Campaign Cash Flowed To Hawaii Lawmakers As Hot Topics Debated

May 3 was an important day for the Legislature, and a big news day in Hawaii.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the other three county mayors urged Gov. David Ige to extend the legislative session so that lawmakers could reach agreement on legislation to pay for the Honolulu rail rroject.

Later that day, Ige said he would do no such thing until the state House and Senate come up with a rail tax plan that could pass.

By early evening, rumors were flying that Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Speaker Joe Souki would lose their posts. In short time, the talk became fact.

What most people probably did not know was that 12 legislators, including Tokuda, were holding fundraisers that same evening. Honolulu may not have a way to pay to complete rail, but politicians still raise campaign cash even in the midst of political crisis.

A joint fundraiser flier that asked for donations of $100.

Earlier this year Civil Beat wrote about all the legislators who raised money from the beginning of the session in mid-January through March 21. This article lists those who raised money from March 22 through May 3, the day before the session adjourned.

Raising money for political campaigns while deciding the fate of hundreds of bills is not illegal, even though legislators are showered with donations from special interests. But some seem to recognize that it raises ethical questions.

Once again, a few lawmakers introduced a bill this year to stop the practice. But Senate Bill 813, sponsored by Sens. Russell Ruderman, Les Ihara, Will Espero and Gil Riviere, was never heard.

Freshmen Reps. Nadine Nakamura, Chris Todd and Daniel Holt each planned, but later canceled, fundraisers April 12. Nakamura listed Sherry Menor-McNamara, head of Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, as the person in charge of the fundraiser.

But Nakamura, Todd and Holt ended up raising money together May 1 at HASR Bistro, along with two other freshmen representatives, Sean Quinlan and Cedric Gates. Each asked for $50.

Reps. Kaniela Ing and Justin Woodson held a fundraiser March 21 at Mandalay restaurant, with suggested donations ranging from $25 to $2,000. They were not included in the previous fundraiser story, as the notices were not posted online at the time the article was published.

State Legislators’ Campaign Fundraisers, March 22 – May 5

Source: Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission