The Sunshine Blog: Watchdog Groups Want Gov't Reform And They Want It Now - Honolulu Civil Beat

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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, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

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

Capitol improvements, please: A hui of good government groups is urging major reforms at the Hawaii Legislature. In a letter delivered in person to House and Senate leadership this week, they called for three “critical” changes in the upcoming 2024 session:

“In 2023 we watched with dismay as hundreds of budget and bill decisions were made with only hours to spare and $200 million was given to the governor to address the resulting errors and gaps in funding critical areas,” the letter states.

The need to change the way business is done at the State Capitol, the letter continues, is even more urgent because the 2024 session must also respond to the Maui wildfires.

The groups include Common Cause Hawaii, the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s education and labor caucuses, the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, Our Hawaii and Partners in Care.

Note to lawmakers: 2024 is an election year. Just sayin’.

Senators vs senator: More than half of Democrats in the U.S. Senate want New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign following federal charges accusing him of taking cash and gold bars “in exchange for wielding his political influence to secretly advance Egyptian interests and do favors for local businessmen,” as one news outlet reported.

Those senators include Mazie Hirono who said over social media Wednesday, “As Senators, we serve in positions of public trust. While Senator Menendez is innocent until proven guilty, the heart of the allegations erodes public trust. As such, I believe he should step down.”

Sen. Brian Schatz is staying out of the Menendez debate. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

Dick Durbin, the second-highest-ranking Dem, agrees, as does Menendez’s New Jersey colleague Cory Booker. Even Majority Leader Chuck Schumer now says, not long after Menendez told a court he’s not guilty, that he’s disturbed by the charges.

So, where does Brian Schatz come down?

Here’s a very brief statement from his office: “Senator Schatz is a member of the Ethics Committee and therefore cannot comment on matters that may come before the committee.”

House concurrent resolution: It’s not a secret to folks who spend a lot of time at the Big Square Building on Beretania that Reps. Sonny Ganaden and Jeanne Kapela are a couple.

Now, thanks to Rep. Amy Perruso’s recent Instagram post, we see that they are expecting, too — in mid-November, we hear.

The photo was from a baby shower held with the support of colleagues Della Au Belatti, Linda Ichiyama, Darius Kila and others.

Ganaden represents District 30, which includes Kalihi on Oahu, while Kapela represents District 5, which includes Keaau, Mountain View and Hawaiian Ocean View on the Big Island.

It’s a short-distance relationship, one might say. They’re probably racking up some mileage.

Have gift, will travel: There are fresh and semi-fresh gift and travel disclosure filings from Hawaii officials, all posted on the website of the Hawaii State Ethics Commission.

Don’t confuse these disclosures with legislative allowances, which is our money paying for trips and other things. This money comes from other sources but still amounts to freebies for our officials.

Here’s a few items that caught Your Sunshine Bloggers eye(s):

Rep. Kirstin Kahaloa took $500 from the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies to travel to speak at the APAICS Legislative Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., in May.

Sen. Glenn Wakai accepted $1,000 from the National Conference of State Legislatures for travel in June to Providence, Rhode Island, to attend an NCSL Military Task Force meeting.

Holly Shikada reported $36,857 from donors for air travel, hotels, meals, baggage and ground transportation when she was Hawaii attorney general in 2022. The trips were to South Korea, London, South Africa, Milwaukee, Sun Valley and Des Moines.

  • A Special Commentary Project

Shikada’s donors were the National Association of Attorneys General, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, and the Attorneys General Association. The disclosure from Shikada, Gov. David Ige’s last AG, was filed July 2 of this year.

And Rep. Kanani Souza reported gifts of banana bread ($5) from Art and Peggy Hannemann, a small box of cookies ($10) from Riyozo Ariyoshi, and a coffee assortment ($10) from Patty Kahanamoku Teruya.

Read this next:

Ben Lowenthal: Our Legal Clinic At A Hub For Maui Fire Victims

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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, John Hill and Richard Wiens.

Latest Comments (0)

Good government groups included Our Hawaii which Civil Beat exposed for abusive fundraising off of the Lahaina fire? Perhaps advocacy groups would be more accurate. It would be useful to readers to attach the letter?

JimWright · 2 months ago

Unfortunately Hawaii voters are to trusting of those they elect to office, and believe their civic duty is over after election day. But it's more nefarious that some of those elected officials know this and take advantage of it, because they know the average voter is to busy trying to survive under our crushing cost of living.

BrettK · 2 months ago

Follow the campaign donations, especially those made by some often and to many legislators. Pay-to-play can sometimes be subjective and subtle, but it's clearly happening, or we wouldn't be seeing jail time for numerous legislators and others in State and City agencies and departments. Our State Attorney General and the DOJ (State Attorney) need to act more, and not let the FBI do all the work. The evidence is often right in front of everyone to see.

Greg · 2 months ago

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