by Malia Blom Hill, Grassroot Institute
When you picture special interest groups and government lobbyists, you probably imagine corporate fat cats hiring sleazy lawyers to get them favors and interests from legislators. (This also indicates that you've heard too many John Edwards speeches.) Putting aside whether the unfairness of this image (unfairness to the business owners, that is--I wouldn't dream of trying to defend the lawyers), it turns out that it doesn't even correctly identify Hawaii's biggest lobbying spenders. Want to know who spent the most money trying to influence Congress so far this year?
Well, Hawaii's taxpayers are certainly up there. It turns out that in the first quarter of the year, government agencies in Hawaii spent more money lobbying in Washington, D.C. than private business did. According to Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii state and local government spent about $185,000 on D.C. lobbying, compared to about $122,500 from Hawaii's private businesses over the same period. Unsurprisingly, the biggest state spenders were the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (which continues to push for the Akaka Bill) and InfraConsult, Inc. (which lobbies on behalf of Honolulu's rapid transit project).
Yes, the state spends taxpayer dollars to lobby in Washington for more taxpayer dollars. (And on behalf of issues that have significant public opposition back here in the Islands.) And then they raise our taxes. If that isn't an argument for more fiscal accountability in our spendthrift government, I don't know what is.
Malia Blom Hill is Project Manager for HawaiiSunshine.org and 4HawaiiansOnly.com.