by Andrew Walden (Originally published December 4, 2010)
Ever since ex-Governor John Waihee in 1995 proposed transferring Bishop Estate HQ to the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation, Hawaii’s corrupt political operators have dreamed of their own tribal jurisdiction to protect them from prosecution as they loot the Hawaiian patrimony. Towards that end, the Akaka Bill was first introduced—just six months beyond the ouster of the Broken Trustees. After a decade of trying, this was the year the Akaka Gang supposedly had all its ducks lined up in a row. Democrats controlled the House and Senate and the White House was occupied by a President who said “get it on my desk and I will sign it.”
But it did not happen. The Akaka Bill has crashed and burned for what may be the final time. And the finger pointing is well underway.
The Star-Advertiser’s Richard Borreca, November 21, blames Obama’s US Justice Department: “The Akaka Bill ran into unspecified trouble last year with the Obama representatives in the U.S. Justice Department, who wanted changes to the bill.”
Outgoing OHA Trustee Walter Heen December 2 also blames the Obama administration: “…the White House amended it so as to provide the Native Hawaiian Governing Entity with the attributes of sovereignty upon its establishment, before beginning negotiations with the federal and state governments over the distribution of land and governmental authority. The White House staff discussed this initiative with the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA), which persuaded Akaka's staff to present the amendment to the senate committee. It does not appear that the proposed amendments were previously discussed with Hawaii's senators or with Lingle. They were not discussed with OHA.”
The White House may be the most convenient punching bag, but it is not that simple. The DoJ’s point man on the Akaka Bill, Deputy Associate US Attorney General Sam Hirsch, in not an Obama loyalist. His ties are to Inouye. Hirsch got his start as a political appointee back in 1987 as a press aide to Senator Daniel Inouye’s Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition.
How important was this relatively minor appointment to Hirsch? When he testified on behalf of the US DoJ at the August 6, 2009 Hearing on S1011 Akaka Bill, his wife and children were in the audience. The always-grandfatherly Senator Dan Akaka invited Hirsch to “introduce your family and brag on them a little bit.” Hirsch waved his arm and said, “there they are” and instead of introducing them, launched into what may be Washington’s smarmiest-ever expression of bootlicking thanks to Senator Inouye for hiring him all those years ago.
Publicly, Inouye offered no resistance as Abercrombie and Akaka re-wrote the Akaka Bill to establish instant criminal and civil jurisdiction and limit membership to “Qualified Native Hawaiian Constituents”--potentially excluding more than 73% of all Native Hawaiians. This maneuver, conducted behind the back of Governor Lingle—and according to Heen, behind the backs of OHA--cost the Akaka Bill’s is last best chance for passage by forcing Lingle and Bennett to come out in opposition. Even after Lingle made her opposition clear and House Republicans blocked passage of the new version of the Akaka Bill in the House Committee of Natural Resources—forcing Abercrombie to pass the old version--Inouye did nothing to stop Abercrombie from introducing the new version as an amendment by substitution on the House floor, winning its passage on his last day in Congress.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Inouye sabotaged the measure by allowing Akaka and Abercrombie enough rope to hang themselves.
Now we know, when the finger of blame is pointed at the Obama administration, it was a Dan Inouye crony who was doing all the talking on the administration’s behalf.
No wonder Inouye’s people are spreading rumors of another Akaka Bill sneak attack during this lame duck session. He needs a cover story.
NOTE: Heen December 2 also offers an explanation of where the 73% exclusionary membership rules came from, writing: “(Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement) had its own ideas and constantly sought to advance the entitlements of the Hawaiian Home Land ‘homesteaders.’" Most of the exclusionary rules were designed to maximize participation by DHHL beneficiaries while blocking other Hawaiians but leaving loopholes for politically connected activists to slip in. See: Akaka Bill: More than 73% of Hawaiians not "Qualified" for membership in Akaka Tribe