Les Kondo strikes again

Ethics Commission executive director Les Kondo will likely have an even bigger target on his back with state legislators after he shot down a posh dinner well-heeled special interests planned for Hawai‘i lawmakers attending the National Conference of State Legislators in San Antonio.

According to the Hawaii Reporter, the event was cancelled after Kondo advised hosts that the value of the meal exceeded the $25 limit set by the ethics law on what legislators can accept.

Sponsors of the dinner included the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, Outrigger Enterprises, Hawaii Medical Services Association, Island Insurance, Coca Cola and the law firm of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel.

Lawmakers will no doubt be furious, as they were earlier in the year when a similar determination by Kondo kept them away from a dinner sponsored by a prominent Democratic power broker.

They tried during this year’s session to counter the Ethics Commission’s tough stand by passing a bill that would have allowed legislators and other state employees to freely accept and even solicit meals, travel and other gifts worth up to $200 from special interests seeking to influence them.

Kondo deserves credit for standing firm in enforcing laws protecting the public against the buying and selling of official influence. Wealthy private interests shouldn’t be able to use expensive freebies to gather and indoctrinate lawmakers in a way ordinary citizens can’t.

Some legislators are clearly gunning for Kondo — they barely allowed him to speak at one House Judiciary Committee hearing — but hopefully ethics commissioners will resist the pressure and back him up like the Campaign Spending Commission did with Bob Watada a decade ago.

If they do, Kondo and the commission have the potential to give a backbone to loosely applied ethics rules in the same way Watada did with campaign fundraising.

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13 Comments on “Les Kondo strikes again”

  1. Dave Smith Says:

    If the lawmakers consider the opportunity to meet with the special interests so valuable (assuming they don’t get enough of that during the legislative session), why don’t they pay for the dinner (or at least the cost minus $25) themselves?

  2. Richard Gozinya Says:

    You guys are so cynical. It’s clear to me that the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, Outrigger Enterprises, Hawaii Medical Services Association, Island Insurance, Coca Cola and the law firm of Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel just love to spend quality time with their politico buddies.

    I mean, these firms have no interest in, say, influencing legislation, do they?

  3. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    David:

    I urge you to understand that not all policy advocates represent monied interests. However, many of us are being treated as if we are tossing money around buying votes.

    Task forces, working groups & advisory committees filled with experts on issues as diverse as early childhood education, pedestrian and bike safety, greenhouse gas eemissions, food safety, elder care, and dozens of other topics have provided legislators with information and legislative proposals over the years.

    Yes, I understand your concerns about the spending lots of money to get legislators’ attention; however, forcing us off the task forces, working groups & advisory committees doesn’t make sense if we are no longer allowed to advocate before decision-makers because the subject had been on the recommendations list – and we have the expertise.

    What would you suggest as an alternative given the financial constraints state agencies face in hiring new employees to do the research or in issuing consultant contracts?

    How would you educate & inform officials on the issues coming before them? There are literally hundreds of issues coming before these folks every year – they cannot be expected to be knowledgeable about all of them without support & help from staff, consultants, and volunteers.

  4. Kolea Says:

    I agree the dinner expense meant it constituted a gift intended to influence legislation. But I wish someone would take an interest in how corporations are influencing conservative legislators through the ALEC retreats which also attract some Hawaii legislators. Is Jim Dooley, or Dave Shapiro, will to take on ALEC?

    Conservative judges, including Supreme Court Justices, go to lavish conferences at luxury locations with their expenses paid and it receives scant coverage.

    While the manini impropriety of these free meals does deserve some pushback from Kondo, it is so trivial compared to the massive buy-off of our political system by corporate money. The corporations own the GOP, finance the major “Tea Party” organizations and own about half the Democrats, including Obama. If a local legislator, along with some of their staffers get treated to a decent meal at an upscale restaurant and made to feel like a VIP while they are on the road, I don’t feel much outrage.

    I assume Lingle always paid for her meals during her junkets in China and the Philippines. And Bob Awana paid fully for his entertainment.

  5. zzzzzing Says:

    @ Kolea,

    Corporations are indeed influencing politicians, but I beg to differ that they are all conservative – unless of course you are so far left you think Obama is a conservative.

  6. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Rather than a dollar limit, let’s just identify those restaurants appropriate for lobby/legislator interface. Here on Oahu we could have….

    Dot’s in Wahiawa
    Shiro’s Saimin haven
    Golden Duck King Street
    Zippy’s (all)

    …and so forth. Any of these places are fine. It’s the “posh” part of “posh dinners” that’s the cause of the problems.

  7. el guapo Says:

    Watada is a horrible comparison and has no credibility with me. He insisted that politicians should follow campaign spending laws, yet displayed no integrity by backing the actions of his son.

  8. Hugh Clark Says:

    Apples and oranges, Guapo. What they teach in school is a non sequitur.

  9. el guapo Says:

    Darn you Hugh, I had to look up “non sequitur” 🙂

    Regardless of whether you think it’s apples and oranges, I lost all respect for him. Lack of character and integrity.

  10. Kolea Says:

    @zzzzzing

    I think I admitted the corporations won “half the Democratic Party, including Obama.” So I am not pretending they only “influence” conservatives.

    As you say, I am “to the left” of Obama, but so are many people, I do not call Obama a “conservative.” I don’t see how such a statement is useful in understanding his policies or place in American politics.

    But I do think it is useful to reflect on Ezra Klein’s aegument that Obama’s actual policies are pretty consistent with what moderate Republicans were advocating not that many years ago. Before that species died out.

    Here is Klein making his own case:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/obama-revealed-a-moderate-republican/2011/04/25/AFPrGfkE_story.html

  11. Kolea Says:

    Sorry for the typo:

    “corporations OWN ‘half the Democratic Party, including Obama.'”

  12. shaftalley Says:

    the two-party system is corrupt.and as long as we have a military-industrial complex,private monopolists,greedy politicians,there isn’t much we can do.

  13. Jay Zablan Says:

    I forgot I can read your column without subscribing to that “rag” Star-Advertiser.


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