That’s right, folks! The great State of Hawaii has placed in the miserable middle of a 50-state ethics evaluation. According to the The State Integrity Investigation, a partnership of the terribly reputable and thorough Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, Hawaii’s “Corruption Risk Report Card” shows our state receives a passing C. Barely.
While that state scored high on redistricting and having powerful internal auditor Marion Higa, it earned Ds on such subjects as “Public Access to Information,” “Budget Process,” “State Pension Fund Management,” “Judicial Accountability” and the ever-popular “Lobbying Disclosure.” It also failed completely at “State Insurance Commissions.”
Given that most financial disclosure forms filed by public officials are confidential, Governor Neil Abercrombie thumbs his nose at the state’s open records law and officials still accept gifts from lobbyists, it’s not surprising that the state’s score was so mediocre. In fact, the following passages from the assessment, which deal with Maui’s own Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, D-Wailuku, pretty much explain our state government’s ethical approach, and why it’s so problematic:
“State Rep. Joe Souki worked a side job as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council while also voting against a fee for single-use checkout bags,” the assessment team noted. “And in October 2009 he told the Maui County Council’s Infrastructure Management Committee that replacing styrofoam with a natural sugar-based material would not solve solid waste problems and would add cost for Maui retailers, according to meeting minutes.
“Souki made clear that he was testifying not as a lawmaker but as a citizen and as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council [this part comes from a Honolulu Civil Beat article, which you can read here]. Later in the same meeting, Council member Michael Molina asked a styrofoam manufacturer if council members might be able to visit the company’s Oahu production plant when they fly over ‘to network with our legislators like Mr. Souki.’
“House Speaker Calvin Say defended his decision to allow Souki to vote on the bill. ‘Just because he represents that company does not mean he cannot vote up or down on the measure,’ he said.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons