Biggest Spenders in Washington: Office Of Hawaiian Affairs, Honolulu Rapid Transit

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BY JIM DOOLEY – Once again, Hawaii state and county government agencies spent far more money lobbying in Washington D.C. than private companies did, according to 2011 U.S. Senate lobbyist disclosure reports.

As has been the case in recent years, Honolulu’s rapid transit agency, HART, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs laid out the biggest bucks to woo political support and budget appropriations from Congress and the executive branch.


But OHA’s lobbying effort, which ballooned to $680,000 in 2005 and has totaled $3.6 million since 1999, dwindled to $160,000 last year as prospects for Congressional approval of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act have dimmed.

In the last three months of 2011, OHA’s lobbying bill from Patton Boggs, its influential representative in Washington, shriveled to just $10,000, according to records filed with the U.S. Senate. The disclosure data can be accessed here:

The two Patton Boggs lobbyists listed as working on the OHA account were Thomas Boggs, a founder of the firm, and Darryl Nirenberg, a former high-level Republican staffer in the Senate.

As many as nine lobbyists were listed as working on the OHA account in earlier years.

The biggest Hawaii-based Washington spender last year was Infraconsult, a private company hired by the City to pursue federal backing of the $5.2 billion Honolulu rapid transit project.

Infraconsult  paid $320,000 to Washington lobbyist Williams & Jensen for its work promoting the HART project. The same amount was spent on 2010 lobbying, which is principally handled by Washington insider Denis Dwyer.

Dwyer has been lobbying for Hawaii-based clients for decades and at one point in his career was a lobbyist for OHA.

He also was a partner with former Hawaii Gov. John Waihee in a lawfirm that lobbied Congress for Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate.

Since 2008, the City has matched OHA in Washington lobbying fees – $1.210,000 to  $1,110,000, according the Senate data.

OHA spokesman Garrett Kamemoto said today the level of lobbying OHA will commission this year has not been set yet and is tied to the status of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, which is commonly known as the Akaka bill.

The lobbying expenses reported on the U.S. Senate data base don’t include extra spending by OHA to maintain an office in Washington.

Kamemoto said those expenses are running around $250,000 annually.