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HOOSER: It’s shameful — politics at its worst

There was no shortage of new bombshells falling on the Hawai‘i public policy battlefield this past week. The New York Times reported for the whole world to see what many of us already know, “Pay-to-play is woven into the DNA of the statehood of Hawai‘i,” said Camron Hurt, director of Common Cause Hawai‘i.

The front page article reported on “late night parties” occurring just a short distance from the Hawai‘i Capitol bringing in “thousands of dollars in donations, giving some elected officials almost half their annual campaign haul.”

The donors it seems consisted primarily of government contractors whose livelihood depends on government funding and legislation passed by those legislators benefiting from the money given on these nights.

And yes, once again Speaker of the House Scott Saiki, along with House Judiciary Chair David Tarnas, killed the “Clean Elections” bill that would have removed the need for new candidates to raise money from these same private interests. An additional but different proposal, which would have severely limited campaign contributions from donors connected to government contracts, did not even receive a hearing.

But yes, they killed Clean Elections. There was plenty of time and interest of course to schedule bills to cut estate taxes for the very wealthiest, and at press time, HB2653 was still alive. We have folks sleeping under bridges and in the bushes, because affordable housing is nonexistent and our legislative leaders actually propose and support bills cutting taxes for the rich.

Shame on them, and on the Majority in both the House and Senate that put up with this nonsense. Fool me once … well you know the saying … shame on us for voting them in year after year. Shame on us for not finding other good candidates and offering them our strong support.

Thank goodness this is an election year and there’s still time to go out and find good people to run.

There’s not a lot of time, but for that handful of individuals with deep roots, deep connections, and a proven track record of community work — there’s still a tiny window of opportunity — especially for a House seat where the votes needed to win can range from only 2,000 to 8,000.

As the legislative session heads toward its scheduled close on Friday, May 3, it’s time to pivot toward the primary election of Aug. 10.

Ballots will begin arriving in mailboxes on or about July 15, just 80-something days from now.

Not a lot of time for new candidates, but enough for those who are organized, have some basic level of name recognition, and are willing to do the heavy lifting of running a real campaign.

For the rest of us, we gotta help. We must dig deep and support financially those candidates who will stand up and say enough is enough.

We have to donate our $20 or $200, and our time and energy to help those we believe have the strength of character to put people and the planet first — ahead of the big money fundraising and insider schmoozing described in the New York Times article.

It’s disgusting really. We can do so much better, and we must.


Gary Hooser served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council. He presently writes on Hawai‘i Policy and Politics at
Source: The Garden Island

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