Tag Archives: Inouye

Redefining “Support”

There are plenty of reasons to feel vaguely annoyed and Senator Inouye’s recent interview in Honolulu Civil Beat.  I, for one, particularly loathed the implication that people in the middle class are a tad selfish for feeling that they pay enough in taxes.  But for sheer muddling of a situation, it’s hard to beat his responses to the questions about the level of support for the Akaka Bill.  Here’s what Inouye has to say:

Mentioning Sen. Akaka calls to mind the issue of the Akaka Bill really not proceeding. What do you tell the people of Hawaii? This is an underlying issue that has to be addressed for the people of this state in some shape or form.

The vast majority of those who are well-aware, or have some understanding of the measure, are supportive. But this bill has been delayed and frustrated by the very ones who support it… (One person) would tell me, ‘you’re not doing enough’ and (another) will say, ‘I think you went too far.’

This time, there’s a difference. Akaka, OHA, the administration, they’re all singing one tune. It’s a big difference. The last time, OHA and Akaka didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything. The governor’s office … was not always for it. So under those circumstances, those in the Congress can say, ‘Well, your governor is opposed to it. So why should I be for it?’ Then somebody might come up and say, ‘Well that Hawaiian group is against it. They must know something that I don’t. I’ll follow them.’

This time, as of this moment, we’re in the same choir.

Is it possible to get the votes in the House to pass something like this?

With work, it can be done. Unless you start off with the assumption that ‘they’re a bunch of bums, they’re racist, and they’re no good, so therefore, why do anything?’

They’re good Americans. You just have to describe and tell them why.

Will Lingle’s Support be important? The current bill is not one she had agreed to.

But it is a reflection of some of the concerns she’s voiced, and I think she’s supportive. The general concept, she’s for it. And Im not suggesting that the bill that passed the Senate is necessarily the one that has to become law.

Is there a role the president can play in making this happen?

There’s a major role. He can say, on a personal basis, ‘I was born in Hawaii. Among my many friends are Native Hawaiians. I know something about their background and history.’ The presidential word carries weight.

And this is why it’s important to remind people that the battle over the Akaka Bill isn’t over . . . and won’t be for some time to come, regardless of how the public feels about it.  Polls consistently show that this is a controversial and divisive issue in Hawaii, and (if anything) that when fully informed of all the issues involved, the majority of Hawaiian citizens oppose the Akaka Bill.  But that’s not the picture being painted here.  Senator Inouye (along with the entire pro-Akaka Bill industry) continues to propagate the idea that we’re all on the same page out here.  Notice that he even obfuscates Gov. Lingle’s position.  It’s true that her administration supported a version of the Akaka Bill last year (much to our disappointment), but the version currently in the Senate–the one that Inouye is speaking of–is not the same.  In fact, it contains many of the problems that had led the Lingle Administration to raise questions about and oppose the bill in that form.  And while it’s true enough that President Obama has indicated support for the Bill, it’s probably worth noting that the President hasn’t deemed it worth expending any of his political capital on, regardless of how warmly he may feel about Native Hawaiians.

Obviously, Senator Inouye is parroting the pro-Akaka talking points on support for the Bill, but we need to remind Washington that they’re not getting the whole story.

Hearing on Native Hawaiian Contracting Preferences

If you’ve been following our notes on questionable contracting preferences for Native Hawaiian Organizations and Alaska Native Corporations, you’ll know that a few hardworking journalists have been raising questions about these practices, most notably in Hawaii Reporter and the Washington Post.  (Hawaii Reporter has found that Native Hawaiian organizations have been able to use this special status to gain $500 million in reduced-competition or no-bid contracts since 2005.)

Well, finally someone is responding to the questions being raised about the fairness and efficacy of this system.  Senator Inouye has called for hearings on the SBA contracting preference rules.

Oh no–not to pursue the issue about the propriety of the preferences.  Don’t make me laugh.  Senator Inouye would cut taxes or dance nude on Leno before doing that.  No, Senator Inouye is calling for these hearings in order to give supporters of the preferences (especially the organizations that benefit from them) the chance to publicly justify and defend them.  Ain’t democracy grand?

Native Hawaiians and Fed Contracting Preferences

If you have a strong stomach for pork and no family history of high blood pressure, I highly recommend the latest article in Hawaii Reporter on federal contract preferences for Native Hawaiian companies. If you live in a cave without access to television or radio (which might make me wonder how you’re reading this blog), you’ll even be surprised to see that Senator Inouye figures heavily in the awarding of lucrative federal contracts to Native Hawaiian-owned businesses.  If nothing else, the article demonstrates that the stereotype of Native Hawaiian businesses as struggling shoestring operations desperately in need of help is rather ludicrous.  Unless one is so fortunate as to consider $738 million over ten years mere pocket change.  Some highlights from the article:

A handful of Native Hawaiian-owned companies used federal contracting preferences authored by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-HI, to land some $500 million in non-bid or reduced competition government work since 2005, according to federal purchasing records.

Officials, employees and partners of many of the same companies donated nearly $100,000 during the same period to the Inouye election campaign and $100,000 more to other members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, files of the Federal Election Commission show.

. . . .

One of the most successful local companies to land federal contracts is Akimeka Technologies, LLC.

From 2005 to 2010, Akimeka received some $67 million in federal contracts, according to two U.S. government procurement websites.

The company that changed its name this year to Ke’aki Technologies (http://www.keakitech.com/) is now part of a joint business venture called Manu Kai.

Last year, Manu Kai received a $738 million, 10-year contract award from the U.S. Navy to support base operations at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai.

. . . .

Officers and employees of Akimeka/Ke’aki donated $57,500 since 2005 to the political campaigns of Inouye and other prominent Hawaii Democratic politicians, including former Congressman and now-Governor Neil Abercrombie and Congresswoman-elect Colleen Hanabusa.

. . . .

None of the NHO subsidiaries operating here that have received federal contracts is willing to discuss in detail the amount of money they have dedicated to improving the lives of Native Hawaiians.  Few even responded to requests for such information.

David Cooper, president of The Hana Group, Inc. http://www.thehanagroup.com and HBC Management Services, Inc., http://www.thehanagroup.com/ two NHO subsidiaries that have received some $53 million in federal contracts since 2005, said the companies provide financial support to their non-profit parent, Pacific American Foundation.

Thank You, National Review

The omnibus spending spending bill died last week for lack of support. Senator Inouye had inserted into it a mandate for a study to figure out how to make a federally recognized Indian tribe out of persons who have native Hawaiian blood.

Commenting on that insert, National Review online editorialized: “ That’s a reference to the notorious Akaka Bill, an odious piece of segregationist legislation that would establish a race-based government on the Hawaiian archipelago”. That is a great description. Thank you National Review. It now appears that the proposed Bill is road kill. Now if we could only get some prudent management of the grant activity revealed on this website. That’s the mission, please help.

Omnibus Luau

I don’t know why we should be surprised that Senator Inouye is so accomplished at adding pork to the federal budget.  After all, if there’s one thing we love out here, it’s a luau.  But even the most liberal spender might blanch at the provision that Inouye just attempted to slip into the notorious Omnibus Spending Bill:

SEC. 125. The Secretary of the Interior shall, with funds appropriated for fiscal year 2011, and in coordination with the State of Hawaii and those offices designated under the Hawaii State Constitution as representative of the Native Hawaiian community, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and the Attorney General of the United States, examine and make recommendations to Congress no later than September 30, 2011, on developing a mechanism for the reorganization of a Native Hawaiian governing entity and recognition by the United States of the Native Hawaiian governing entity as an Indian tribe within the meaning of Articles I and II of the Constitution.

Allow me to cut through the legislation-ese:  This provision grants an unspecified amount of money for a study (made in cooperation with OHA and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) on implementing the Akaka Bill constitutionally.  If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a blatant pork project, one would be tempted to say something like, “Hey, since you’ve been pushing for this for years, don’t you think it would have been good to address this earlier?”  However, given the nature of politics and the truer meaning of this project, perhaps the best response would be, “Hey, you sure have a lot of nerve funneling money to the two biggest supporters of this legislation to produce a ‘study’ that will support it.”

Transparency?— Not with the Akaka bill

Yesterday there was much talk in Washington, DC that Senator Inouye was planning to attach the Akaka bill (presumably the latest version after major changes) to the Senate Omnibus Spending bill later in December. That would mean that would mean that it would pass without hearings or any other vetting. Indicating that the possibility was real, four seasoned U. S. Senators released statements deploring the idea. See press release here. At about the same time, Hawaii Reporter reported the story and quoted Peter Boylan, Senator Inouye’s spokesman, as saying Inouye was not planning such a move and reaffirming Inouye’s 2009 statement that attachment to an appropriations bill would be “nonsensical”. See text here.

Next was Robert Costa at NRO who reported Senator Inouye told NRO that he would like to bring the bill forward, but “it depends on if we can work out something with amendments”. He then quoted the Senator “We’ve been working on this for over a decade now….. No one can say we’ve been hiding this”. That remark prompted a response from Steven Duffield here.

If you are not confused, you should be. But here is the bottom line: there is no transparency here. GRIH stands for transparency in government. Hawaii’s people do not know anything substantive about this bill and people in government are keeping them in the dark.k

Before statehood in 1959, Hawaii had a Plebiscite. Approval was 94+%. Now a secret “nonsensical” attachment will skirt that? Walk your talk, Senator Inouye.

Organizing Against Reorganization

I am not a Native Hawaiian, nor do I play one on TV.  But, let’s say for the sake of argument that there was a proposal to create a new tribal government for us Hapa Filipinos.  There’s one or two of us in the islands, right?  And now, let’s say that there was a substantial trust and land value tied up in the issue.  (I know, I know.  This part may be hard to imagine, given that many of us have grandfathers who consider the family trust to exist in a coffee can in the sock drawer, but this is a hypothetical exercise.  I have a point, after all–I’m just kinda slow getting there.)  Anyway, being that I’ve never been in a room of more than two Filipino women who didn’t have an opinion on anything from the quality of the homily at church on Sunday to the proper way to make lumpia, I have trouble imagining that there wouldn’t be a strong push for public comment on the proposed Filipino reorganization.

So I find it hard to understand why we haven’t had opportunity for comment on the Akaka Bill yet.  This is the most transformative piece of legislation to hit Hawaii since we became a state.  (Heck, some people might say since the revolution.)  And yet, there’s no push for public hearings on it?  Well–let’s be fair here.  There certainly is a push for public hearings on the part of the public.  Strangely, the politicians involved seem to be more interested in keeping all the wheeling, dealing, and negotiations at a more exclusive level.  And if that’s not enough of an argument for hearings, I don’t know what is.

Therefore, even though I’m not the world’s biggest fan of online petitions (No, I am not going to stop watching TV today in order to send a message to Big Oil.  Burn Notice is on tonight, for goodness sakes!), I think that this one is a worthy one.  It’s a call to stop the Akaka Bill until the people of Hawaii (as well as Native Hawaiians in other parts of the country) get their opportunity to weigh in on the matter.  So click on this link and make your voice heard in the fight to  . . . um . . . make your voice heard.

Promises, (Com)promises

It is, I confess, too easy to mock and criticize politicians.  Maybe it’s the endless weighing of polls and legacies and that finger held constantly to the wind.  Or maybe it’s the obfuscations, the justifications, and the ill-considered legislation.  But politicians do have to think about a lot of things that most of us never bother about.  I mean, do you have any idea how much time they spend fretting over what tie will make them look like a leader of people without conveying a privileged, upper-crust background?  It’s why they all go grey so quickly.

All of this to explain why Gov. Linda Lingle was in a pickle.  Supporting the Akaka Bill gets her grudging accolades from various normally critical groups and looks great on the ol’ legacy meter.  Opposing it . . . doesn’t really do much, politically speaking, except get her the temporary approval of those who secretly think that she’s an unreliable ally.

Oops.  Guess who was right?

As you may have heard, Lingle reversed her previous opposition to the Akaka Bill in a dramatic and widely-trumpted press release and letter to the Senate, explaining at length why she’s totally hunky-dory with the most radical piece of legislation ever to transform an entire state’s culture.  To be fair, I thought that Lingle’s reservations–primarily concerning whether members/leaders of the new Native Hawaiian government would be immune from certain Hawaiian laws–were valid.  And yes, it’s a good thing that they’ve been resolved.  Sort of.

But let’s not pretend that everything is better now.  Notably, one of Lingle’s reservations was not, “will this have enormous unforseen consequences for the economic and social health of my state.”  (See above rant about the concerns of politicians.)

Here’s the part that really gets me about the letter though–the hubris that seems to suggest that now that our illustrious Governor is on board, there’s nothing left to say on that matter.  Au contraire.  I have a lot to say.  Like, “It’s totally disingenuous of the Governor to say in her letter to the Senate that the Akaka Bill just brings Hawaii into line with the other US states that recognize Indian tribes.  This is a completely new and different situation–not the recognition of a tribe, but the creation of one out of a racially mixed former country.”  And, “Just saying that the Bill is constitutional doesn’t make it true.  There are a lot of people hoping to sue the U.S. if this is passed and use the unconstitutionality of Akaka to test other civil rights issues.”

Regardless of what Gov. Lingle’s press office claims, her approval hasn’t solved anything for those of us who truly understand the problems with Akaka.

How Big is Bigger and Who Stands to Gain?

The CEO of OHA, Clyde Namuo, makes remarks in the Honolulu Advertiser of 4/15/10 addressing David Shapiro’s regular column of 4/12/10 opining that Shapiro made some “good observations” but “overlooks the bigger issue of why federal recognition makes sense for Native Hawaiians and for all in Hawaii, in the first place”. He follows that with mostly platitudes, but specifically mentions land, rights and resources “owed” a new Akaka Tribe.

Shapiro, on the other hand, discusses the secret, closed door method used in DC to make the latest changes before they were sprung on then Representative Abercrombie, the Governor, and virtually everyone else, just before the House vote. His observations then turn even darker. Here are some quotes:

“ The Akaka bill would change life in Hawaii in profound ways and confer enormous power on a relative few, but there has been little clear explaination….” Senators Inouye and Akaka “are basicly saying ‘Trust Us’ which many are unwilling to accept on a matter with such enormous impact on local life and so much opportunity for political mischief”

Here are my questions for readers:

Which person outlines the bigger issue?

Which of these two stands to gain power, money, etc if the Akaka bill becomes law?

The best course of action at this time is to stop all consideration and action at this time in the US Senate until extensive educational hearings are held in Hawaii so our people can evaluate and judge what the federal government is planning to do to us or for us and what we think of it. For those of you who like that idea, call an elected official and propose such.