The Sunshine Blog: Ethical Considerations - Honolulu Civil Beat

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.

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

Gift-giving: The Hawaii State Ethics Commission archives financial and travel disclosures on its website. Your Sunshine Bloggers scoured recent filings so that you don’t have to. Here is some of what we found:

The Fraser Institute paid $1,229 for Office of Hawaii Affairs Trustee Kelii Akina to go to an Economic Freedom of North America forum last fall as part of his work as Grassroot Institute of Hawaii president and CEO. The Fraser institute is described by Wikipedia as “a libertarian-conservative Canadian public policy think tank.”

Akina also received $2,320 from the Cato Institute to attend a National Summit on Healthcare in January. The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C., whose founders include Charles Koch of Koch Industries.

And fellow OHA Trustee Brickwood Galuteria gave Akina a Bible. Valued at $50.

The Aspen Institute spent $4,777 for Danielle Bass, the state sustainability coordinator with the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development, to attend its Climate 2023 Conference “to meet federal officials to discuss federal IRA & IIJA climate funding, listen to Vice President Harris and others on climate policy development.” The Aspen Institute, whose supporters include Bill Gates, is an international nonprofit research institute and think tank.

State Sen. Lynn DeCoite accepted $2,654 for airfare from a group called State Agriculture and Rural Leaders in January to participate in planning the conference and serving on a gun-rights panel in South Carolina. The same group kicked in $642 for four nights in a hotel.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz was at the same conference, thanks to $2,300 from the same group. In May, he also accepted $2,500 from the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California to be a speaker and present an award to Meli James and Mana Up “for their support and actions in promoting Hawaii’s culture, businesses and communities and providing college scholarships.”

Mary Alice Evans, a member of the state Board of Agriculture, received a book, “Reflections in Stone and Bronze,” from the author, Cheryl Soon. Evans donated the book (value: $21.95) to the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development’s collection of planning materials. Evans is currently the acting director of the agency.

The American Council of Young Political Leaders paid $3,718 for airfare and lodging for Dane Wicker, the deputy director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, for a trip to the Philippines. It was for a YSEALI Academic Fellows Program, part of the U.S. Mission to ASEAN — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

When it comes to seemingly reporting every little thing, state Rep. Lauren Matsumoto might be the winner. She submitted paperwork showing Honolulu City Council member Matt Weyer gave her $8 worth of brownies. Rep. Nadine Nakamura gave her $1 worth of Anahola Granola. Lailan Bento of the Hawaii Development Group gave Matsumoto Big Island Candies valued at $45 while the Lanakila Multi-Purpose supplied her with $2 worth of chocolate.

The Blog plans to keep an eye on gift reports, legislative expenses and other reports elected officials and government executives are required to file and report back here. It’s tough work but someone’s got to do it.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Ethical choice: Speaking of the State Ethics Commission, The Blog was delighted to see that former state Rep. Cynthia Thielen is the newest member of the oversight board.

Gov. Josh Green on Friday announced his choice of the spunky Republican to a four-year term on the commission to fill the seat being vacated by Reynard Graulty. The appointment was effective Friday so she’s already being referred to as “Commissioner Thielen.”

A lawyer by profession, Thielen, who will turn 90 in September, served in the Legislature for 30 years, representing House District 50 in Kailua, before retiring in 2020.

She has long been one of our legislative heroes and showed us that in Hawaii it is Republicans who often take strong stands on environmental protection and government accountability. She’s been a consistent supporter of a statewide citizen’s initiative process, holding a constitutional convention, more frequent campaign finance reporting and stronger public records laws.

2020 Legislature Rep Cynthia Thielen rises with a thumbs up during opening session.
2020 Legislature Rep Then-Rep. Cynthia Thielen on the House floor in 2020. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020)

Here’s a clue as to what kind of ethics commissioner Thielen will be. When asked by Civil Beat how to make the Legislature more transparent and accountable, Thielen wrote this in her 2018 Candidate Q&A, the last year she ran for office:

“Definitely the Legislature should be more transparent and accountable, as presently decisions are made in Majority room Caucuses behind closed doors. As an outspoken member of the minority, I publicly challenge decisions when I see they are wrong and strongly speak out against bad policy in public and in committee hearings. I have been pushing leadership to draft meaningful sexual harassment policies for the House to enable victims to have a safe, secure and responsive method to report such behavior.

“When I observed offensive behavior and reported it, I saw the system was lacking sensitivity, responsiveness and timeliness. I co-sponsor bills to ban fundraising during session, and am championing televised hearings and connections to neighbor islands to enable live testimony. With increasing impact of lobbyists, there needs to be broader disclosure of their presence and activities.”

Who’s in charge: Gov. Josh Green will be traveling out of state beginning Sunday, returning Aug. 15 and back in the office Aug. 16.

Green’s staff declined to say where the boss is traveling, only explaining that it is “personal travel.”

Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke will be acting governor for the first 10 days of Green’s travel, but then she travels out of state herself Aug. 8-12. What follows next is a rotating cast of acting govs:

  • Aug. 8-9: Budget and Finance Director Luis Salaveria
  • Aug. 9-12: Attorney General Anne E. Lopez
  • Aug. 12-14: Luke
  • Aug. 14-15: Lopez

“There are overlaps on certain days due to travel schedules,” a press release Friday from the administration explained.

Luke’s office said the LG’s travel is to the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows Program in San Diego, the National Conference of State Legislatures in Indianapolis and the National Lieutenant Governors Association in Des Moines, Iowa.

Read this next:

Setting The Record Straight On UH Budget Priorities

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


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)

Just shows how little there is to do and just how unimportant the work is.

988zadie · 2 months ago

It always baffles me when they can’t coordinate travel plans so that the #4 person doesn’t have to be in charge.

Keala_Kaanui · 2 months ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.