Native Hawaiian Recognition Bill -- How Pork Barrel Politics Is Splintering the Rainbow

(c) Copyright 2003, Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved

The Native Hawaiian Recognition bill (aka Akaka bill) is pork barrel ethnic politics at its worst. The primary purpose of the bill is to protect racial entitlement programs which otherwise will be ruled unconstitutional by the courts. There are well over 160 such programs worth perhaps a Billion dollars, plus private tax-exempt charitable foundations worth perhaps $15 Billion providing benefits exclusively to ethnic Hawaiians.

This bill is not about making right a historical wrong, re-establishing a nation overthrown with U.S. help, rehabilitating a poor downtrodden group, giving self-determination to an indigenous people, preserving Hawaiian culture, etc. Those reasons are merely a smokescreen to cover a naked grab for money, land, and power.

The State of Hawai段 power structure, including virtually all politicians of both political parties, strongly support the Akaka bill. They fear that without it there will be a major reallocation of financial and political power away from the current race-based programs and the bloated bureaucracies that feed off them. Needy people would then receive help based on need alone instead of race, and they would go to race-neutral government and private institutions. Wealthy ethnic Hawaiians (and there are many of them) would no longer receive government freebies at all, while scarce government resources would flow more equitably to needy people of all ethnic groups. The resulting changes in political and economic power would cause those now profiting from the existing system to lose influence. The size and cost of government could be reduced due to greater efficiencies from having just one set of service providers instead of parallel race-based structures.

Below is documentation for what has been said. Interestingly, much of the documentation comes from advocates pushing the bill, including top officials of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). When Akaka bill supporters speak to nationwide audiences, including Senators and Congressmen, they use high-sounding language about indigenous rights to self-determination, correcting historical injustices, preserving a beautiful culture, etc. But when they speak to ethnic Hawaiians, they use scare tactics about the urgency of protecting the entitlement programs against legal challenges; and when they speak to the general population of Hawai段 they focus on the huge amounts of money flowing into Hawai段 from the entitlement programs. Selfish demands for money and power are normal in ethnic politics. But this time the advocates are so outrageously selfish they are willing to rip apart Hawai段痴 rainbow society and produce permanent political instability.

Today a whole generation have grown up addicted to getting goodies through racially exclusionary agencies. It should come as no surprise when folks identify more closely with their race than with their citizenship in America, or when they proclaim only the Hawaiian portion of their ancestry, diminishing or ignoring their other heritages. Let's be clear -- addiction to government entitlement programs is like addiction to drugs. It damages both the recipients and the larger society. Taking away the drugs is the loving thing to do, even if the addict screams in anger.

In an especially plaintive cry, OHA trustee Boyd Mossman says that if the Akaka bill fails, "then you will have seen the last of the Hawaiians as we know them today ... We will no longer be identified as the descendants of a once-proud nation with a unique history, language and identity. We will melt into history and become a memory only." But the facts contradict him. Hawaiian language and culture are flourishing as a proud 30-year-long renaissance continues. Thousands of people with no Hawaiian blood learn the language and participate in cultural activities in a spirit of love, respect, and brotherhood. The population of Native Hawaiians in 1900 was less than 40,000 while in year 2000 it was over 400,000 -- a tenfold increase during the century of American sovereignty in Hawai'i. Neither the people nor the culture are endangered. Making them simultaneously a hereditary elite and wards of the government, constantly begging for handouts, is a path to spiritual and cultural extinction.

Most ethnic Hawaiians, like most everyone in Hawai'i, are proud to be Americans; pleased to live in the State of Hawai'i under a single unified sovereignty; glad to know that government will encourage the flourishing of cultural diversity by treating everyone equally under the law. We are called the rainbow state for a good reason. Each color of the rainbow shows its unique beauty, while unified they are awesome. Let's not tear the rainbow apart. Let's not put a green stripe over here, and a red stripe over there. If we break the rainbow, its pot of gold will be replaced by a bucket of ashes.

Here is the documentation.

(1) On February 24, 2003 OHA opened its new lobbying office in Washington D.C., sharing space with the National Congress of American Indians. The following day Hawai段 Governor Linda Lingle, and trustees of OHA and DHHL, testified in favor of the Akaka bill at a carefully scripted 塗earing before the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee. On May 14 the Senate committee in 杜arkup made significant revisions to the Akaka bill at OHA痴 request, and reported the bill out to the full Senate. On May 24, 2003 the Honolulu Advertiser reported that OHA has hired a major Washington D.C. lobbying firm for a 2003 retainer fee of $450,000. Within days of that announcement, OHA top officials made it clear that they consider it urgent to pass the Akaka bill primarily to protect existing entitlements and future programs. Their language was strident and desperate-sounding. The top bureaucrat at OHA, Administrator Clyde Namu弛, wrote a lengthy article in the Honolulu Weekly for May 28 - June 3, 2003. His article immediately followed publication of a major essay by OHA trustee Boyd Mossman published in the Maui News of May 25 and also in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of May 27. The Advertiser report about the $450,000 retainer for the lobbying firm, the Namu弛 article, and the Mossman article are copied in full, together with a reply by Ken Conklin, at:

(2) On June 4, 5, and 6, 2003 three different daily newspapers in Hawai'i published four articles on various recent policy statements of the Bush administration regarding the probable unconstitutionality of several race-based Hawaiian programs. The newspaper articles are provided, and give details about the Hawaiian programs and the administration statements about them. These newspaper articles and an editorial clearly show the sense of urgency felt by OHA and by state government officials to pass the Akaka bill as soon as possible, to avoid losing huge amounts of money in federal grants to race-based Hawaiian programs that are now finally coming to be recognized as unconstitutional. Another article describes a series of propaganda festivals (田ommunity meetings) to be held throughout Hawai段 by large groups of ethnic Hawaiian beneficiaries who claim they will lose 3,100 local jobs and $147 million a year in federal programs unless the Akaka bill passes soon. A brief timeline is provided to show the sequence of events linking Bush administration challenges, legislation in Congress, lobbying, local propaganda in Hawai段, and a court challenge to OHA. An attempt is made to reconstruct the language of the letter, from the federal Department of Justice to Senator Snowe about pending legislation, that provided the excuse for all this lobbying.

(3) On February 23, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Rice v. Cayetano. The decision directly affected only the right to vote in OHA elections. But in reaching its decision the Court clearly stated that 滴awaiian and 哲ative Hawaiian are racial categories, not political ones. The logical conclusion is that all the racial entitlement programs are unconstitutional violations of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. On March 20, 2000, less than a month after the Rice decision, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin launched the campaign to scare Hawai段痴 people about the consequences of losing the racial entitlement programs. An article was published identifying $440 Million in federal grants made to Native Hawaiian racial entitlement programs during the previous few years, as compiled by the Hawai段 Congressional delegation. 釘ringing home the bacon is an important part of what politicians do, and Hawai段 politicians are outstanding performers. Later, OHA compiled a list of about 160 racial entitlement programs. To see the Star-Bulletin description of $440 Million in federal grants, and OHA痴 list of 160 racial programs, go to:
The government racial programs, plus the private ones like Kamehameha Schools, play such a big part in Hawai段痴 economy that the entire political power structure is determined to protect them by passing the Akaka bill. But there痴 more than raw political and economic power at work. The politically liberal, kind-hearted people of Hawai段 feel a special affection for Hawaiian culture and for ethnic Hawaiians, making them into something like a state mascot to be petted and coddled and treated as the punahele (favorite) ethnic group (thus the familiar bumper sticker: 哲o Hawaiians, no aloha.)

(4) The Rice decision on February 23, 2000 was followed by a mad scramble to draft a Native Hawaiian Recognition bill. It was decided to create "short-form" legislation as a stop-gap measure, to give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians before the current term of Congress ended (so as to prevent lawsuits from dismantling the entitlement programs, and to take advantage of a sympathetic Democrat President and Democrat-controlled Senate). To see the early drafts of the Akaka bill (starting May 2000) and commentary on them, go to:

(5) The Akaka bill would protect not only the entitlement programs but also a $500 Million sole-source contract for cable wiring for the Hawaiian 塗omelands, funded by the federal Rural Utilities Services program, involving nepotism and interlocking administrative boards among OHA, DHHL, and Kamehameha Schools. A primary author of the bill stands to gain from a clause explicitly allowing nepotism, included in the latest version of the bill and also an earlier version. Wealthy ethnic Hawaiians who got free land for homes in an exclusive upscale urban 塗omestead also stand to gain. On February 28, 2001 the Honolulu Advertiser reported that OHA had approved up to $9 Million for advertising and lobbying on behalf of the Akaka bill. On May 24, 2003 the Honolulu Advertiser reported that OHA has not only opened its own lobbying office in Washington D.C. but has also hired a high-profile Washington lobbying firm (Patton Boggs) on a 2003 retainer of $450,000 to push the bill through Congress. For details on everything in this paragraph, see:

(6) If ethnic Hawaiians are substantially different from everyone else in important ways, then it might be understandable that they might want to live separate and apart from everyone else and have their own government. There are indeed a few scattered geographic areas where ethnic Hawaiians have chosen to live separate and apart from everyone else, under a paternalistic ethnic-run quasi-government -- but not because of cultural or spiritual factors or any sense of 渡ationhood. The state government has a program known as 泥epartment of Hawaiian Homelands where ethnic Hawaiians of 50% or greater blood quantum can get free land in designated areas to build a home with construction and mortgage subsidies. There have been long waiting lists for many decades. Some needy people are willing or even eager to live in racial ghettos if housing is cheap enough. Even some wealthy people wanting to save big money for other purposes choose to live in an upscale Hawaiian homeland specifically for wealthy Hawaiians (Kalawahine Streamside, near Punchbowl Memorial National Cemetery). But outside the artificially created Hawaiian 塗omelands, ethnic Hawaiians live thoroughly intermingled with everyone else. And even those who live on the homelands generally work and pray side by side with everyone else. Some ethnic Hawaiians are wealthy, some poor, and most somewhere in between. Census 2000 shows that the largest percentage of ethnic Hawaiians fell into the household or family income range from $50,000 to $75,000. About half of all ethnic Hawaiians in 1999 had annual family incomes above $50,000, including 13% with incomes above $100,000. These high-income Hawaiians should not be given government handouts and subsidies while truly needy people who lack the magic blood are unable to get help. For demographic data about ethnic Hawaiians, including 1999 incomes, see:

(7) Ethnic Hawaiians occupy positions of influence and power at all levels of society, including a former governor, a current United States Senator, numerous members of the Legislature, numerous judges and attorneys and business owners. Ethnic Hawaiians have the same order of priorities as everyone else in Hawai段: Education, healthcare, housing, environmental protection, good government, solving traffic congestion. 哲ative Hawaiian rights is near the bottom. Sovereignty, or 渡ationhood, is at the very bottom. A survey done for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, to develop a 5-year strategic plan, asked ethnic Hawaiians at face-to-face community meetings, and also by telephone, to rank the priorities OHA should pursue. Later a representative sample survey of the entire population, done by Ward Research at the request of a newspaper, asked people what they consider important and what priorities government should spend tax dollars on; and they also asked people to tell what racial group they most strongly belong to. The ranking of priorities was strikingly similar for ethnic Hawaiians and for the population as a whole, both within the newspaper survey and also between the OHA and newspaper surveys. Clearly, most ethnic Hawaiians are not at all enthisiastic about sovereignty, nationhood, or passing the Akaka bill. But OHA arrogantly ignored the clearly expressed wishes of its beneficiaries and declared that 渡ationhood would be its top priority (Ho弛ulu Lahui Aloha -- to raise a beloved nation). To see details of the surveys, go to:

(8) There are two major varieties of Hawaiian sovereignty activists. Ethnic nationalist independence activists want all of Hawai段 to become an independent nation which would allow people of all racial groups to be citizens but would give racial supremacy in voting rights and property rights to ethnic Hawaiians (on the theory of indigenous status). Racial separatists generally favor the Akaka bill -- they reluctantly acquiesce in Hawai段 remaining part of the United States but would like a race-based 渡ation within a nation including racially exclusionary government and private programs such as OHA, DHHL, Kamehameha Schools, Alu Like, Papa Ola Lokahi, Queen Lili置okalani Childrens Center. On the surface it looks like there痴 a major conflict between the two theories. The independence activists worry that the Akaka bill would destroy the hope for independence by putting Hawaiians on record as placing themselves under the plenary power of Congress; they sometimes accuse the Akaka bill supporters of being like the Indians who sold Manhattan to the Dutch for $24 and a string of beads. The Akaka bill supporters worry that the independence activists are unrealistic dreamers whose disagreement with the Akaka bill threatens to torpedo the best hope for saving the entitlement programs. But the two theories actually have a very powerful core of common beliefs, including: ethnic Hawaiians have a genetic and spiritual relationship with the gods and the land not shared with those who lack Hawaiian blood; ethnic Hawaiians are entitled to racial supremacy in Hawai段; the United States owes massive reparations to ethnic Hawaiians for the overthrow of the monarchy, theft of land, suppression of culture and language. Thus both approaches to Hawaiian sovereignty are fundamentally anti-American and filled with racist attitudes. That痴 why it is important to defeat the Akaka bill, which would give substantial power to such attitudes and produce long-term social and political instability.
The common core attitudes are shown most clearly and unequivocally in the writings and speeches of Professor Haunani-Kay Trask, who says things that others admire but are too afraid to say:
The Akaka bill, and the independence movement, can be seen as affirmative action gone berserk -- affirmative action leads to racial entitlements, and both of them inherently lead toward race-based political sovereignty.

(9) The main reasons offered in support of the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill are either false or irrelevant. The bill's primary focus is racial separatism. The purpose is to protect racial entitlement programs from legal challenges, and to establish a separate apartheid government inside the State of Hawai'i restricted to ethnic Hawaiians. Supporters of the bill say it is not about race -- they say its purpose is to protect indigenous rights, self-determination, and cultural preservation; but careful study shows that is false. Claims about illegal overthrow of the monarchy, illegal annexation, and the apology bill raise the specter of secession. Such claims might be appropriate in support of ethnic nationalist independence, but are not relevant to support a bill for establishment of tribal status for ethnic Hawaiians as a political entity inside the United States.

(10) The Hawaiian recognition bill seeks to pull a thoroughly integrated ethnic group out of society and create an ethnic nationalist government. The same arguments favoring an ethnic Hawaiian 渡ation would also favor nationhood for Mexican-Americans, whose radical sovereignty group MEChA actively works to establish a Nation of Aztlan including California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The legal theory behind the Hawaiian recognition bill makes Hawaiian nationalism the thin edge of a knife poised to balkanize America and perhaps eventually dismember it. Hawaiian nationalism, Chicano nationalism, Black nationalism, and demands for reparations are destabilizing America. Passage of the Hawaiian Recognition bill would give legal and political support to all such radical movements. See:

(11) THE ALASKA OIL CONNECTION: The Hawaiian recognition bill is being supported by the Alaska oil industry, by the Republican delegation from Alaska, and by Alaska native corporations. The Alaska North Slope Corporation has provided large donations to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, and financial support for the sisters Jade Danner and Robin Danner, who are leading the CHNA propaganda efforts to convince Hawaiian Homestead residents and others to support the Akaka bill for fear of losing their homes and benefit programs if they don't. Alaska oil companies and corporations clearly believe they can make huge profits in Hawai'i if the Akaka bill passes, perhaps by using the preference given to Indian tribes in bidding for federal construction and services contracts. To download an exposee of the Alaska oil connection to the Native Hawaiian Recognition bill, taken from the Hawaii Island Journal of October 16-31, click here:


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(c) Copyright 2001 - 2003 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved