Friday, March 31, 2006

Group Calls upon Hawaii Legislature to Prohibit Lobbyist Contributions During Session


Since the Abramoff/DeLay lobbying scandal broke, talk of reform has reverberated in the halls of Congress. A movement has also started in Hawaii to counter the pervasive influence of lobbyist and special interest money on the legislative process at the state level.

A letter was delivered today by 14 organizations to Speaker of the House Calvin Say and Judiciary Chair Sylvia Luke. The letter requests passage of Senate Bill 1061, a measure prohibiting lobbyist contributions during the legislative session. This bill was passed unanimously by the Senate but deferred by the Judiciary chair. The letter requests that this bill be passed as a first step to assure that the legislature is making its decisions in the public interest.

Several lawmakers held major fundraisers even as the bill progressed through the legislature. The writers hold that having a financial relationship with people who lobby for particular legislation during the period of their decision-making is a conflict of interest.

According to Larry Geller, President of Kokua Council, “This is the start of a comprehensive grassroots movement aimed at reforming the Hawaii State Legislature. We need to reclaim the democratic process in which our representatives are responsible first to the voters and not to special interests.”

A popular “Voter Owned Elections” or “Clean Elections” campaign has also gained momentum. Activists are researching and revealing the extent to which lobbyists have targeted contributions to powerful committee chairs and others who can determine the outcome of special interest bills.

Another effort is underway to reveal the extent to which corporate executives and employees have been placed in legislative offices under an internship program designed for university students and others who want to have some basic experience of how the legislature operates.

George Fox, Executive Director of Citizen Voice states "it's about time for legislators to step up and represent the folks that elect them and not the lobbyists who are always working against the public interest and for the bottom line of their employers."

“Perhaps the Abramoff scandals in Washington have energized ordinary people to make their government more open and accountable to them as voters,” said Mr. Geller.

The groups below presented a petition to Rep. Calvin Say and Rep. Sylvia Luke to pass SB1061 Lobbyist Contribution Ban to Legislators During Session.

Advocates for Consumer Rights
Citizen Voice
Hawaii Consumers
Hawaii Institute for Human Rights
Hawaii Media Action Group
Hawaii Pro-Democracy Initiative
Kokua Council
League of Women Voters of Maui
League of Women Voters of Hawaii
League of Women Voters of Hawaii County
League of Women Voters of Honolulu
League of Women Voter of Kauai
Right to Know Committee
Voter Owned Elections