BY JIM DOOLEY – The Hawaii Legislature convenes next week and the state Ethics Commission is already warning legislators about ethical restrictions on gifts from lobbyists.
In a memo distributed yesterday, commission executive director Leslie Kondo told legislators they could not accept free invitations to a reception hosted tonight by Pacific Resources Partnership, a consortium of the Carpenters Union and building contractors.
The reception is for presentation of the 2012 Carpenters Union Outstanding Union Builder Award at the Oahu Country Club.
“We understand that the reception involves heavy pupus and an open bar,” Kondo said in his memo, adding that PRP has valued the invitations at around $100 per person.
“From our discussions with John White, PRP’s Executive Director, we also understand that the reception is a social, ‘meet-and-greet’ type of event, an opportunity for PRP’s members to meet and talk to legislators and other government officials,” Kondo wrote.
“The State Ethics Code prohibits state employees from accepting any gift, including a meal or an invitation to a ‘food-and-drink’ event, if it is reasonable to infer that the gift is intended to influence or reward official action,” the memo continued.
Considering the cost and purpose of the event, and the fact that PRP is a registered lobbying organization that “appears to advocate on many state-related issues,” Kondo wrote, “we do not believe that the Ethics Code allows the acceptance of PRP’s invitation.”
Kondo’s memos and meetings with legislators last year on similar issues brought friction with some legislators.
PRP last year had to withdraw free invitations sent to legislators to attend a Waikiki reception featuring U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
The invitations were withdrawn after Kondo told PRP that the Ethics Code prohibited most lawmakers from accepting them.