Two recent broadcast ads calling on Governor Lingle to end school furloughs illustrate the failure of Hawaii’s lobbyist law to cover executive branch lobbying.
The ads are referenced in a Star-Bulletin story that shows up in an information item on the agenda for today’s meeting of the State Ethics Commission. The February 6, 2010 “Kokua Line” column responds to a question about disclosure of the sponsors of the ads.
The ads can be viewed at the Save Our Schools Hawaii web site.
Campaign Spending laws, which require disclosure on election-related ads, don’t apply in this case, according to Kokua Line.
Because the ads did not involve someone running for office (Lingle is not running for re-election or for another office this year), the state’s campaign disclosure laws do not apply, said Barbara Wong, executive director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
If a candidate were involved, the ad would have to disclose the name and address of the person or group that paid for it, as well as say whether it was running with or without authority of the candidate, Wong said.
In some cases, the state’s lobbyist law could require disclosure, according to Susan Yoza, the Ethics Commission’s deputy director.
“We define lobbying to mean communicating either directly or soliciting others to communicate with someone in the legislative or executive branch on a legislative or administrative action,” she said.
But don’t get too excited about the possibilities.
The lobbyist law further defines “administrative action”.
“Administrative action” means the proposal, drafting, consideration, amendment, enactment, or defeat by any administrative agency of any rule, regulation, or other action
governed by section 91-3.
In other words, unless the particular executive branch action involves an existing or proposed rule subject to Section 91-3 of Hawaii’s administrative procedures act, lobbying of executive branch officials is unregulated.
And these ads, because they target the governor and not members of the legislature, would not be considered lobbying under current state law. It’s a huge loophole in both regulation and public disclosure.
House and Senate bills to close this loophole were introduced during the 2009 session. HB 1007 and SB 1649 would have extended the definition of lobbying to include attempts to influence “executive, legislative, or administrative action”. Both bills include the same definition.
“Executive action” means the proposal, consideration, or defeat of any act, bill, resolution, amendment, nomination, appointment, or any other matter pending or proposed before the governor or lieutenant governor, or other state official.
Both bills died without even getting a public hearing.