Friday, February 19, 2016

Musings: Gaming the System

In listening to the Kauai County Council debate its proposed lobbyist registration bill, I finally understood why Councilman Gary Hooser always submits his legislative testimony on county letterhead. 

By pretending that he's acting in his “official capacity,” when he's really representing his HAPA group, he can evade state lobbying rules.

It's just so fascinating that Gary has introduced this bill, trying to make it look like he's getting tough on lobbyists, when in reality, he himself is gaming the system.

Gary kept using the phrase “to influence government” while describing the role of a lobbyist.

Isn't that what he's been doing, flying over to the Lege to submit testimony on bills that reflect the mission statement, values and political goals of his HAPA group, but have nothing to do with the county agenda?

Isn't that what he's doing with his blog, and his guest commentaries, which are replete with calls to contact lawmakers? Isn't that what he's doing with the HAPA political candidate training academy?

Heck, Hooser is even quoted in The Garden Island — along with duly registered lobbyist Ashley Lukens of Center for Food Safety — on the deferral of a House bill involving school buffer zones. Why not ask one of our state representatives for a comment? What is Gary's connection to that bill, other than he and Ashley fed TGI the story?

Yet there he is, baldly trying to influence government, with his comment:

“I think we need to replace, statewide, some of these legislators with people who are more concerned about people’s health and the environment.”

Gary has also tried to take refuge behind the fact that he doesn't get paid as president of HAPA.

Still, as Council Chair Mel Rapozo noted, without specifically referencing Hooser:

“Just because you're not on the payroll doesn't mean you're not a lobbyist.” 

Gary also wants to include a provision that would allow invited guests of the Council to evade registering as lobbyists. But Mel balked: “We could invite corporate lobbyists or attorneys and can have them up here as long as they want trying to convince the Council; he can buy us gifts, take us to dinner, etc., but because he's been invited, he's exempt from the law. That doesn't seem right.”

However, that loophole language remains in the amended bill that goes before full Council next Wednesday. It needs to be yanked.

Regardless of Gary's “official capacity,” it certainly seems that he and HAPA fit the lobbyist definition under this provision:

Each person who spends seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or more of the person’s or any other person’s money, including, but not limited to, amounts spent on print, electronic, broadcast or other media during the reporting period for the purpose of attempting to influence legislative or administrative action or a ballot issue by communicating or urging others to communicate with with Kauai County public officials.

And certainly Gary could not accept another free trip to Switzerland, or Grateful Dead tickets, under this provision:

No elected official or official of an administrative agency shall solicit, accept, or receive, directly or indirectly, any gift, whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, thing, or promise or in any other form, under circumstances in which it can be reasonably be inferred that the gift is intended to influence the elected official or official of an administrative agency in the performance of the elected official’s or official of an administrative agency’s official duties or is intended as a reward for any official action on the elected official’s... part.

In other political news, it's election time at KIUC, with three spots open and five candidates running. It's easy to identify the best three: Jan TenBruggencate, the current Board chair who made a career of science journalism and is now devoting his retirement to community service; Mina Morita, the former PUC Chair who brings a wealth of experience to the position; and incumbent Calvin Murashige, the retired judge who is thoughtful, akamai and well-versed in utility matters.

Coop members would be lucky to have these three people on the Board.

At the recent candidate's forum, failed KIUC candidate Jonathan Jay tried to make a big deal out of KIUC's hydro projects in Wailua, claiming those diversions were “stealing water" from taro farmers downstream.

Per usual for the KKCR kooks, he's woefully misinformed. The only taro farmer down there is Adam Asquith, and he gets his water from another diversion, the East County Water Users Cooperative, which serves numerous small farms and the Hindu monastery – the one place on Kauai that is truly self-sufficient.

Jonathan and his fellow KKCR dj Felicia Cowden were all huhu about Jan's supposedly “aggressive” response to Jonathan's bogus claim. Yeah, anytime you call them on their bullshit, you're aggressive, angry, brain damaged or mean.

Nope, just tired of people who willfully misinform the public. 

As for Felicia, she's obviously gearing up for another Council run, having elbowed poor Glenn Mickens out of his usual spot in the Council chambers so she can be the one who shows up on the TV camera. 

She needs to give up her show, as it's a clear conflict of interest, just like Gary's presidency of HAPA while he's being paid as a Councilman. (Note I did not say "serving" on the Council.)


Anonymous said...

Wow Joan. Good post! It never crossed my mind that the group in Switzerland invited Hooser to speak because they were trying to influence government action on Kauai. The twists and turns of this saga are fascinating.

Joan Conrow said...

You must have missed all the local coverage that Gary and HAPA lined up to promote his Switzerland trip. He's still milking it locally. In fact, that junket had little to do with Switzerland and everything to do with Kauai and Hawaii. But glad you're finally waking up!

Anonymous said...

speaking of which, I wonder what brings Councilman Hooser to the squared capitol today?

Anonymous said...

It's interesting, now that his cushy Council gig is on the line, Hooser has gone all smarmy and is struggling to be all things to all people.It is really time for the people of Kauai to dump this duplicitous politician. He has had way too many bites at the public apple, and has tainted his responsibilities to the point where his constant intriguing is revolting.It is hard to see how his intimate involvement with HAPA, CFS, Surfrider, SHAKA and devotion to the litany of their anti-science,his poisonous dissembling on behalf of their party line, coupled with the use of his official position to push their agenda do not amount to LOBBYING.He should be the first to register as a lobbyist. I hope to miss his ever so sincere rictus come December.

Joan Conrow said...

And here we have clear evidence that Hooser and his group are lobbying, with HAPA soliciting signatures to specifically influence government. Yet neither Hooser nor anyone from HAPA has registered as a lobbyist, as required by law:

Anonymous said...

Felicia Cowden is now aligning herself with Terry Lilley, spreading stupid. She also shouted fears that trees on the Hanalei hills were dying because of some nefarious acts by unidentified assailants. turns out they have been shedding leaves for decades, they are deciduous. Idiot.

Anonymous said...

Joan as much as it looks like you got them I have spent some time looking into this and it seems to me that they will wiggle away on this. The rule seems to be 5 hours during any month of the reporting period and does not include travel or time spent preparing testimony. HAPA has seemingly spent zero time testifying this year, and best I can figure last year only rare occasion actually showing up. As you know pushing send on an email only takes seconds. Same with the $750 rule. Email, Twitter and FaceBook promotion cost nothing and takes only minutes to post. The petition app they are using is also apparently a free platform. While they may be loud and frequent, they are actually spending very little time and money on this. At least as far as I can tell. And probably missing something.

Joan Conrow said...

That's why I titled it Gaming the System. Hooser and HAPA are clearly lobbying, just as it's clear that HAPA is a political advocacy group masquerading as a nonprofit. But busting them is not easy. So it's up to the voters to tell Gary they won't tolerate his scam.

Anonymous said...

Joan I still don't understand how Hooser going to Switzerland and speaking to various groups and Syngenta shareholders translates to him inappropriately lobbying? Who is being lobbied? Just trying to understand.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Hooser go to Switzerland to tell the people there to stop poisoning Kauai. It reminded me of Gulliver's Travel.

Joan Conrow said...

I wrote about the TVRs extensively. And yes, she still has my support, and since she's far and away the best qualified, she should have yours.

Anonymous said...

I agree she's well qualified but being a long time State employee, she should have had more scruples than to operate an illegal TVR, especially after receiving several notifications. Others are doing it too, but multiple wrongs don't make one right.