Group files ethics complaint against Hawaii congressman
by Kim Jarrett, The Center Square, April 19, 2022
(The Center Square) - A nonprofit watchdog group filed a complaint against U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, alleging conflict of interest and abuse of Congress' proxy voting rules.
Kahele serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Aviation Subcommittee. He is employed as a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines and voted on four bills that affected the aviation industry, the the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) said in its complaint.
"The employment relationship is one that would, at a minimum, give the appearance the Member was unable to act impartially or that the employer has special access to the Member," the group said in its complaint. "Moreover, this is a case where a stricter conflict of interest analysis applies because Kahele is cosponsoring legislation and taking action as a committee member that directly affects his outside employer, which is further evidenced by Hawaiian Airlines lobbying on the bills Kahele cosponsored and the subject matter of the committee."
Kahele also voted by proxy more than 120 times this year, the organization alleges. He filed a letter with the House of Representatives clerk that said it was due to the public health emergency, according to the complaint.
That was not the case, FACT alleges.
”For each of his 120 proxy votes, Kahele stated he was 'unable to physically attend' House proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic,'" the organization added in its complaint. "However, it clearly appears that was not the reason Kahele did not vote in person for approximately three months. Rather, seemingly it was because he was attending other public and political events during this time."
A spokesman from Kahele's office did not immediately return a message requesting comment.
Kahele has hinted at but not confirmed that he would run for governor of Hawaii, according to published reports. Gov. David Ige is term limited and cannot serve another four years.
A former Hawaii state senator, Kahele was first elected to Congress in January 2021.
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FACT Calls for Investigation into Rep. Kai Kahele
Evidence shows Rep. Kahele (HI) ignored House ethics laws regarding conflicts of interest and proxy voting
News Release from FACT
Washington, D.C.— April 19, 2022— Today, the non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), filed a complaint requesting the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigate Congressman Kai Kahele of Hawaii for presenting conflict of interest concerns and abuse of proxy voting.
The House Ethics rules require Members to refrain from taking official action when the Member has a conflict of interest, and it applies to both an apparent or actual conflict.
Rep. Kahele worked as pilot for Hawaiian Airlines before becoming a Member of Congress and reported both he and his wife earned income from the company in 2020. Since becoming a Member, Kahele continues to be affiliated with Hawaiian Airlines and earns income from the company, while also simultaneously serving on a Congressional committee and co-sponsoring bills that directly affect his outside employer Hawaiian Airlines. In 2021, Rep. Kahele co-sponsored four bills that directly affected the aviation industry, all of which Hawaiian Airlines lobbied on, including a bill that provided tax credits to the airline industry.
Additionally, as of May 15, 2020, House Ethics rules authorized the ability to vote by proxy at any time after the Speaker of the House was notified by Sergeant-At-Arms that a "public health emergency due to a novel coronavirus is in effect." Thus, the purpose of proxy voting must be due to a "public health emergency" and the procedure of proxy voting was not permitted for any other purpose.
Evidence shows Rep. Kahele voted by proxy 120 times due to being "unable to physically attend" House proceedings because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has become increasingly clear that this may not be the reason Rep. Kahele did not vote in person for approximately three months as he was attending other public and political events during this same period.
"The ethics rules function to maintain the integrity of government action, and the Office of Congressional Ethics is responsible for ensuring each Representative fulfills the public trust inherent in the office and that they comply with the House’s ethical standards. Therefore, we urge the Board to immediately investigate Representative Kahele for taking official action in violation of the conflict of interest rules and for abusing the proxy vote," said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT.
A full copy of the complaint can be found here.
FACT is a nonprofit organization to promoting accountability, ethics, and transparency in government and civic arenas. For more on FACT, visit: http://www.factdc.org/
Conservative Group Targets Kahele Over Possible Ethics Violations
Civil Beat, April 19, 2022: … The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, lodged the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics on Tuesday….
The foundation’s request for an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics comes after Civil Beat reported last week that Kahele had asked his colleagues to cast votes on his behalf at least 120 times since the beginning of the year while he stayed home in the islands and laid the foundation for a possible run for governor.
The story gained national attention, and led to even more questions about Kahele’s work for Hawaiian Airlines, for which he continues to fly part time after the company and his union, the Air Line Pilots Association, crafted a special leave of absence provision in the pilot’s contract that appears to benefit only him.
The FACT complaint homed in on Kahele’s work on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — he serves on the aviation subcommittee — and several pieces of legislation he co-sponsored that Hawaiian Airlines lobbied to support. Kahele’s wife also works for Hawaiian Airlines.
“The employment relationship is one that would, at a minimum, give the appearance the Member was unable to act impartially or that the employer has special access to the Member,” the complaint states. “The conflict of interest is clear.”
The organization also called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to probe Kahele’s use of proxy voting, which was allowed starting in May 2020 so that members could avoid spreading the deadly Covid-19 virus.
Kahele’s office has defended his time away from Washington, saying that he lives in a multi-generational household and is worried about new coronavirus variants. In numerous letters filed with the House Clerk’s Office, Kahele wrote essentially the same thing, saying that he needed to vote remotely “due to the ongoing public health emergency.”
A review of his social media accounts, however, told a different story.
According to the Foundation’s complaint, on days that Kahele was having his colleagues cast votes for him on the House floor he posted numerous photos of himself out in the islands at various social and political gatherings.
The complaint includes screenshots from Kahele’s own Twitter account as proof.
“For each of his 120 proxy votes, Kahele stated he was ‘unable to physically attend’ House proceedings due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the complaint states.
“However, it clearly appears that was not the reason Kahele did not vote in person for approximately three months. Rather, seemingly it was because he was attending other public and political events during this time.”…
read … Conservative Group Targets Kahele Over Possible Ethics Violations
AP: Rep. Kai Kahele among top users of controversial proxy voting