Back when the anti-GMO/pesticide regulatory Bill 2491 was snaking its way through the Kauai County Council, a woman named Jen Ruggles came to my attention.
I wrote about her because she claimed she saw Beth Tokioka, then county spokeswoman, texting two Councilwoman in a supposed attempt to orchestrate a take down of Bill 2491.The bill, as you may recall, was ultimately passed by the Council, vetoed by the mayor, upheld by the Council and then overturned by the courts. It's now on appeal.
Councilman Gary Hooser piled on, referencing Jen's claims in a memo to the mayor, in which he demanded to know whether his administration was improperly influence the vote. In my post, I challenged their account, maintaining that Jen was a paid political activist with the Pesticide Action Network who was engaged in a dirty tricks campaign with Hooser.
Sen. Russell Ruderman rushed to her defense in comments:
I will say that Jennifer Ruggles has the highest personal integrity, and I will swear by that. She is a respected activist with clear morals and the best intent.
Jen came to my attention again today, posed here with her friend, patron and co-conspirator, Gary Hooser, whom she praised for “responsible leadership” after he donated to her Big Island County Council race.
Curious, I went to Jen's campaign website, which features a banner photo of the Bill 2491 victory crowd. I was quite interested to find she had listed this job as part of her experience:
Pesticide Action Network North America Community Organizer (2013 KAUAI, HI)
Built coalition, core team, facilitated meetings, recruited 60 endorsers, engaged over 50 volunteers into action teams, worked with and lobbied council members and organized largest march in Kauai history. Coordinated campaign that successfully passed a bill to protect community from irresponsible GMO pesticide spray.
Ah, so the woman of “highest personal integrity” and "clear morals" finally admits she was working as a paid lobbyist when she and Gary orchestrated their little charade. But Jen never, ever identified herself as such at the time, even in a 2013 letter to The Garden Island:
I live in Kauai and recently participated in the democratic process for the first time. I sat through over 65 hours of testimony and deliberation. For all you elected officials out there, I hope that one day you will remember what it’s like to be a citizen engaged in the democratic process for the first time. Do you remember thinking the public’s testimony actually affected your representative’s decision? Uphold the people’s faith in the democratic process.
Only now are we able to confirm — through her own admission — that this virgin of the democratic process was actually a paid lobbyist who had worked on Sen. Ruderman's campaign and a number of other Big Island initiatives when she penned her phony letter.
And only now are we able to confirm that PAN, a mainland-based advocacy group, was building the coalition, running meetings, recruiting volunteers, lobbying politicians, even organizing the big march on Rice Street — in short, orchestrating every move and tactic of a movement that was being passed off as grassroots, Kauai-based, a spontaneous uprising of the island's truly concerned citizenry.
What a crock!
As Jen herself admits, while working for PAN she:
Coordinated campaign that successfully passed a bill to protect community from irresponsible GMO pesticide spray.
Yet even as Jen was actively engaged in political advocacy work, neither she nor PAN had registered in Hawaii as lobbyists. Instead, they maintained the charade that they were involved in 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational work.
And now we're seeing the Joint Fact Finding Group reference pesticide drift tests that were paid for by PAN, and conducted by Hawaii SEED, as evidence that drift occurs and reason to impose buffer zones, disclosure and other requirements on the seed industry.
Yes, Jen, let's let's "uphold the people's faith in a democratic process" where undisclosed and unregistered lobbyists are paid by mainland groups to influence politics on Hawaii, working in tandem with elected officials who claim to be leading a grassroots campaign.
Yes, Jen, let's "uphold the people’s faith in the democratic process" even as your very actions reveal it as a total sham.
Oh, and Jen is also featured prominently — along with Fern Rosensteil, Malia Chun, Andrea Brower and others — in this disturbing video of the screaming-crying theatrics that accompanied the mayor's veto.
It's worth another look, just in case you forgot the ugly insanity of that time — and the folks behind it.