On Wednesday December 16 Representative Neil Abercrombie tried to get the House Committee on Natural Resources to pass a dangerous, heavily amended version of H.R.2314. But in the end he set aside the amended version and the committee passed the unamended version. Abercrombie gave up the fight so he can resign soon to run for Governor, without waiting for the next committee markup meeting in February. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed S.1011 the next day with the same dangerous, heavily amended language that Abercrombie had tried to push through the House committee. Links are provided to the text of both versions, and to important last-minute letters from Governor Lingle opposing the amended version, and from Hawaiian race-based institutions supporting it. The House bill will probably be amended later to conform to the amended Senate version, regardless of Abercrombie's absence.
In the process Abercrombie has offended Hawaii's Governor and Attorney General by hiding the new version of the bill from them until the last minute, offended Hawaii's race-based institutions by placing more importance on his run for Governor than on passing the new version they had worked very hard to produce, offended his colleagues on the committee by asking them to pass an amended version of the bill immediately as a favor to him after he had kept the new version secret from them until the last minute., and offended the people of Hawaii by trying to impose upon them without their knowledge or consent a very dangerous giveaway of state sovereignty. Should a man who lacks integrity, doesn't finish what he started, and places his own ego above the needs of his colleagues and constituents be entrusted with the Governorship?
As usual for the previous several Congresses, the Akaka bill was introduced very early in the first session. Unlike previous Congresses, three astonishingly different versions of the bill were introduced on three different dates as companion bills (matched pairs) in both the House and Senate during a period of 13 weeks! The first version was introduced on February 4, 2009 as S.381 and H.R.862; the second version was introduced on March 25 as S.708 and H.R.1711, and the third version was introduced on May 7 as S.1011 and H.R.2314. All three versions had been introduced at various times in previous Congresses from 2000 through 2008, but at no time were all three versions active simultaneously. Numerous other versions introduced in previous years were left behind in 2009.
The third version of 2009 had actually been introduced as a last-minute decoy in the Senate in 2006 just days before a cloture morion was filed to bring the second version to the floor. Hawaii Senators Akaka and Inouye were obviously trying to fool the media, and their colleagues, into thinking the third version (with strong protections for the State of Hawaii by limiting the powers of the Akaka tribe) would be the real bill, even while the cloture motion specifically named the second version (without those protections) as the bill that would come to the floor. But the cloture motion fell four votes short and the Akaka bill was basically dead for the remainder of the 109th Congress.
For information about the protections in the third version of 2009 (which had been the final version previously), which were stripped out in the first version of 2009, see
For information about the second version of 2009, see
Why were three very different versions of the bill introduced in the early months of the 111th Congress even before any hearing was held? There are three possible explanations, all of which are frightening.
Perhaps it was a deceptive shell game, as was attempted in 2006 -- do the magicians' trick of waving something in one hand to attract attention while doing something dark and hidden with the other hand. See "Akaka Bill Shell Game" at
Perhaps three bills in 13 weeks indicated confusion among the Hawaii delegation and Hawaii's race-based institutions -- different factions making conflicting demands could all be placated by seeing their wishes given official acknowledgment. Perhaps it was intended all along that a fourth version, very dangerous to the State of Hawaii, would be introduced as a last-minute substitute so suddenly that opposition from State politicians and citizens could not be mobilized in time to stop it -- and that's what happened.
The third version of 2009 was the only one that actually had hearings in 2009. Thus the first two versions appear to have been abandoned only a couple months after they had been introduced. The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on H.R.2314, with testimony, on June 11 (Kamehameha Day). A markup in that committee was scheduled for July 9 but was suddenly cancelled late on July 8 after Hawaii's race-based institutions loudly protested both privately and publicly that this version of the bill had too many restrictions on the powers of the future Akaka tribe. The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held its hearing on S.1011, with testimony, on August 6.
From mid-August through early December the Akaka bill was only rarely mentioned in the media. Between October 20 and November 20 there was no mention of it whatsoever.
Around December 8-9 some very careful sleuthing on the websites of the House and Senate committees revealed that markup meetings would soon be held; but the presence of the Akaka bill on the agendas for those meetings was (intentionally) buried below the surface. Friday evening December 11 a news report was published in Hawaii Reporter, a day before any other newspaper or TV station, telling the dates and agendas for the following week's markups. The House committee would meet the morning of Wednesday December 16, and the Senate committee would meet the afternoon of Thursday December 17.
Clearly a secret agreement had been made between Hawaii's Congressional delegation and Hawaii's race-based institutions regarding the new version of the bill to be introduced as a substitute for the original bill in both markup meetings. But Governor Lingle, Attorney General Bennett, and other Republican Congressional committee members had been deliberately kept in the dark about the text of the amended version and even the fact that the bill was to be considered only a few days later.
The Republican leader on the House committee was given the text of the substitute bill, as required by House rules, but only toward the end of the week. Recognizing the radical nature of the proposed substitute, he sent it to Governor Linda Lingle, who had heard nothing at all about it before then. On the Senate side there had been zero information given to Governor Lingle and, apparently, zero to any Republicans on the Senate committee. On Tuesday December 15, the day before the committee meeting, Governor Lingle and Attorney General Mark Bennett sent a strongly worded letter to the House committee containing strong objections to the concept of the new bill and to specific provisions in it (as well as objection to the fact that the Governor had been kept ignorant of the existence of the new bill). That letter was then immediately sent by Democrats on the committee to various Hawaiian race-based institutions who are pushing the bill; and some of those institutions sent letters in rebuttal, also on Tuesday December 15. Links to those letters can be found at the end of this essay.
Governor Lingle and Attorney general Bennett have strongly supported the Akaka bill throughout their first seven years in office. Apparently they were either stupid or naive in failing to understand that the relationship between a state and an Indian tribe is adversarial, not collaborative. Once a tribe gets federal recognition, it inevitably comes to possess the powers contained in the amended Senate bill which Lingle and Bennett consider to be "drastic" and very inappropriate for Hawaii. Tribes get supported by Congress, and the full power of the federal government is brought to bear against the state whenever disputes arise. Some over-used metaphors seem to accurately describe the relationship Lingle and Bennett have had with the Akaka bill and Hawaii's race-based institutions: They have reaped the whirlwind, let the genie out of the bottle, grabbed a tiger by the tail, spit into the wind, and tugged on Superman's cape.
Meanwhile, perhaps because of the Hawaii Reporter article of Friday December 11, ethnic Hawaiian secessionists found out about the upcoming committee meetings, and figured out that one likely reason for holding them in mid-December was to quickly pass the bill through both committees and thereby make the bill eligible to be added as a rider on some major must-pass legislation that was about to be rammed through Congress before Christmas -- for example, the defense appropriations bill, or the healthcare bill.
On Sunday December 13 the secessionists urgently called for a rally to be held Monday morning at 7 AM at the state Capitol to protest Senator Inouye's "sneak attack." About a hundred protesters showed up. On Monday Senator Inouye issued an angry statement denying that he had ever suggested adding the Akaka bill as a rider to the defense appropriations bill (but he did not deny that anyone else had made such a suggestion, and he did not deny that the Governor had been kept in the dark). Senator Akaka and Representative Abercrombie both gave the appearance of apologizing to the Governor, saying they had no intention of keeping the new bill secret from her, and saying they would consult with her before the bill goes to the floor for final passage.
The House committee hearing was webcast live on the internet. It lasted for five hours, with three lengthy recesses to allow for members to go to the House floor to cast votes on procedural matters and some bills of national importance. The Republican leader of the committee described the far-reaching changes proposed in Abercrombie's amended version of the bill, which most committee members had not yet had time to read; and offered a motion to postpone consideration of the bill until mid-February to allow 60 days for everyone to study it. Someone pointed out that Abercrombie was very eager to pass the bill immediately, because he is planning to resign to run for Governor and this would probably be his final meeting with the committee where he has served for many years (so if the committee fails to pass the bill right now, then he won't be around when it comes up in a couple of months).
The motion to postpone was defeated. But during the next recess, the committee stayed out much longer than was necessary (floor action is televised on C-SPAN), presumably so members could jawbone Abercrombie to back off the amended version. When the committee returned to its meeting room and the cameras were turned back on, Abercrombie announced that he was withdrawing his amendment so that the committee can go ahead and pass the unamended bill. After further discussion and more Republican amendments which failed, the committee passed the bill unamended. Abercrombie handed out chocolate covered macadamia nuts; several committee members gave speeches praising Abercrombie's work over the years and what a fine fellow he is and how much weight he bench-presses in the gymnasium; and then Abercrombie gave a tearful, stammering speech about his years of service and how he is pleased that his career on the committee is ending with what he regards as his most important accomplishment (passing the Akaka bill).
Despite the fond farewells, Representative Abercrombie came out of these events looking to people on all sides like something a dog leaves behind on the street. He placed his committee colleagues in the awkward position of wanting more time to consider the huge changes in the Akaka bill but not wanting to force Abercrombie to stay in Congress until the next committee meeting two months later. He tried to keep Hawaii's Governor and Attorney General from finding out about his new bill until it would be too late for them to respond; and then he sheepishly told them the lie no harm or deception was intended. He intends to resign in the next few weeks even knowing it will cost the State a couple million dollars during a severe recession to hold a special election, or else half the people of Hawaii will be without any representation in the House for nearly a year.
To serve his own selfish need to resign early in order to run for Governor, Abercrombie withdrew a new version of the bill which had been worked on very hard by leaders of Hawaii's race-based institutions for several months -- even while that same new bill was passed easily by the Senate committee the following day. Thus, when crunch-time came, Abercrombie lost his nerve and failed to follow through, letting down his buddies in Hawaii in order to serve his ego and get his all-important favorite bill passed in whatever form it could be passed -- a fatal personality flaw in a politician who wants to be Governor. He behaves like a bombastic arrogant buffoon, but is the odds-on favorite to with the nomination and election in a state that keeps sending far-left radicals to Congress and to the state legislature.
The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs meeting was not made available as a webcast. The only news reporting said the bill was the amended version offered by Senator Akaka, and it passed unanimously on a voice vote. Thus it is possible (and quite likely) that the committee meeting consisted of only three or four Senators: Chairman Byron Dorgan (D, ND), ranking Republican John Barrasso (R, WY), Senator Akaka, and perhaps Senator Inouye (if he was not too busy as chairman of the appropriations committee). A few years ago, when the Committee on Indian Affairs passed the Akaka bill, a published report said there had been only three Senators present for the unanimous voice vote -- the Republican Chairman (Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who had previously been a Democrat) and Inouye and Akaka.
Putting aside the stealth maneuvering, it's very important to see what is the text of the new Akaka bill passed by the Senate committee. This version of the bill will also probably be passed by the House as a "manager's amendment" to H.R.2314 where the manager will be either Abercrombie himself if he sticks around for it; or Hawaii's only other Member of Congress, the freshman Mazie Hirono; or perhaps pinch-hitter Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), the chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources. It's also important to see the letter from Governor Lingle and Attorney General bennett strongly objecting to the bill, and the letters from some race-based institutions defending the new version. Links to all of them are provided below.
Hawaii Reporter article of Friday evening December 11, making known to the public for the first time that meetings of the House and Senate committees were planned to do markup and passage of the Akaka bill on December 16 and 17.
H.R.2314 as it passed the House Committee on Natural Resources on December 16, which is also the unamended version of S.1011 prior to December 17:
S.1011 amended version as it passed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on December 17:
Letter on official stationery from Governor Lingle and Attorney General Bennett to the House committee on Tuesday December 15:
During the summer of 2009 the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Native Hawaiian Bar Association, and other powerful race-based groups made it clear that they strongly objected to H.R.2314/S.1011 because it contained restrictions on the ability of the Akaka tribe to exercise sovereign powers and to bring lawsuits against the State of Hawaii and the U.S. for historical grievances.
Letter on official stationery from the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to the House committee on December 15 justifying the powerful new language proposed for the Akaka bill:
Letter on official stationery from the Native Hawaiian Bar Association to the House committee on December 15 justifying the powerful new language proposed for the Akaka bill:
Honolulu Star-Bulletin article of December 19 reporting that Governor Lingle "was disappointed by what she called the "drastic" changes, adding that the new version "would not be something that we could support, nor could I ask the people of the state to support.""
Zogby poll conducted November, 2009 shows Hawaii's people oppose the Akaka bill and want the right to vote on it in a referendum on the generasl election ballot before it can be enacted:
History of the Akaka bill during 2009: Full text of all major news reports and commentaries about the Akaka bill:
Book: "Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State"
27 copies of the book are available in the Hawaii Public Library system, and portions are available free on the internet at
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(c) Copyright 2009 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved