Corruption By Any Other Name Is Still Corruption - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010).

Opinion article badgeIt’s sad and it’s ugly, and it’s time for leadership in the House and Senate to lead.

If our leaders are not going to lead, they’re not deserving of the position or the title — and others need to step forward.

Taking a wait-and-see position, or forming a task force or commission to study and make recommendations will only reaffirm the public’s disdain for all of us — past, present and future political leaders.

We desperately need those of you in positions of leadership in the House and Senate to step forward today and lead.

You have the power — and you don’t require a bill or a law or a task force – to immediately:

  1. Ban the practice of political fundraising during the legislative session.
  2. End the unilateral power of a committee chair.
  3. Require public votes to defer bills indefinitely, or to otherwise kill a bill.
  4. Open the Capitol to the public – NOW.

The current practice of allowing committee chairs to solicit and accept $2,000 to $4,000 in campaign contributions (and more when bundled) at the very moment they are voting to pass or kill legislation that impacts those same donors – is legal corruption.

House floor session on the opening day of the 2022 Legislature.
It’s common knowledge that some committee chairs will kill bills for personal and political reasons unrelated to the substance of the measure or the public impacts. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Allowing committee chairs the sole power to decide whether to hear a bill, to pass a bill or to kill a bill invites corruption – both illegal and legal. It’s common knowledge that some committee chairs will kill bills for personal and political reasons totally unrelated to the substance of the measure or the public impacts.

Some will kill a bill simply because a friend, colleague, or member of leadership asked them to do so. Now we know that some do it for cash stuffed into envelopes, trips to casinos and fancy dinners.

Yes, a majority of the members who sit on a committee can request and require a vote or a hearing. However, because this option is not mandatory or automatic, the member making such a request risks retaliation from the chairperson.

Contact Key Lawmakers

Requiring a documented committee vote as to whether to hear, pass or kill a bill removes that dynamic. The committee members themselves could caucus on and select which bills are to be heard, with their votes tallied for public review.

If the legislative calendar needs to be longer to accomplish transparency and accountability then add the days needed. Transparency and accountability should be our top priority, not simply expediency.

The public is welcome at bars and restaurants and at Costco and Walmart – the public should also be welcome at the State Capitol – NOW.

These are four critically important actions that leadership in the House and Senate, with support from the majority, could take today via their own internal rule-making. They don’t need a hearing or a bill; they only need strength of character and political will.

Next, all legislators must then roll up their sleeves and huddle with the campaign spending commission, the ethics commission, the office of elections, Common Cause and others to hammer out meaningful systemic reform.

Lower political campaign donation caps to $100. Cap the overall amount that can be raised and spent on campaigns. Prohibit paid lobbyists from sitting on boards and commissions. There are a dozen short-form bills with good titles available and waiting.

The list is long. The need is great.

Now is the time to act. Please take a moment to share your thoughts, hopes and demands with your legislators.

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About the Author

Gary Hooser

Gary Hooser is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative, a former Hawaii state senator (2002-2010) and Senate majority leader (2006-2010).

Latest Comments (0)

Amen! Voters - it’s up to you to vote smarter. Our reps have become henchmen of the money stream to the detriment of the community" s health and welfare

kateinhi · 5 months ago

This isn’t enough. We also need a non-partisan legislature. There is no excuse for making laws from the inside of a private caucus room and excluding members not in your private club. This is even more important in times where national media organizations promote and hate and shame for those with different political beliefs. Everyone is free to participate in political parties. But it is absurd that a political party can control workplaces (they don’t), a courtroom (they don’t) or a public law-making body (they do). Just because this is the way it has been done doesn’t make it right. I will follow your laws. But I have hard time respecting them when they are created with your corrupt process.

FadedShamrock · 5 months ago

The legislature should also be subject to the Sunshine Law.

Natalie_Iwasa · 5 months ago

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