Taxpayers of Hawaii unite! You have nothing to lose but your reticence.
April 15 is Tax Day. Time to rise up and express your outrage at the Hawaiian sovereignty tax dodgers. Let's look the basic theory they use to justify not paying taxes, and some of the techniques they use either to avoid withholding or to get every dollar back. Then let's name some names. But first, let's consider why we should focus on individuals.
Of course the individual sovereignty tax-dodgers are "small potatoes." If the Akaka bill passes there will be devastating consequences to our tax base causing enormous tax increases and cuts in services for whatever is left of the State of Hawaii -- Beacon Hill Institute's recent study projects a loss of up to $690 Million per year to the state alone, not counting the losses to the counties. See
Even without the Akaka bill, Hawaiian sovereignty institutions already deprive federal, state, and local governments of hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Kamehameha Schools, worth $8-15 Billion, is the biggest tax-dodger. OHA, with a mere $400 Million in financial assets, also owns Waimea Valley on Oahu, plus 40 square miles in Waokele O Puna on Hawaii Island, plus other properties. Various ceded lands "global settlements" have been proposed in recent years that would give OHA hundreds of millions of dollars plus hundreds of thousands of acres of land. A spreadsheet created in 2002 shows that OHA and DHHL together had already cost state taxpayers about $1 Billion, and would cost an additional $2 Billion by 2012. See
The tax-exempt status of Kamehameha Schools, OHA, DHHL, etc. is very significant because of the great advantage it gives them in political activity. If you and I decide to publish leaflets, pay for advertisements, or travel to Washington to lobby against the Akaka bill, we pay for it out of our own private after-tax dollars. But when OHA sends a plane full of trustees and lobbyists with first-class airfare and hotels and meals, or puts commercials on TV and ads in the newspapers, those expenses are paid with government money; i.e., from you and me!
Yes, it's true that individual Hawaiian sovereignty activists who evade income tax are "small potatoes" by comparison with the institutions. But the individuals are clearly operating in blatant violation of law, whereas the institutions have "legitimate" tax exemptions and have extorted "legitimate" payoffs of government money.
High-profile individuals can and should be singled out for public vilification and criminal prosecution, because making an example of them can serve as a deterrent to growing numbers of sovereignty activists emboldened by their example. Today we've become too squeamish for public hangings, public floggings, and even for placing criminals on display in stocks on the public square where they can be razzed and tickled. Nevertheless, judges do consider deterrence one of the factors when sentencing criminals to jail time.
The astonishing wave of piracy off the coast of Somalia in recent years escalated when the pirates repeatedly collected millions of dollars in ransom and governments seemed unable or unwilling to stop them. In April 2009 a U.S.-flagged container ship's unarmed crew finally fought back, forcing the pirates to abandon the ship and retreat in a small lifeboat with the ship's captain as their sole hostage. Then on Easter Sunday the U.S. Navy was able to rescue the hostage, killing three of the pirates and capturing one. That public humiliation and killing of the pirates should set quite an example to deter other pirates. Dealing harshly with "small potatoes" can yield huge benefits.
Hawaiian sovereignty tax evaders refuse to file federal income tax returns because, they say, the revolution that overthrew the monarchy in 1893 was illegal; the annexation of Hawaii to the U.S. in 1898 was illegal; and the statehood vote of 1959 was illegal. They cite the apology resolution of 1993 as a confession of a crime under international law. Thus, they say, Hawaii is not legally a part of the United States, and the U.S. has no jurisdiction here. They refuse to file Hawaii state tax returns because, they say, the State of Hawaii does not lawfully exist or is merely a puppet regime of the federal government.
Some of the dirtbags work at jobs where federal and state taxes are automatically withheld from employee paychecks. To avoid any withholding they might file W-4 forms with their employers indicating 99 dependents. Or, if they are self-employed professionals, business owners, or independent contractors they file returns claiming the "foreign earned income tax credit" which allows approximately $90,000 of income earned in a foreign country to escape any taxation. After all, Hawaii is not a part of the United States -- Hawaii is a foreign nation under a continuing belligerent military occupation by the U.S.
That theory of the foreign-earned income tax exemption was actually asserted by numerous accountants of a major tax preparation firm on behalf of thousands of individuals over a period of many years. Richard Basuel, head of RB Tax Services, and several of his associates, were sentenced to jail time. Basuel made clear that he (and many of his clients) has no native ancestry, but that the independence of Hawai'i as a sovereign nation was the basis of his tax evasion. There are about 25 pages of published news reports dealing with RB Tax Preparation company, the relation between Basuel and former Bishop Estate trustee Lokelani Lindsey, federal tax fugitive Nathan Keliikui Brown, and "Nation of Hawai'i" leader Bumpy Kanahele. See excerpts and links at:
Despite his claim that Hawaii remains an independent nation, Bumpy Kanahele tried to use U.S. law (what hypocrisy!) to force Bank of America to provide capital to establish a Native Hawaiian Bank, on grounds BofA had violated federal regulations requiring banks to give real estate mortgages to racial minorities. See
Some Hawaiian sovereignty tax evaders have high profiles in our community, appearing to be respectable. They use the megaphone provided by celebrity status to shout their refusal to pay income tax. In effect they are encouraging others to follow in their footsteps, hoping that if enough people refuse to pay taxes the government will be destabilized. And yet the authorities seem to let them get by with it, just as shipping companies and nations, through inaction, allowed pirates to get away with seizing ships for ransom.
One such sovereignty tax dodger is Hayden Burgess, alias Poka Laenui. He has been for many years the Executive Director of Hale Naau Pono -- the Waianae Coast Community Mental Health Clinic. His wife serves on the Executive Committee, and some other sovereignty activists also serve on the Board of Directors. The website for his clinic says it has service-provider contracts with the State of Hawaii for about $2 Million per year. It seems logical he receives a paycheck from those funds. Perhaps there are federal contracts as well. But Mr. Burgess has repeatedly proclaimed on his Hawaiian sovereignty radio program that he has paid no federal or state income taxes since 1979.
At the present time Hayden Burgess, alias Poka Laenui, has his Hawaiian sovereignty radio infomercial live on KWAI AM 1080 Saturdays 4-6 PM and Sundays 6-8 AM, with call-in phone number 524-1080. The programs have no sponsor other than the "Hawaiian National Broadcasting Corporation" (presumably incorporated under state law?). Time is divided about equally between local topics related to Hawaiian sovereignty, and bashing the United States for its domestic and international policies. So go ahead. Give him a call. Interestingly, he says he does pay property tax on his house in Waianae (perhaps because he knows if he doesn't pay property tax his house will be seized by the Honolulu government). This small concession to taxpaying decency is mitigated because, as he said on the radio, he has filed appeals of his property tax assessments and has used his skills as an attorney to pursue the demand for abatement when initially denied.
Another sovereignty activist, Isaac Harp, felt no reticence about circulating on the internet his letter to the IRS, which trumpeted his role as a community leader and taunted the IRS to "bring it on." Here's part of what he circulated:
"August 14, 2004 RE: Letter Number 2566(SC/CG)
Dear TAX EXAMINER:
Regarding your letter dated 07/12/2004, I apologize for this late response. I was in Boston attending the Democratic National Convention as a Hawaii Delegate, followed by presentations to the Environmental Protection Agency, New England, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Gloucester, and two trips to Oahu. Now that I have returned to Maui, Hawaii and am able to respond to your letter, I submit the following in response to your proposed individual tax assessment that implies that I owe the IRS $4,217.94. ... Does your office understand that under international law Hawaii is not lawfully a party to the United States of America? The 1893 overthrow of the Hawaii government was unlawful (see US Public Law 103-150). The purported annexation of Hawaii by the United States was unlawful by process. The subsequent alleged Hawaii Statehood process was unlawful due to illegitimate procedure. Therefore, Department of the Treasury has no lawful basis for collecting taxes on personal income from individuals in Hawaii. ... Could your office please provide me with the specific citation of law that requires a Native Hawaiian living under duress of the belligerent United States occupation of Hawaii to pay a US federal tax on my personal income generated as an individual residing in Hawaii? ... I would be happy to engage the Department of the Treasury in a US court of law if this is your office's preference. This would provide interesting material for the media and help to disseminate information on the belligerent occupation of Hawaii. ..."
There are other Hawaiian sovereignty activists who claim to be "King" or "Regent Pro-Tem" or "Ambassador" or "Emissary" of the still-living Kingdom of Hawaii or Reinstated Hawaiian Government, etc.; but who have made no public statements about their own (non)compliance with federal and state tax laws. There are only two possibilities: either they are hypocrites who knuckle under by paying taxes to a government they despise and which they claim has no jurisdiction over them, or else they refuse to pay taxes but also hide their tax evasion like cowards. For example, King Akahi Nui (who took over Iolani Palace but couldn't find the throne); and Keanu Sai (famous as a convicted felon for his "Perfect Title" sovereignty-based real estate scam, who has now completed a Ph.D. in Political Science at UH).
Hayden Burgess and Keanu Sai are highly educated, soft-spoken, rational-sounding, charming gentlemen. It would be easy to imagine them selling life insurance or cars, or working as undertakers at a funeral home. But they are actively working to undermine the federal and state governments, and should be despised instead of being treated with kid gloves as community leaders. Burgess and Harp are self-proclaimed tax evaders. Both of them should be prosecuted like Richard Basuel and his associates. Keanu Sai and Bumpy Kanahele; leaders of Iolani Palace takeovers like Akahi Nui, Mahealani Asing Kahau, Rita Makekau, Ikaika Hussey, Andre Perez; and "nice" sovereignty activists like Kekuni Blaisdell and Lynette Cruz; might or might not pay income tax. If they truly believe the sovereignty nonsense they preach, then they have a duty as leaders of their movement not to pay taxes and to offer themselves for prosecution in the best tradition of other activists who violated laws they considered unjust and were willing to take the consequences.
Prime Minister Henry Noa, of the "Reinstated Hawaiian Government", was given an hour for an informational briefing before the Kauai County Council on Friday March 13, 2009 when he, along with his gang of thugs, demanded recognition as the rightful government. According to a news report in the March 15 edition of "The Garden Island" newspaper, Noa warned that he is in contact with the anti-American government of Venezuela, and that in coming months his gang will be "conducting business" on public roads and lands (as indeed they previously did in an attempted takeover of Kaho'olawe). Despite such threats and thuggery, the newspaper reported that Councilman Jay Furfaro said he was “sensitive and compassionate to these issues” and Council Chair Bill “Kaipo” Asing "embraced the prime minister." Where's the outrage? Does Mr. Noa pay his federal and state taxes? The way the Kauai County Council treated Mr. Noa seems almost as deferential as the way world governments have treated the pirates who commandeer ships -- and Noa has not (yet) taken any hostages for ransom! Clowns like him deserve ridicule, and harsh punishment for any violations of law. Instead they are welcomed by local governments and literally embraced by public officials.
On Friday September 17, 2004 John Philip Souza, alias "Pilipo," was found guilty in a jury trial on four counts of theft and false statements in his State of Hawai'i income tax filings for 1999 and 2000. Mr. Souza, at the time age 66 and a retired firefighter, claimed that the Kingdom of Hawai'i was illegally overthrown in 1893, and therefore the State of Hawai'i is not legitimate and lacks jurisdiction to compel him to pay taxes. He further claimed that he is a subject (citizen) of the still-living Kingdom of Hawai'i. Although acknowledging that he has no Hawaiian native ancestry, he pointed out that under Kingdom law (which be says still remains in effect), all persons born in Hawai'i (including himself) are native-born subjects of the Kingdom. On December 29, 2004 Mr. Souza was sentenced to one year in prison, with credit for the 82 days he had already been incarcerated, and was ordered to pay $6100.00 restitution to the State of Hawai'i as a condition of probation.
On December 1, 2004 a feature article about the Souza case was published in "MidWeek"newspaper: "The Kingdom Has Come", pages 10 and 61. The December 1 article was about 46 column-inches long, not including a 7x5 inch photograph of six people in front of a decorated 'Iolani Palace. The group "Ke Aupuni O Hawaii Nei" claims to be the revived Kingdom of Hawai'i, and issues its own passports (small photo). A large photo showed six people. The caption on the large photo, with 'Iolani Palace in the background, identifies Leon Siu as foreign minister; Kealoha Aiu, minister of interior; Lydia Amona, kupuna council; William Ko'omelani Amona, kupuna council [and attorney for Pilipo]; and others. The article was very respectful toward the group, more or less portraying them as patriots fighting for the rights of the Kingdom of Hawai'i by not paying income taxes, not having State of Hawai'i license plates and drivers' licenses, etc. How shameful and disgusting it is to have news media portray as heroes people who are trying to overthrow our government. It's like children's books portraying pirates as swashbuckling adventurers.
KITV television in Honolulu reported on Wednesday November 5, 2003 as follows: "Roughly 30 city bus drivers are under investigation for tax evasion ... Two bus drivers have already been indicted. They're accused of not paying any taxes for four and five years. Several dozen other city bus drivers are also accused of not paying state taxes ... About 30 bus drivers have not paid taxes for years, some of them evading taxes for as long as a decade, sources told KITV 4 News. ... Some of the drivers claimed they didn't have to pay taxes because they believe in Hawaiian sovereignty and they do not recognize the state or federal governments, according to sources." But during more than five years since the news report there has been no followup on whether the bus drivers were convicted or served any jail time. Requests to the TV station for followup coverage have gone unanswered.
My fellow taxpayers, how about expressing some outrage. Let the dirtbags know what you think, and tell the authorities to go after them.
Honolulu Advertiser reported on April 5, 2009 that there are $375 Million of delinquent state income taxes, and that the names of major tax scofflaws will soon be posted on the state website. Well hooray! Let's see if that really happens. Let's see whether the list will include names like Hayden Burgess (alias Poka Laenui), who gleefully proclaims he has not paid federal or state income tax since 1979 (the year after OHA was created, and to which Burgess was later elected a trustee). Let's see whether other sovereignty independence activists named in this essay are listed, such as Keanu Sai, Bumpy Kanahele, Henry Noa, Bill Amona, Leon Siu, Isaac Harp, Akahi Nui, Andre perez, Kekuni Blaisdell and Lynette Cruz. If they are not named is it because they are hypocrites who actually do pay their taxes, or is it because the list simply fails to include people who never pay taxes (as opposed to people who do pay something but cheat)?
Will a list of income tax scofflaws actually be published by the State of Hawaii, or will government officials chicken out? On April 8 the Honolulu Star-Bulletin published an editorial cautioning government officials not to mistakenly list someone who actually does pay taxes. Well, duh! But the editorial did not provide praise or encouragement for publishing the list. This warning to exercise caution comes from the same newspaper editors who have published perhaps a hundred editorials urging passage of the Akaka bill, defending Kamehameha Schools' racially exclusionary admissions policy, and supporting race-based claims to the ceded lands.
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(c) Copyright 2009 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved