Loyalty, especially in local politics, is a strange thing. At first glance, it seems to be among the most important qualities for those seeking to climb the ladder in a political arena like a state Legislature. And yet journalist Jacob Weisberg has called loyalty “the most overrated virtue in politics” in a Nov. 29, 2008 Slate.com story.
“Surrounding oneself with die-hard loyalists breeds insularity,” Weisberg wrote in the article. “Over time, the fixation with loyalty devolves toward a mafia view of politics that lends itself to abuse of power.
I couldn’t help but recall Weisberg’s analysis when news broke on Friday that state House Majority Floor Leader Karen Awana, D-Nanakuli, was resigning her leadership post. The reason? According to Honolulu Civil Beat’s Oct. 4 story, the thousands of dollars in fines and penalties she had racked up from campaign spending violations stretching back years were becoming too much (an Oct. 4 press release from the Hawaii House of Representatives Majority Office that announced the resignation made no mention of her campaign spending violations, but did say that she “did not want to distract from the important work of the body”).
Given that the state Legislature is just a couple weeks away from going into Special Session on the issue of same-sex marriage, her resignation was prudent. Of course, she could have resigned her seat entirely, but Speaker of the House Joe Souki, D-Wailuku, doesn’t seem to want that. In fact, he’s all for giving Awana a new plum post, once she works everything out with the state Campaign Spending Commission, of course.
“I appreciate all that Representative Awana has done for the House and after much consideration I have accepted her resignation so that she may focus on rectifying her situation,” Souki said the a Oct. 4 press release. “It is my hope that we can move ahead so that we may name her Chair of the newly created Committee on Culture and the Arts & International Affairs in the upcoming legislative session.”
Chairing a new committee? Hey Joe, don’t you think you’re being a little rough on her? I mean, you could try to get her appointed to the state Supreme Court in the next year, but at some point, you’ve got to ask yourself if she hasn’t already been punished enough.
Then again, Awana–who was once a loyalist of former House Speaker Calvin Say–did turn on her old leader and back Joe earlier this year. Given that Awana’s disloyalty to Say (to say nothing of her old disloyalty to the Republican Party, which she left in 2007) helped return Souki to the speakership, I guess it’s only fitting that Souki extend extra loyalty to Awana.