The Sunshine Blog: Fundraisers Are Back, The State Budget Is Done, And Will History Repeat Itself? - Honolulu Civil Beat

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The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Short takes, outtakes, observations and other stuff you should know about public information, government accountability and ethical leadership in Hawaii.

We’re in the money: The 2023 legislative session is now behind us so politicos are now turning to their favorite source of cash — campaign fundraisers.

Last week marked a noticeable uptick in the number of fundraisers being held or scheduled as the 2024 election season continues. A new-ish state law, passed in 2022, banned fundraising events during the legislative session and it would seem some candidates — incumbents and challengers — could hardly wait for it to be over. More than a dozen lawmakers and the Honolulu mayor got in on the action as soon as they could.

The state Campaign Spending Commission maintains a running list of fundraisers, which candidates are required to notify the state about. (Note to CSC: it’s kind of hard to find the fundraiser notices. They used to be on your homepage, but now it appears there is no mention of them in any of the dropdowns, including under Candidate Committees. Alas, The Sunshine Blog had to use the search to find them.)

Mayor Rick Blangiardi had the biggest-ticket event last week, at $1,000 to $4,000 to rub shoulders with the mayor at the Pacific Club.

But the biggest bash award goes to Kim Coco Iwamoto who appears to be once again taking on House Speaker Scott Saiki for the District 25 seat that covers downtown, Kakaako and Ala Moana. Her Saturday night fundraiser at the Encore Saloon (up to $2,000 to get in) was followed by a Birthday Dance Party on Sunday at Scarlet Honolulu. Only $25 for a ticket that included two drinks, but the party was scheduled to go until 2 a.m.

Help wanted: And speaking of big ticket items, there is no bigger pot of money that needs inquiring minds to dip into than the recently passed fiscal year 2024-25 state budget. We have already seen some serious shenanigans in the nearly $37 billion spending plan (hmm, where did this $50 million for the rejected First Responders Technology Center mysteriously come from?)

It occurred to us that we have some amazingly smart readers in our Civil Beat ohana, including quite a few that appear to have more than passing familiarity with budgets, spreadsheets, legislative sleight-of-hand and other nefarious fiscal tricks.

So if you are not doing anything better this Memorial Day or later this week or really anytime at all, please help us review these state budget worksheets and drop a note to if you see anything that raises your eyebrows or catches your eye.

Here’s a link to the budget worksheets.

And here’s a link to the cheatsheet you’ll need to decipher the codes on the worksheets.

Seriously, they don’t make this stuff easy. But maybe this crowdsourcing exercise will help the public better understand what our lawmakers just did. Many of them are still trying to figure it out.

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Recalling recalls of the past: And speaking of astute readers, many mahalos to the Civil Beat commenter who reminded us that Honolulu City Council members have been recalled in the past. That prompted us to do a little historical research.

It seems that 38 years ago three council members were recalled for … drumroll please … switching political parties.

The City Council became nonpartisan in 1992, but back in 1985 three members caused quite a stir when they announced they were converting from Democrats to Republicans and then voted to oust Democrat Patsy Mink as council chair.

President Reagan speaking at a rally for Senator DurenbergerBy Michael Evans, February 8, 1982Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library, National Archives and Records Administration
Even President Ronald Reagan weighed in on the Honolulu City Council recall election of 1985. (Michael Evans/Ronald Reagan Library)

The three, George Akahane, Toraki Matsumoto and Rudy Pacarro, said they made the change to work better with Mayor Frank Fasi, another Democrat-turned Republican. But Mink claimed the mayor had promised them future jobs in his administration that would be more lucrative than serving on the council.

Back then, council members were paid $17,000 a year, and the chair got $30,000.

Patsy Mink lost her Council chair post when three of her colleagues switched political parties, but she got the last laugh. (SFCA)

Mink, a former member of Congress who once ran for president, launched a recall campaign against the three that garnered national attention. President Ronald Reagan taped radio and television commercials for the three new Republicans, saying, “The right to switch parties for principle is as American as the Stars and Stripes. I have done it myself.”

U.S Sen. Daniel Inouye recorded his own ads in support of the recall, and the campaign was covered in The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Oahu voters ultimately ousted all three of the party-switchers.

The worst kept secret in the state: For gosh sakes, yes, Gov. Josh Green is appointing former Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the University of Hawaii’s board of regents. Not only is he saying things publicly like: “New regent announcement coming up. And his initials are N.A.” He’s telling some people openly it’s Abercombie.

He might as well just get the announcement over with. That way we can watch Sen. Donna Mercado Kim start to squirm sooner rather than later. Another not-so-secret secret is that those two don’t get along. The Sunshine Blog is dying to see what happens when Kim continues poking at UH, its budget and its president with her old adversary in position.

Read this next:

Rep. Jeanne Kapela: State Budget ‘Failed Massively’ By Spending Too Much Here, Too Little There

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About the Author

The Sunshine Editorial Board

The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board focused on ‘Let The Sunshine In’ are Patti Epler, Chad Blair and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

A caution. There is a growing sense that even having a fundraiser is corrupt. Our democracy is inherently a combination of groups and individuals investing in candidates who represent their views. Everyone knows to communicate with voters is essential and this takes more than waving signs or walking door to door. Can it lead to corruption, yes, but it is not in itself a flaw in the moral character of a candidate. It is what we as a society require for electoral success.

JimShon · 4 months ago

And den..... a tiny humble island, with a minority share of the state population and some politicians who somehow seem to profit and persist year after year. Ignoring Federal oversight of funding as though there will never be micro-drilling through the documentation. Big fines and clawbacks will devastate some community projects. Budgets and grants of Federal funding to make sure they are subject to due diligence, and not " waste and fraud."Follow the money and see where everything is exposed.

Manawanui · 4 months ago

I love the integrity of the Civil Beat Editorial Board. Your forthrightness, bravery, and relevancy are so welcomed. I have lived here 50 years and other than Laurie Carlson's, Honolulu Weekly, no other news organization has done the job of exposing corruption and dishonesty as your publication has done!Bravo!Keep up the good work!Aloha,Rex Dubiel Shanahan

RexDubiel · 4 months ago

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