Failed Federal Akaka Lobbying Efforts Costs Taxpayers Millions

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JIM DOOLEY – Since 1999, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has spent $3.44 million on an unsuccessful Washington D.C. lobbying effort seeking passage of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, according to U.S. Senate lobbying records.

The total does not include an estimated $2 million spent by OHA to operate a Washington D.C. office, and it excludes travel and other expenses incurred by OHA officials on trips to the capital to urge passage of the Akaka Bill.


OHA has never itemized those additional expenses, although chief executive Clyde Namu’o said in 2006 the agency spent some $900,000 to operate the Washington office from 2003 to 2006.

The OHA spending has far outstripped all other Washington lobbying efforts undertaken by Hawaii-based interests during the past 10 years.

The high-water year for OHA spending was 2005, when it’s chief Washington lobbyist, Patton Boggs, spent $660,000 on Akaka Bill activities, according to the Senate lobbying database.

All told, Patton Boggs spent $3.19 million from 2003 through last year on Akaka bill lobbying activities, including contacts with officials at the White House, Senate, House of Representatives and Departments of Justice and Interior, according to disclosure forms.

The lead OHA lobbyist at the firm has been Thomas H. “Tommy” Boggs Jr., an influential Washington figure with close family and professional connections to the Democratic Party.

OHA’s Akaka-bill efforts have also pursued by another Patton Boggs partner, Benjamin Ginsberg, a personal friend of Karl Rove, the Republican Party stalwart who was President George W. Bush’s chief political advisor.

Rove’s personal attorney, Robert Luskin, is also a partner in the Patton Boggs firm.

Patton Boggs subcontracted some of its OHA lobbying work in 2006 to another firm with close ties to the then-Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Bill Frist.

All of the lobbying efforts and spending came to naught.  The Akaka bill was never scheduled for a vote in the Senate.

Before signing with Patton Boggs in 2003, OHA used the lobbying services of another once-influential firm, Verner Liipfert Bernhard McPherson and Hand, to promote Native Hawaiian interests n Washington, including self-determination proposals.

Verner Liipfert received $310,000 from OHA from 1999-2001.

One of the firm’s lobbyists was former Hawaii Gov. John Waihee.

OHA annual lobbying expenditures:

2010                        $310,000

2009                        $290,000

2008                        $340,000

2007                        $400,000*

2006                        $430,000

2005                        $680,000*

2004                        $440,000

2003                        $340,000

2001                        $40,000

2000                        $140,000

1999                        $130,000

* includes $20,000 to law firm Zell & Cox

Source: U.S. Senate Lobbying Database



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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at


  1. Congratulations to Hawaii Reporter and Jim Dooley for this timely update on OHA’s shameful waste of public money. $3.44 million down the drain. Most of that money came from the over $400 Million of Ceded Lands Trust revenues the State has diverted to OHA over the last three decades. The State and OHA hold those funds in trust for all the people of Hawaii, not just for Native Hawaiians. Misapplication of entrusted property is a misdemeanor; and failure to make required disposition of trust funds is defined as theft, a felony. The current fiscal crisis demands that the State and its agency, OHA, and the responsible officials, restore the Trust and the rule of law; cease any further diversions; and carry out their fiduciary duties to all of us.

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