Critics say Hawaii political money hard to trace
HONOLULU (AP) — It’s been months since same-sex marriage became legal in Hawaii, but taxpayers still don’t know how much money supporters or opponents spent to influence the decision.
Lobbyists are supposed to disclose how much money they’re spending to influence lawmakers, but critics said the state disclosure system is among the weakest in the nation and prevents a timely and complete tally.
It could be nothing improper took place, but “if you don’t have the information then how do you even know to have a concern?” asked Democratic state Sen. Les Ihara, who introduced legislation he hopes will strengthen the system.
Ihara’s measures aim to close gaps that allowed more than 90 percent of nearly 200 registered individual lobbyists to report zero expenses during three reporting periods last year, according to reviews by the Associated Press.
According to the current law, lobbyists are required to list expenditures worth more than $25 toward one person in one day or $150 to one person during a reporting period, which is similar to disclosure rules that apply at the federal level.
But Ihara, the majority policy leader, said lobbyists in Hawaii operate under a longtime interpretation of the law by the state ethics commission that if the money they spend comes from an organization such as a business or advocacy group, they don’t have to report it in the disclosure system. The ethics panel’s position, Ihara said, remains that requiring that level of reporting would be duplicative. But “the ethics commission has misinterpreted the law,” he said.
Les Kondo, the commission’s executive director, declined to comment on the practice.
Lobbyist Scott Matsuura, a lobbyist who reported zero expenditures, said he and his colleagues have abided by the rules the state outlined.
“For most of us, we’re following what we’ve been told to do,” he said.
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, gave Hawaii a D-minus for its lobbying disclosure practices on a 2012 report. The state’s system has not changed since that review.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.