Hawaii anti-GMO groups are pushing their candidate slate hard in the upcoming Primary, offering more evidence that securing political power is their underlying goal.
But with nearly all of the funding for these groups coming from outside Hawaii, the question becomes, who really benefits if their power grab succeeds?
The most vocal entity in this political machine is the Hawaii Center for Food Safety Political Action Fund. Tax documents show that its parent organization, Center for Food Safety, took in $3.5 million in 2014. CFS spent $738,569 on the Hawaii office that year, and a total of $425,000 on lobbying. But that's all the information that it has disclosed, and it has yet to release its 2015 return.
So Hawaii voters have no way of knowing who is bankrolling the group's political activities in the Islands, or how much the Washington,D.C.-based CFS is spending to influence elections here.
Other players are the tawdry Babes Against Biotech, which echoes CFS stances and reposts its social media memes; the smarmy Kuleana Coalition for Change, which is soliciting “anonymous” donations to support Maui candidates on the CFS slate; and HAPA, the political advocacy group masquerading as an educational nonprofit, which was founded by Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser and trained several of the slate candidates through its Kuleana Academy.
According to its 2014 tax return — 2015 is not yet available — HAPA has spent its money producing propaganda and holding meetings. Though I previously disclosed that HAPA had received a grant from CFS, HAPA has not disclosed any of its funders.
So how is this totally non-transparent political machine working to influence elections? Using the same kind of deceptive, fear-mongering tactics that have characterized all of its actions in Hawaii:
The CFS PAC is hosting “virtual phone banks,” where callers are directed to share messages like:
Our keiki can't vote for legislators who will protect them from pesticide drift, but we can and it's up to us!
Join citizen volunteers across Hawai'i calling voters from home to make a proven difference for our keiki! Starting at 3PM, a quick and easy training online then jump on the phones to help change Hawaii's agricultural future forever.
[CALLING ALL FOODIES] We need your help! One of the most effective ways to create real change is electing leaders who share your values and will pass legislation to create the future we all want to see for Hawaiʻi!
The "future we all want to see for Hawaii"? I'm reminded of the old Lone Ranger-Tonto joke, with the punchline, “Who is 'we,' white man?"
In order not to run afoul of the IRS, the CFS PAC claims to be “a non-candidate, non-partisan, not-for-profit committee. The activities of this committee are not conducted in coordination with any individual candidate.”
No, not any individual candidate, just their “true food” slate of candidates. Oh, and Rep. Kaniela Ing, since they're doing a phone bank for him. And one for Tiare Lawrence, who is also seeking to represent Maui in the state House.
They've also got a little deal going with Sen. Russell Ruderman, who is facing Councilman Greggor Ilagan in the Democratic primary. In soliciting volunteers on the Big Island, the CFS PAC promises those who “reach the most voters” a $10 gift card to Ruderman's store, Island Naturals. Kinda sounds like "coordination with an individual candidate to me."
Though its funding is non-transparent, the group has been quite clear about the sort of politics it supports. It recently lauded Rep. Chris Lee's $2 million organic tax credit bill:
Besides discriminating against small conventional farmers, the bill was passed through the reprehensible “gut-and-replace” method, earning it this year's Rusty Scalpel Award from Common Cause Hawaii and the League of Women Voters. According to League President Ann Shaver:
“This makes a travesty of the democratic process.”
How ironic, then, that it's celebrated by the very same folks who have joined a campaign claiming Monsanto is “poisoning democracy” by challenging the Maui GMO moratorium in court.
The group is also quite open about how it will influence Hawaii elections:
We will use your donation to:
Pay phone bankers and canvassers to get out the vote
Send educational mailers to voters in key legislative districts
Buy ad space in local newspapers and counter the agrichemical industry’s messaging in corporate media.
Which raises another question: Are local voters truly served by candidates running on a very narrow pro-organic, anti-pesticide, anti-GMO, anti-conventional farming platform?
Meanwhile, Hooser is desperately seeking to broaden his appeal among local voters, which prompted him to record a backyard video for Facebook, in which he tells us, in a weird third person narrative:
Nobody likes smoke meat, or likes a BBQ, more than Gary Hooser does.
He's madly trying to distance himself from his failed fireplace bill, which, despite his protestations to the contrary, most assuredly could have been used to ban backyard barbecues, smoke meat, cooking in imu, or the roasting of marshmallows on an open fire, as well as torch lightings, fireplaces or the burning of wood, charcoal or gas.
Though Hooser has his loyal sheeple, many others are smart enough to see through his shibai:
Kalani Kapuniai Nobody likes smoke meat more then the guy who tried to stop us Hawaiians from actually making smoke meat... Let the fires smoke! Let the dogs bark! Time to wake up Kauai. I'm not well educated in politician terms but I do know what's going on. And I know this is election year, and to win in an election you need to cast a large number of votes.. And I can help you with that. Go make it right with the real people and leave the puppet shows for story time in keiki corner.. And trust me... Those are where the votes come from... People vote for real people.