2008 and most of the rest had only token opposition.

Such lack of accountability at the polls is exactly why legislators feel free to enrich themselves with impunity by taking 36-percent pay raises while the rest of the community sucks it up, and pursuing more corporate cash that will make it even harder for challengers to take them on.

Karamatsu said legislators need more corporate money so they can donate more to their political parties and district charities....

Karamatsu invoked fond memories of discredited former Sen. Cal Kawamoto, who was cited by the Campaign Spending Commission for buying votes with charitable donations, among other violations, and then tried to pass legislation limiting the commission's oversight of legislators.

"You guys put pressures ... on how much we can give to nonprofits. If not, we get busted like Cal Kawamoto," Karamatsu griped. "Every time we're getting sex-abuse fundraising letter and domestic violence fundraising letter ... He helped all these kids, and he got blasted for it. You're tying our hands on what we can do here."

The “outrageous” part of all this is that is it a rationale for the insanely corrupt practice of in Hawai`i where pols are allowed to collect campaign contributions and then turn around and give unlimited amounts to “community groups”- especially those that get out the vote for them.

This Chicago-style, practice of out-and-out vote buying was the reason Kawamoto was dumped and it again raises the question of what the ditzy Karamatsu is doing in the Judiciary Chair, especially in light of some of the bizarre pseudo new-age/Buddhist religious rambling at his blog where he also complained about being strong-armed by Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle earlier in the session before removing the post after it drew a lot of attention in various blogs..

HB 539 Draft 1 was passed out of Karamatsu’s committee and is up for second and third reading after tomorrow’s five day recess and before the Match 12 “crossover” of bills to and from the senate.

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