Category Archives: Politics

269 candidates vying for public office

Here are some interesting election factoids from the Campaign Spending Commission‘s recent newsletter.

In 2016, there are 269 candidates running for 104 seats up for election out of 128 elective seats in the state of Hawaii and its four counties.

The 104 seats up for election this year are: Senate (14), House (51), Honolulu Mayor (1), Hawaii Mayor (1), Honolulu Prosecutor (1), Hawaii Prosecutor (1), Kauai Prosecutor (1), Honolulu City Council (5), Hawaii County Council (9), Maui County Council (9), Kauai County Council (7), and Office of Hawaiian Affairs (4).

View the list of candidates running in 2016 and their organizational reports which includes their committee officers such as their appointed chairperson and treasurer.

Nineteen (19) candidates are unopposed this year and ten (10) incumbent candidates have decided not to run for their seat. 145 or 54% of the 269 candidates running this year have filed the

Affidavit

to voluntarily agree with the expenditure limit set for their office and 39 or 14% of the 269 candidates running this year have filed the Statement to notify the Commission of their intent to seek partial public funding. View the list of Affidavit filers and the list of Statement filers.

So far this year, five (5) candidates have received a total of $17,685 in partial public funding. Future updates can be viewed on the “Public Funds Disbursed” page.

Also, 181 fundraisers have been held in 2016 with 63 of those fundraisers being held during the legislative session by legislators. View a list of fundraisers held in 2016 and an interactive chart of the same information. Good luck to all candidates this year!

OCCC tells reporters to “get off the property”

Speaking of public relations, did you catch the news yesterday about the power outage at the Oahu Community Correctional Center? Now power means no security systems working except via generators, and no air conditioning in buildings not designed to let in any outside air.

Here’s one of those things that drive me crazy, from a KHON news report last night:

We went to OCCC to see for ourselves, but were told to get off the property. We could only shoot from across the street.

We went to the union that represents corrections officers, United Public Workers, but no one was available to talk. We also went to the Department of Public Safety to get more specifics on the security measures that are in place. A spokeswoman said no one was available to go on camera. The only thing she could do was provide updates on the power outage.

There are several things in those two short paragraphs that make my head spin.

First of all, why should the Department of Public Safety be concerned about news crews on site to report on the power outage? Why not assist them in getting a couple of good camera angles and, in the process, assisting the public in understanding what’s going on? Okay, perhaps that’s just a rhetorical question, but the point is that this was wholly unnecessary, and would be counterproductive for any state department or agency.

Second, there’s a public sidewalk along the Gillingham side of OCCC. So why was KHON told they had to shoot from “across the street”?

And then there was this: “A spokeswoman said no one was available to go on camera.”

So who was the spokeswoman and why was she unable to go on camera?

According to Civil Beat’s database of public employees, the Department of Public Safety has a communications specialist earning $70,188 per year.

In my book, that’s someone who should be available to go on camera or before reporters to answer questions at just about any time.

Unavailable?

No. Unacceptable.

Tough talk from a PR pro

Longtime public relations pro Kitty Lagareta posted some cogent thoughts about the PR industry and Honolulu’s current rail crisis.

She began with a link to an article from Pacific Business News published four years ago (“Honolulu rail project cutting PR budget by 70%”).

Then she continued.

Four years later, things have, unfortunately gotten much worse. I’m in the public relations business, but increasingly I prefer to call it the communications business because so many people seem to think that if you are in “PR” your job is to “spin” information to make it appear better than things really are…even some in the profession believe this is their job. Early in the rail debacle Mayor Hannemann hired a lot of “PR” people to do exactly that–spin his concept that had no valid data to support it–although, I do believe he actually did convince many of them that this project would not only be his great legacy, it would also be theirs. Many good and ethical PR people have come and gone from this project because they eventually refused to “spin” information that wasn’t true. Some, just gave up when they realized the public could no longer be fooled by pretty pictures, promises, and nice words that didn’t match the facts. In reality, the real public relations professionals are about facts and truth, they believe the public has a right to information that affects their lives whether in the public or private sectors, and they know that “spinning” is for liars and the truth always rises to the surface. Forever grateful that I’ve never been involved in this mess, although I do believe that honest, factual and transparent communications…something Mufi Hannnemann knows nothing about…would have been at least one ingredient that might have shifted the current path this train is on. If Mayor Caldwell hadn’t been mentored so thoroughly by Mufi on communications, perhaps his path would be different now, too.

[reprinted with permission]

Iraq Report not kind to U.S. Middle East policies

If Congress has some spare change for new investigations available, how about doing something real rather than continually trying to resuscitate one or another version of the GOP’s attempts to demonize their Democratic Party opponents via endless spending of public funds on chasing conspiracy theories and largely discredited allegations.

The British just shamed Congress by comparison with the release of a report on their Iraq Inquiry, being referred to as the Chilcot Report.

The Guardian ran a good summary of “key points from the Iraq inquiry,” which of course reflect back on U.S. policy failures.

There’s one especially relevant these days, critical errors in post-invasion Iraq that led to the rise of ISIS (The Guardian: “UK foreign secretary: US decision on Iraqi army led to rise of Isis“).

Hammond, giving evidence to the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “Many of the problems we see in Iraq today stem from that disastrous decision to dismantle the Iraqi army and embark on a programme of de-Ba’athification.

“That was the big mistake of post-conflict planning. If we had gone a different way afterwards, we might have been able to see a different outcome.”

The influx of professional soldiers into groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq and later Isis had increased the threat that the organisations posed, he said. “It is clear a significant number of former Ba’athist officers have formed the professional core of Daesh [Isis] in Syria and Iraq, and have given that organisation the military capability it has shown in conducting its operations.”

The Intercept has been digging around in the report and the newly declassified documents that are included.

They track back to warnings given before the second Iraq invasion in 2003 that Western military action would trigger a terror response.

Just as the British did, multiple Western intelligence agencies have long recognized (usually in secret) that at the top of the list of terrorism’s causes is the West’s militarism and interference in predominantly Muslim nations — as a 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report specified in listing the causes of terrorism: “American direct intervention in the Muslim world”; our “one-sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.” The report concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” Countless individuals who carried out or plotted attacks on the West have said the same.

From another piece in The Intercept:

The Downing Street Memo, sometimes called the “smoking gun” document of the Iraq war, was leaked to the U.K.’s Sunday Times in 2005 (and the original has now been declassified as part of the Chilcot Report).

According to the Downing Street Memo, the British cabinet — including Blair — was informed by Richard Dearlove, then head of British intelligence, that the U.S. government was being consciously deceptive about its case for war. Dearlove, the memo reads, “reported on his recent talks in Washington. … Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

There’s so much material that it’s hard to map a strategy for digging beyond the surface. I’m just starting with the published accounts of what’s in the report, and looking towards jumping into specific sections of the report later.

Weekend reading, I guess.

Court rulings prompt lots of ethics questions

Now that Civil Beat has knocked down its paywall, I’ll point you over there today to CB for my weekly column (“Ian Lind: Ominous Court Rulings For The State Ethics Commission“).

I started out just trying to digest the court ruling that overturned the State Ethics Commission’s “guidelines” prohibiting traditionally organized educational trips for public school students because it believes the free travel offered to teacher-chaperones is a prohibited “gift” under the state ethics law.

I’ve tried to explain a bit of the background in the column, so do head over to Civil Beat and give it a read.

Thinking about it some more, I’ve come around to the opinion that the commission has overreached in its to make it easier for people to comply with the ethics code by spelling out more “bright lines” between allowed and prohibited acts.

But this has involved manufacturing bright line boundaries for a statute where there is little in the way of clear Black and White, and much more a subjective set of grays.

It seems to me that in the past, the commission’s advice on educational travel might have been nuanced and somewhat “wishy-washy”, and would have been something like this.

They might have explained that the gift provision of the law prohibits gifts intended to influence or reward state officials or employees for their official actions. And the “fair treatment” provision prohibited state officials or employees from using their official position to reap unwarranted rewards.

Then the commission might have reviewed its decisions in past specific cases. For example, they might have pointed to a rare circumstance in which a teacher’s family owned a travel agency, and benefited unfairly when school trips were routed via the family company. Or perhaps they would have referenced a past case in which parents complained that a teacher pressured students to sign up for the trip so that another free trip would be available for a favored teacher.

And the commission might then have warned teachers to be careful to avoid even appearing to put pressure on students and their parents, and to stay clear of any business involvement in the travel arrangements beyond the flights and hotels received in exchange for organizing and chaperoning. And the commission would have advised anyone with questions or concerns to contact the commission for further guidance.

Instead, the commission tried to reduce the gift and fair treatment provisions to a simple “no free travel under these circumstances” rule written into their guidelines.

Now a circuit court judge had overturned the travel guidelines and ordering the commission to go through rule making if it wants to come up with a bright line solution.

My column notes that this forced reconsideration is likely to involve more than school travel, as the same gift provisions have been relied on to prohibit legislators from receiving complimentary tickets to attend community or nonprofit events with a face value of more than $25. Legislators unhappy about the commission’s restrictions on them are likely to be more than happy to piggyback their grievances on top of the teachers’ arguments.

And then there’s the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. It’s like a “Citizens United” decision in the area of public ethics and corruption.

Check the column for my initial thoughts. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the court’s decision.

A teaser…from the blog, Ethos:

“We in government ethics talk all the time about officials not even giving the appearance of a conflict of interest. As in most human endeavors, we find that noble principles are best supported by a few punitive laws or rules for those who do not “see the light.” Over two centuries, Federal conflict-of-interest laws and ethics rules have punished appearances of corruption because of the overarching need in a government based on popular sovereignty for the citizenry to trust in the integrity of its governing officials. Sadly, the Court has said that appearances/ethics are in the eye of the beholder.