US Senator Daniel Akaka
US Senator Daniel Akaka

BY KENNETH R. CONKLIN, PH.D. — On October 24, 2011 Malia Zimmerman, editor of Hawaii Reporter, described a new stealth maneuver by Senator Dan Inouye (D, HI) to pass the Akaka bill. She reported that the Senate Appropriations Committee (which Inouye chairs) is considering a bill to appropriate billions of dollars for the Department of Interior. She described how, on October 14, Inouye quietly exercised his prerogative as Chair to insert a new Section 420, consisting of a single sentence, which says that the group of people being assembled under Hawaii Act 195 of 2011 (the state-recognized ethnic Hawaiian group) is now to be placed on the list of federally recognized tribes. For details, including the exact language, see http://www.hawaiireporter.com/?p=41474

For information about Act 195, see http://tinyurl.com/3rzjdrf

On October 26, Malia Hill wrote that Inouye’s stealth maneuver is “backdoor dealing and ‘hidden’ legislation” which is unethical and needs sunlight. She says the Akaka bill “would have a significant and transformative effect on Hawaii. Nor can we ignore the fact that there is far from a public consensus on the bill — which is why so many support the idea of a public referendum” http://www.hawaiireporter.com/?p=41581

This particular manner of passing the Akaka bill is even more dangerous than previous attempts because the newly created tribe would have none of the limitations which all previous versions of the bill have placed on it. Even Governor Lingle, who had aggressively lobbied for the bill many times, refused in 2009 to support the most recent radical version introduced again in 2011 by the Congressional delegation until they agreed to restore some protections for the people of Hawaii.

The tribe created by Inouye’s stealth maneuver would now be free to play the state and federal governments against each other. The very compliant state legislature would be free to hand over half the lands of Hawaii to the tribe, along with hundreds of millions of dollars and astonishing levels of jurisdictional authority. Meanwhile existing federal law and future acts of Congress would grant the same powers to the Hawaii tribe that all federally recognized tribes possess, whether the state legislature likes it or not.

Some commentators are saying the Congressional delegation plans to break up the Akaka bill into pieces, with each piece to be inserted as a rider into various must-pass bills (much like a shotgun sends pellets of shrapnel into several different bodies). But that’s not necessary. This single rider would get the entire job done (like a rifle bullet to the heart). A likely strategy might be to insert the same rider into several different bills (several rifle shots) in hopes one might get through unnoticed, or might be successfully negotiated with opponents in some obscure “you help me, I help you” conference committee at the end of the session. We might recall that at the end of 2010 there was a huge omnibus appropriations bill with several thousand earmarks, which died from embarrassment. This time around there’s a “super committee” of 6 House and 6 Senate members who must reduce the budget deficit by more than a trillion dollars to avoid massive rescissions.

In December 2009 there was a loud public protest against the Akaka bill spurred by credible reports that Inouye was planning to sneak it into a Defense Department appropriations bill. On December 14 2009 numerous news media quoted Senator Inouye responding as follows:

“I have never suggested that the Akaka Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill be passed and adopted as part of the defense appropriations process. I don’t know where this nonsensical suggestion originated. The Akaka Bill for the past many years has been considered under what we call the regular order. It has had hours upon hours of hearings, many, many revisions and amendments and has gone through the scrutiny of three administrations. We have had hearings in Washington and in Hawaii. It is not a measure that has been shepherded in the dark of the night. It has been fully transparent.”

Well, Senator Inouye, what you called “nonsensical” then should still be nonsensical now. Why are you going back on your word?

Perhaps one reason he is going back on his word is that he was actually lying when he said in 2009 that “I have never suggested that the Akaka Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill be passed and adopted as part of the defense appropriations process” and “It is not a measure that has been shepherded in the dark of the night. It has been fully transparent.”

As a matter of fact, Inouye has repeatedly used stealth tactics for 11 years, including one especially outrageous event in December 2001 when he secretly inserted a one-sentence rider into a Defense Department appropriations bill!!! Here is that sentence in December 2001, buried in 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.” That bill actually passed with the rider unnoticed inside, until the rider was surgically removed by a special resolution passed on the last day of that session. Inouye’s fellow Senators warned him that it violates Senate rules to insert controversial policy legislation into an appropriations bill as though it’s merely an “earmark” for some local project to benefit a constituent. For all the gory details see
http://tinyurl.com/6e4ph

Inouye’s stealth maneuver in 2001 was a very dishonorable thing, violating Senate rules and the trust of his colleagues. More recently Inouye has told falsehoods about Hawaiian history on the floor of the U.S. Senate while pushing the Akaka bill, including the claim that U.S. troops invaded Iolani palace during the Hawaiian revolution, arrested the Queen, and imprisoned her there. For proof from the Congressional Record of what he said, and an explanation of what really happened, see
http://tinyurl.com/6a3stjw

Inouye has told other lies about Hawaiian history, saying on several different occasions (including on the Senate floor) that the Hawaiian flag hauled down from the Palace at the time of annexation was publicly torn into pieces given as souvenirs to the haoles, in order to humiliate the Hawaiians. See
http://tinyurl.com/oj7n4m

Senator Inouye now wears the Medal of Honor he certainly deserves, awarded to him by a bill to upgrade WW2 medals for Japanese Americans (authored by Senator Akaka). Yet he’s doing the very same dishonorable thing all over again in 2011 that he did ten years previously. The Akaka bill itself is a dirty, disgusting thing, totally lacking in pono. And so are the methods Inouye has repeatedly used for trying to push it through Congress. It’s a shame that a man who served his nation with great bravery, and has done many important things to benefit Hawaii’s people, is sullying his legacy as he approaches the end of his career.

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