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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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Three public agencies among leaders in lobbyist spending

February 6th, 2010 · 8 Comments

Public agencies were three of the five biggest spenders when it came to lobbying state lawmakers during the eight-month period ending December 31, 2009, according to spending reports filed with the State Ethics Commission.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply ranked #2 and #3, just behind the top spender, Altria, parent of tobacco giant Philip Morris. Wellcare Health Insurance was #4, followed by Hawaii County at #5.

The three public agencies spent a total of $196,666 during the period when the legislature was not in session, the records show.

Altria, which topped the list with $86,519.62 in lobbying expenses, was represented by well-known lobbyist “Red” Morris.

Veteran lobbyist Jon T. Okudara (Okudara & Associates) represented both HTA ($80,000 in fees) and Hawaii County ($50,000 fee). The Board of Water Supply hired SPJ Consulting LLC (Patrick K.I. Lee, James Pacopac, and Scott Matsuura).

Wellcare had several registered lobbyists, led by attorney-lobbyist Rick Tsujimura.

Hawaii Public Policy Advocates (Melissa Pavlicek and Stephen Teves) represented both Kamehameha Schools (#6 with total lobbying expenditures of 46,150) and the Western States Petroleum Association (#7 with $46,133 in lobbying costs).

The following list shows the top 20 lobbying organizations ranked by the total amount spent during the May-December 2009 period.

At the other end of the scale, organizations that reported that they spent nothing on lobbying, including staff time, include the Hawaii State Teachers Association, ILWU, Kuilima Resort Company, and the James Campbell Co.

Reports had to be postmarked by Monday, February 1. Reports received late may not be included in this list.

Additional information on registered lobbyists and expenditures can be found on the State Ethics Commission web site.

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Tags: Ethics · Politics

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 maunawilimac // Feb 6, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Why is it legal for a government agency to use public funds to “lobby” another branch of government? Sounds like an incestuous use of taxpayer dollars to me.

  • 2 hipoli // Feb 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Going a little further with Mauna’s question.

    What statute allows HTA and BWS to, in fact, lobby? HHSC also has historically hired an independent lobbyist too (interestingly, it was Jon Okudara), but I dont remember HHSC actually ever posting for the lobbying expenditure report? Or did they too? Are the expenditures reported just for the hiring of lobbyists? Or actual donations/courting? Both?

    If these State agencies can engage direct lobbying, why cant DBEDT, DOE, or DHS?Where and How are those lines drawn? Are some state agencies allowed to contract for lobbyists and their services (and how are those ‘services’ then funded? Tax dollars? Reported?), while other agencies arent?

    Apologies if I sound terribly ignorant, but could someone please educate me on this.

  • 3 Kaimana Pine // Feb 8, 2010 at 12:56 am

    I had no idea agencies such as BWS had to lobby, very insightful, Ian. Mahalo!

  • 4 Lopaka43 // Feb 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Every year there are hundreds of bills introduced at the State Legislature, and many of those bills contain provisions which could affect the mission and/or operations of public agencies.

    The leaders of those public agencies have to track those bills, determine whether they support, oppose or are neutral on the bills as written, and if they are in support or opposition, provide testimony and contact legislators to inform them regarding their position on the bills.

    Many agencies use regular staff to perform this legislative monitoring and testifying function. However, because the legislature is not a year round operation, it is not surprising that some agencies simply out source the function to a lobbyist who tracks bills that the agency has an interest in, alerts the agency when hearings are scheduled or amendments are proposed, and helps the agency prepare testimony and make legislators aware of its concerns.

    For example, if the Legislature is contemplating legislation regarding water systems, the Board of Water Supply (and the City and County of Honolulu) has a legitimate policy interest in what is being proposed, whether it is consistent with the City adopted plans and policies, and whether it is workable. It is quite appropriate for BWS and other agencies to provide testimony on bills that would affect their mission and/or operations.

  • 5 hipoli // Feb 8, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Lopaka, I might buy into your explanation, except for one small problem. If its a matter of saving money, then why pay one individual for five months of work at a substantially higher rate than if that person was on a full-year payroll. $80,000? For just one contract? Thats no average civil servant salary there, Lopaka. Heck, thats comparable to deputy director salaries. For 5 months of work?? Talk about a sweet-heart deal. Sign me up! Jon, take me to your leader, please.

    So, Sorry Charlie (Toguchi, that is). These departments and agencies that are using contract hires should be required to hire these people on staff and put ‘um to work year -round.

    Also, no where do you tell me where those contracted lobbyists get their money to then lobby. Youre telling me Jon is just going around asking ‘please pass my bill’? Come on, give us all a break. So, where does he get his money to make his contributions on behalf of the HTA and BWS? His own pocket? Half that fat-salary going somewhere? Where and how is this being reported?

    Thats all not in Iharas bills, but I suspect thats what hes intending. No contract hires. No using tax dollars to lobby politicians. If anyone knows me, they know me agreeing with Ihara actually pains me, but on this, he’s right.

  • 6 hehe // Feb 9, 2010 at 6:46 am

    If you only knew how it really works, you would be sick (sicker?)

  • 7 hipoli // Feb 9, 2010 at 8:09 am

    So, hehe, educate us.

  • 8 hehe // Feb 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Think after-hours entertaining….somebody’s gotta do it, and it’s better if it ain’t paid staff.

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