BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — The flight path of the Akaka bill now in the Senate has an eerie resemblance to what happened in previous years. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).
Will the Akaka bill pass or fail? In either case, will the end come with a bang or a whimper? Let’s review the whimper of Senate stealth maneuvers in 2000 and 2001, and the bang of the cloture motion on the Senate floor in 2006, to compare them with what’s been happening during the past year and what’s plausible for the upcoming period of September through December, 2010.
If we work hard and are lucky the bill will either die lonely, and quietly forgotten, as happened in 2000; or will crash and burn spectacularly as happened in 2006. But this will be the period of greatest danger in ten years, because of the large number of Democrats. No Democrat in the Senate has ever opposed the Akaka bill. However, there are quite a few Democrats newly elected in 2006 or 2008 who have never had to take a stand on the bill and might be willing to oppose it if properly informed — there were actually a few Democrat votes against the bill for the first time in the House earlier this year after a decade of unanimous support, even with Abercrombie yelling at them in his usual bombastic way.
The few Republican Senators who previously voted the wrong way on cloture might be open to changing their minds, especially one of the bill’s cosponsors, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, who faces a tough re-election battle. One inspiring example for her is Senator Orrin Hatch (R, UT): early in the decade he was a co-sponsor of the bill; then in the next Congress he refused to cosponsor it; and in the 2006 cloture debate he spoke out strongly against the bill as a matter of principle. So there’s hope that people can come to their senses! It would be wonderful if Senator Hatch would tell the story of his conversion to righteousness, to Republican Senators Murkowski, Snowe, Collins, and Brown, and perhaps also some Democrats or independents like Senators Webb, Lieberman, and others.
The history of the Hawaiian Government Reorganization bill in the 111th Congress (January 2009 through December 2010), including a compilation of all significant news reports and commentaries, can be found at
On August 11, 2010 Senator Akaka’s official U.S. Senate website finally posted a link to download a 60-page pdf file containing the full text of the amended version of the Akaka bill agreed to in negotiations with Governor Lingle and Attorney General Bennett. First Senator Akaka gave a brief explanation describing the four changes to the bill, and how this amended version will be introduced on the floor of the Senate as a substitute for the previous version when the bill is called to the floor for debate. The explanation is at
A 60-page pdf file containing the full text of the alleged amendment was posted on Senator Akaka’s website at
and has been copied for safekeeping in case of treachery, and posted at
Senator Akaka’s webpage explanation finishes by saying “When the bill comes to the Senate floor, Senator Akaka will offer a substitute amendment that includes all of these changes. Once the bill passes the Senate, it will need to return to the House for final passage so it can be sent to the President to be signed into law.”
What’s this about treachery? The question is, will the substitution actually be made, as Akaka/Inouye have promised, and as Lingle apparently believes will happen?
In 2005-2006 something remarkably similar occurred. The Department of Justice under President Bush (Republican) had publicly issued complaints about the Akaka bill. Senators Akaka and Inouye engaged in lengthy discussions with DOJ with a view toward amending the bill in ways they hoped would satisfy the Bush administration’s objections (just as similar negotiations happened in 2010 with Lingle’s Attorney General Bennett). On September 2, 2005 Senator Akaka posted on his website as an encrypted pdf file the text of a new version of the Akaka bill which he claimed incorporated the allegedly negotiated agreement about what the bill should say. On September 16, 2005 the entire Hawaii delegation (Akaka, Inouye, Abercrombie, Case), with great fanfare, issued a public statement outlining the highlights of the agreement they said they had reached with the Bush administration. But on September 22 DOJ issued a public statement saying there was no such agreement! How embarrassing to be caught in a lie so publicly! The new bill comprising the alleged agreement stayed on Akaka’s website for eight months (almost enough time to make a baby!). It was not officially introduced in Congress until Friday May 25, 2006, the day Congress left town for a 9-day Memorial Day recess and only two working days on the Senate calendar before a cloture motion was filed. The cloture motion was filed suddenly on Tuesday June 6, debated on June 7 and 8, and defeated on June 8.
But here’s the most amazing thing! The cloture motion was for S.147, the previous version of the bill without the Bush-inspired amendments, rather than for the newly introduced bill S.3064 which had been (falsely) proclaimed as representing an agreement with the Bush administration. S.3064 was used as it had been intended all along — a decoy to fool the public, and to try to fool a sufficient number of Republican Senators, into believing that the Akaka bill had been changed to accommodate the civil rights issues raised by the Republicans. A compilation of news reports and commentaries from 2005-2006, including text of both bills and transcripts of the entire six hours of debate on the Senate floor, can be found at
See also “Current Status of the Akaka Bill, Mid-November 2005 — Stealth Tactics Ahead?” at
Dear reader, have you followed all these details so far? Is it confusing and boring? Just remember that Senators are very busy; and they also find such details confusing and boring. Akaka/Inouye like it when time is short, the calendar is crowded, and there are complicated things to be done like substituting one bill in place of another. That’s when everyone needs to hurry up and not worry about details. Shoot now and ask questions later. That’s also the time for stealth maneuvers. A magician fools his audience by getting people to pay attention to one hand while the other hand does something secretly.
Let’s remember that the bill HR2314 which passed the House on February 23, 2010 is the most radical and dangerous version of the bill ever introduced. Three different versions from previous years had all been introduced during a four month period in 2009, perhaps to confuse everyone. That third one included numerous protections for the people of Hawaii which limited tribal powers in ways Akaka/Inouye had hoped hoped would satisfy the objections of the Bush administration. But behind the scenes Akaka/Inouye talked things over with the Obama administration, the Native Hawaiian Bar Association, OHA, the Council on Native Hawaiian Advancement, etc.; and wrote a new version of the bill which would immediately confer full-blown sovereignty without waiting for negotiations with the state. The tycoons of the ethnic Hawaiian establishment got greedy and believed they could write a more monstrous Akaka bill than ever before and push it through the same Congress that had passed Obama’s healthcare bill (which many Senators and Congressmen famously said they did not read before voting on it).
Akaka/Inouye/Obama wrote this new fourth version of the bill in secret and never told Governor Lingle anything about it. They sent it to the House committee only a couple days before the committee was scheduled to pass a previous version of the bill. Republican committee members notified the Governor, who protested loudly in public. Governor Lingle and Attorney General Bennett wrote a letter to the committee members, and later to all 100 Senators, strongly opposing this fourth version of the bill. Representative Abercrombie tried to substitute the new fourth version but the committee refused and passed the previous third version. Later, on the House floor, Abercrombie was successful in passing a motion to substitute the fourth, radically amended version, and then successful again on that same day in passing the newly amended bill. And then he promptly resigned to go home and run for Governor.
Secret negotiations between Akaka/Inouye and various Republican Senators who had previous supported the bill apparently resulted in Akaka/Inouye concluding they could not get enough votes to pass this new version in the Senate. Therefore Akaka/Inouye and Lingle/Bennett negotiated a new, fifth version of the bill which would accommodate Lingle’s objections, and as part of the settlement Lingle agreed to send another letter to all 100 Senators notifying them of her full support for this new fifth version. Republican Senators who are facing difficult re-election problems, like Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who is a cosponsor, can point to the letter from fellow Republican Governor Lingle as cover to claim that they are not violating Republican principles when voting for the bill.
The problem is that Akaka/Inouye, OHA, NHBA, CNHA, and the rest of the ethnic Hawaiian establishment tycoons very much prefer the most radical fourth version which passed the House, and they resent Lingle’s interference. They would prefer not to cripple the Akaka tribe with Lingle’s amendments, and also prefer not to need to send the new fifth version back to the House which would once again need to pass it before it could be sent to President Obama. Akaka/Inouye thus have every reason to simply pass the radical fourth version which passed the House, and forget about the changes which they agreed to make in order to satisfy Lingle. Lingle has already sent her letter to the Senate fully supporting the Akaka bill. If Akaka/Inouye simply “forget” at the last moment to formally make the substitution of the fifth version in place of the fourth version, it seems unlikely that would cause any of the Senators to change their minds and vote against cloture or against the bill. There might not even be time for Lingle to communicate her displeasure to them. And even if a few Senators did care, the focus of attention would be on the “inside baseball” issue of a substitute amendment rather than on the truly important issue that the whole concept of the Akaka bill is racist, divisive, immoral, and unconstitutional.
Senators give the appearance of caring deeply about “honor.” If they make an agreement they are expected to keep it. If they renege on an agreement, especially without notifying the other party, then they risk losing credibility with their colleagues. But in the past Senator Inouye has behaved very dishonorably when it comes to the Akaka bill.
For example, on December 15 2000 — the last day of the lame duck session of the 106th Congress — an eagle-eyed Senate staffer discovered that Senator Inouye had hidden the Akaka bill by reference (as a single sentence naming it) deep inside an enormous appropriations bill which had actually passed; and it was then necessary for both the House and Senate to immediately pass a special resolution to remove the Akaka bill. See:
In December 2001, the Akaka bill was again hidden inside another huge bill in the form of a single sentence, in the hope that it might slip through without anyone noticing. Here is that sentence, buried in section 8,132 of the massive Defense Appropriations bill HR.3338:
“SEC. 8132. The provisions of S. 746 of the 107th Congress, as reported to the Senate on September 21, 2001, are hereby enacted into law.”
Inouye’s repeated sneak attack on the people of Hawai’i blew up in the Senate on December 7, 2001, exactly 60 years after “a day that shall live in infamy.” Senate rules say that the only earmarks allowed in an appropriations bill are money items. Policy earmarks are not allowed in appropriations bills. Senator Inouye, known as the King of Earmarks, knew this rule very well, but had tried to “sneak one past” by violating it. His Republican colleagues stopped the Senate dead in its tracks for ten minutes and took Senator Inouye to the woodshed (cloakroom), after which he came back on the Senate floor and humbly withdrew the offending sentence. For details see:
In the past Senator Inouye has told major falsehoods about Hawaiian history on the floor of the U.S. Senate, as part of his efforts to persuade his colleagues to vote for the Akaka bill on the theory that the U.S. did bad things to “Native Hawaiians” and now owes reparations to them. Inouye even persuaded Senator Dorgan to say some of the same falsehoods.
During the cloture debate in 2006 Inouye said “I think it is about time that we reach out and correct the wrong that was committed in 1893. Yes, at that time the representative of the people of the United States directed a marine company on an American ship to land and take over the government. They imprisoned our queen. No crime had been committed.”
But wait! The U.S. peacekeepers in 1893 were not under orders to overthrow the Queen. They were under orders to remain neutral, and did so. They did not enter the Palace grounds nor take over any buildings. They did not arrest or imprison the Queen. In 1895, 21 months after the last U.S. peacekeepers were removed, the Queen did indeed commit a crime (conspiracy in treason) by allowing guns and bombs to be stashed in the flower bed of her private home to support an attempted counterrevolution, for which she was arrested and imprisoned — by local men who were officers of the Republic of Hawaii (not U.S. Marines).
During the short debate on the apology resolution in 1993, Senator Inouye spoke about the annexation ceremony of 1898. He said “On that fateful day when the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii was lowered over Iolani Palace and the American flag went up, it is reported that one of the Committee of Safety
remarked to the others: “This is a glorious day. We need something to remind
us of this auspicious moment.” So someone is reported to have suggested,
“Why don’t we cut that flag in 12 parts; each of us take a piece, a piece of
the action?” And that is what happened. It is said that one piece remains today, the last remaining piece of the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaii. I think that would give you an idea of the attitude of the Americans who were
residing there at that time. It is not an attitude that we would condone
today. We would not raise that attitude with accolades. Why not recognize it
for what it was?”
But wait! The story about shredding the Hawaiian flag is totally false. It never happened, except in a novel (fiction!) by James Michener. The actual Hawaiian flag taken down at annexation remains today in the state archives and was displayed publicly on the centennial of annexation in 1998 with photos of it in the newspaper.
For citations to Senator Inouye’s lies in the Congressional Record, and explanations of what truly happened, see “Lies told on the U.S. Senate Floor by Senators Inouye and Dorgan Regarding the Akaka Bill” at
There’s plenty of time for all sorts of efforts to pass the Akaka bill, ranging from cloture motion and open debate as in 2006, to less time-consuming but still visible methods like adding the full text of the bill as a rider at the end of a different bill, to extreme stealth maneuvers like incorporating the bill “by reference” as a single sentence or even a nearly invisible “earmark” buried deep inside a massive appropriations bill. Senators Inouye and Akaka can be expected to tell twisted versions of history, or even outright lies, as they have done before.
The Senate will be in session from September 13 to October 8 when they break to campaign for the election; then from November 15 to November 19 when they break for Thanksgiving; and then from November 29 until they decide to adjourn which might be as late as December 23. In previous lame-duck sessions they have stayed in session right up to Christmas so the Senators who are retiring or failed to win re-election can be called upon to push through pork-barrel or unpopular bills. Remember that in 2000, after all the newspapers reported the Akaka bill was dead, it was actually very much alive until it was finally killed in the closing moments of the last day of the 106th Congress, December 15. As a Hawaiian proverb says: “He maka’ala mau loa i ke kumu ku’oko’a.” Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
This is a guest editorial by Hawaii resident and author Ken Conklin.