John Oliver, the host of HBO’s new comedy news show Last Week Tonight, slammed Hawaii lawmakers in Sunday’s episode highlighting the ethically-challenged-yet-dangerously-powerful nature of state legislatures across the country.
Showing a video clip from a House hearing in 2011 about a bill requiring businesses to charge customers a 10-cent fee for plastic checkout bags, Joe Souki, speaker emeritus at the time, is seen asking then-Rep. Joey Manahan to decide if there is a conflict because Souki is a paid consultant for the American Chemistry Council, which produces plastics.
Manahan, in typical Hawaii Legislature fashion, just thanks Souki for the disclosure and informs him, “There is no conflict.”
This screen shot from Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight shows host John Oliver reacting after the Hawaii Legislature decided then-Speaker emeritus Joe Souki had no conflict of interest with a plastic bag bill despite being a consultant for a plastic-producing company.
Oliver pauses the clip at that point, exclaiming: “What do you mean there’s no conflict? He’s being paid by the plastics industry.
“Unless in Hawaii, conflict of interest means both conflict of interest and not a conflict of interest — you know, like how aloha means both hello and goodbye — that’s the only fucking acceptable explanation,” Oliver says.
Civil Beat has written extensively about the Hawaii Legislature’s pattern of declaring “no conflict” even when conflicts could not be more apparent, including the Souki example that Oliver used as part of a brilliant segment that underscored how important legislatures are in this country even though few people pay them much attention.
The show also pointed out how many of the worst people in state office are running unopposed in Tuesday’s general election. Oliver noted Florida state Rep. Ritch Workman’s effort to repeal a law banning dwarf tossing.
It’s similarly true in Hawaii where people in office do some really questionable things but face no repercussions from their bosses — the voters — in the next election.
Take Rep. Romy Cachola for example. He ran unopposed in the primary and is uncontested in the general election too.
Lest we forget, Cachola was fined $2,500 in July for state campaign spending violations and had to reimburse his campaign $32,000 for using campaign money to buy a new truck and allegedly use it for personal reasons. He admits no wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement agreement.
Honolulu’s Ethics Commission fined Cachola a record $50,000 in September for allegedly accepting unlawful gifts and using his city vehicle fund to cover thousands of dollars in expenses on his 2008 Nissan Pathfinder even though his political campaign fund had already paid for the same expenses. Again, he admits no wrongdoing.