Ethics chief in Legislature’s crosshairs again
Nobody knows how to paint a target on his back better than Les Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission.
He got lawmakers’ noses seriously out of joint during this year’s legislative session when he told them that they couldn’t accept free tickets to a dinner hosted by a prominent Democratic power broker.
How dare he, they thought, and responded with a much-derided and ultimately failed bill that would have allowed them to accept or even solicit virtually unlimited travel and meals and other gifts worth up to $200 from just about anybody seeking to influence their actions.
Now Kondo has himself in legislators’ crosshairs again with his determination that private-interest members of task forces and working groups formed by lawmakers to help shape legislation can’t lobby the Legislature on the subject of the working groups.
This time they didn’t just think it, but actually voiced it. “How dare he tell us we can’t do that,” said state Sen. Rosalyn Baker.
Kondo is essentially subjecting members of the Legislature’s task forces and working groups to the same ethics rules that govern members of other state boards and commissions.
“Just because they label the group something else doesn’t mean it’s not the same animal,” he was quoted as saying in the Star-Advertiser. “You’re not supposed to be able to profit from the privilege of serving.”
That seems logical. The legislative task force that ignited the dispute — a working group on urban development established by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz — required inclusion of representatives of the Hawaii Building and Construction Trades Council, the General Contractors Association of Hawaii and “any other interested stakeholders or entities, including but not limited to developers, architects, and contractors.”
Why should self-interested members of these shadowy working groups that exert so much influence on public policy get a pass from state ethics laws?