Ethics Bill Amended Again

Senator Clayton Hee


Senator Clayton Hee

A bill allowing lobbyists to wine and dine legislators every night of the week and to lavish gifts on state officials was gutted today by a senate committee but is subject to further revision.

Les Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, told members of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee that the measure “simply doesn’t look right, doesn’t smell right.”

The measure as originally written, SB 671, was intended to tighten and clarify state laws and regulations governing lobbyist activities, but a revised version, SB671 SD1, was introduced late last week.

The amended measure came after Kondo told legislators that they could not accept free $200 tickets to a charitable fundraiser hosted by the Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs.

Kondo told committee members that the amended bill would allow lawmakers and state officials to accept unlimited $200 cash gifts from multiple donors, “no bagman needed.”

William Kaneko, chief executive of the nonprofit Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs, testified in favor of the measure, saying that Kondo’s interpretation of the state ethics code was flawed and effectively blocked legislators from attending or assisting fundraising efforts by charities.

Representatives of the Aloha United Way and the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce joined Kaneko in supporting passage of the revised bill.

Testimony in opposition was submitted by the League of Women Voters, Americans for Democratic Action, the Honolulu Media Council and others.

Kondo suggested to the committee that language creating special exemptions for nonprofits could be written into the bill.

Committee chairman Clayton Hee, D-23rd, accepted that suggestion, saying that sections of the bill that would have allowed expanded gift-giving by private interests would be “eviscerated.”

He asked Kondo to consult with the state Ethics Commission at its March 16 meeting for suggested language to insert into the bill.