A History of Stealth and Deception Re Akaka Bill

(c) Copyright 2001 - 2004 by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


The Akaka bill is an extremely important matter for all the people of Hawai'i and of the United States. It proposes to establish a racial apartheid system in Hawai'i by giving federal recognition to a political entity to be created exclusively for people of ethnic Hawaiian ancestry (only one drop of native blood required), who comprise about 20% of Hawai'i's thoroughly intermingled population. The primary purpose is to preserve a plethora of racial entitlement programs which have grown up over the years, which are threatened by recent court decisions on equal rights and the equal protection of the laws. But race-based government programs are permissible in the case of Indian tribes, so some ethnic Hawaiian activists seek to be recognized as an Indian tribe. If such a system is allowed to be established in Hawai'i, it will set a precedent for other States where racial or ethnic minorities want to balkanize the political system. The political and economic power structure in Hawai'i support this bill, because it would apparently open a permanent funnel to bring billions of federal dollars into Hawai'i.

But the Akaka bill is historically unjustified, legally unconstitutional, and morally wrong. Most of its supporters know that the bill cannot withstand scrutiny. Their only hope is to get the bill passed through stealth and deception, in the dark of night. They know that if the bill is passed it will probably be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; but they hope that the bill will provide protection for racial entitlement programs during the years it will take before lawsuits challenging its constitutionality can work their way up to the Supreme Court.

The Akaka bill is as important to Hawai'i as the issue of slavery and the Civil War were to the continental United States. It deserves to have long, loud, eloquent public debates. But supporters know they would lose such debates, so they rely on a strategy of stealth and deception. Imagine a judge issuing the Dred Scott decision as a footnote to a routine minor court order at 5 PM on a Friday. Imagine the Missouri Compromise being passed by Congress on a voice vote by unanimous consent in a collection of unimportant bills during the dinner hour when only a handful of Congressmen are present. Imagine the Lincoln-Douglas debates being held at a table in the corner of a small tavern with an audience of five people, while a noisy celebration going on in the same room drowns out the discussion.

The following paragraphs sketch an outline of the Akaka bill's history. Afterward, major points will be restated as hot-links to other pages on this website which contain extensive details.

YEAR 2000 (106th Congress, Second Session)

During the last half of year 2000, the Akaka bill moved through various stages. At every turn the process was characterized by stealthy maneuvering designed to guarantee that only ethnic Hawaiians who favor Indian tribe status could have any meaningful impact. The 80% of Hawai'i's people with no native ancestry were excluded from any input into the redrafting, except for a few hand-picked elected officials who support the tribal concept. Also excluded were a probable majority of ethnic Hawaiians who oppose Indian tribe status on the grounds it might alienate them from the rest of the population, or (to the contrary) might prevent them from asserting claims to total independence from the United States.

The bill as originally drafted went through a succession of perhaps a dozen public redrafts, about half of which took place after the bill was formally introduced into Congress. Along the way, public hearings were held in Honolulu and Washington D.C., producing changes in subsequent versions of the bill. Supporters will describe this constant redrafting as democracy-in-action. The correct explanation is that the bill was hastily written as an emergency response to the February 23, 2000 Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano. Supporters felt a need to get it through Congress before the election of November 7, 2000 would cause an anticipated shift of power in Washington.

On February 23 the Rice decision was handed down. 10 weeks later, on May 13, the first draft of the Akaka bill, containing only 539 words, was published in the newspapers. A storm of controversy arose within the ethnic Hawaiian community, and a hand-picked group of 25 supporters was assembled to provide "community" input and produce a revision. The second draft, published July 8, contained 2914 words. Controversy erupted once again. More hasty revisions were then made, including some which were apparently created before the "community" sessions but not shared with the community.

The poorly-drafted bill was introduced simultaneously in both houses of Congress on July 20, 2000 so it could begin the long journey all legislation must follow, thus buying time for more careful writing and "community consultation." The bill was referred to the most sympathetic committees the Hawai'i Congressional delegation could find (the House Committee on Resources and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, both of which are accustomed to giving initial approval to legislation for groups already recognized to be Indian tribes). A joint hearing of both committees was scheduled for a week-long period in Hawai'i on several islands. However, the only members of Congress who actually came to Hawai'i for the hearings (during Congress' summer recess) were Hawai'i's two Senators and two Congressmen plus the honorary representative from American Samoa (who depends on Senator Inouye for countless appropriations). When it appeared that opposition from ethnic Hawaiians would be particularly strong on the neighbor islands, a convenient excuse was found (regarding Senator Akaka's health) to cancel all the neighbor-island hearings and hold them in Honolulu only. Although an independent reporter who attended all the hearings stated that opponents appeared to outnumber supporters by 9-to-1, the Hawai'i Congressional delegation and the daily newspapers characterized the opponents as a lunatic fringe, and stated publicly that most of the testimony was favorable.

When committee hearings were held in Washington, only supporters of the bill were allowed to testify. Both committees passed the bill unanimously, which would never happen for any substantive bill given serious scrutiny. In the House, Hawai'i Congressman Abercrombie managed to get the bill scheduled for a voice vote by unanimous consent on the calendar of non-controversial bills in the evening hours when only a handful of other Representatives were on the House floor -- his strategy of deception is documented in his own crowing about its success in the local press the day after the bill passed the House. In the Senate, the bill was held up by several Republican Senators who were deeply concerned about the racism of the bill, its cost, and its likely future encroachment on appropriations for legitimate Indian tribes. Since a unanimous-consent vote on the bill was being blocked by some knowledgeable Senators who did not consent, Senators Inouye and Akaka tried to attach it as a small (hidden) appendage on a large appropriations bill; but their strategy failed. The failure of the bill was announced in the media on December 13. However, in an outrageous effort to fool Congress after the Akaka bill had been declared dead, somehow the Akaka bill was mysteriously included by reference (just the bill-number buried in the middle of a sentence) in a final omnibus appropriations bill headed for passage on December 15. A sharp-eyed staffer of one of the Republican Senators, while carefully combing through all the fine-print, discovered the Akaka bill number hiding there, and called it to the attention of the Senator. A special resolution was then passed by both the House and Senate to delete the Akaka bill reference, just in the nick of time.

The Hawai'i delegation in both the House and the Senate has shown that it will go to any lengths to get this bill passed; and we can only hope that Senators and Representatives from other states will remember this history of stealth and deception Congress, and all citizens who favor equality under the law, must be vigilant to prevent this disastrous legislation from sneaking past them.

For details about the record of stealth and deception, click on whatever topic is of interest.

Overview of Akaka bill history of stealth and deception in year 2000, by independent reporter Robert M. Rees, published January 17, 2001.

February 23, 2000: Supreme Court Prohibits Racially Segregated Voting in OHA Elections: The Rice v. Cayetano Decision. Excerpts, commentary, and link to full text.

May 13, 2000 draft of Akaka bill: link to full text 539 words; community reaction;
July 8, 2000 draft of Akaka bill: link to full text 2914 words; community reaction;
July 20, 2000 Akaka bill formally introduced in Congress: community reaction

Complete text of the Akaka bill introduced on July 20, with "red-pencil" corrections and commentary by Kenneth R. Conklin.

August 28-September 1, 2000: Honolulu hearings on the Akaka bill. Independent Reporter Robert M. Rees writes on September 6 that opponents outnumbered supporters by 9-to-1 and that the Congressional delegation and daily newspapers "stole the hearings" by falsely stating that most testimony favored the bill.

September 26, 2000: Representative Neil Abercrombie's stealth strategy succeeded in getting the Akaka bill to pass the House of Representatives on a voice vote by unanimous consent in the middle of a series of non-controversial bills at the dinner hour when only a handful of Congressmen were present. Eyewitness account and newspaper report.

Akaka Bill Languishes in Senate September 27 to December 13, 2000 as opposition builds. Senators Inouye and Akaka hope to use the same "unanimous consent" stealth strategy that worked in the House, but admit they might try to attach Akaka bill to a major appropriations bill.

Akaka Bill Allegedly Dies In Senate December 12, 2000. Numerous Post-Mortems are Published. BUT WAS THIS DEATH ANNOUNCED PREMATURELY AS A DECEPTION? SEE BELOW!

December 15: Extreme Final Stealth Move: Hide Akaka Bill As A Single Phrase In Fine Print of Huge Appropriations Bill. Hard work and good luck enabled a Senate staffer to uncover this deception, and the Akaka bill was finally killed just in the nick of time.


YEAR 2001 (107th Congress, First Session)

Throughout the year 2001, the stealth strategy continued , culminating once again in a display of extreme stealth ending on December 7, 2001 when Senator Inouye was caught red-handed trying to hide the Akaka bill once again in the form of a single sentence deep inside a huge appropriations bill. When Senators Phil Gramm and John McCain forced him to remove it on the floor of the Senate, he and Senator Akaka promptly introduced a new version of the bill! See



YEAR 2002 (107TH Congress, Second Session) -- nothing significant happened with the Akaka bill in Congress! The bill died when the 107th Congress adjourned.

YEAR 2003 (108th Congress, First Session)

In 2003 the Akaka bill was once again written and amended without any widespread consultations. It was introduced in both the House and Senate, and had a tightly controlled hearing in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs where only supporters were allowed to testify. Newly-elected Republican Governor Lingle made several trips to Washington to lobby for the bill, and unsuccessfully pressured President Bush to support the bill during his one-day stop in Honolulu in October. For stealth tactics used during 2003, see the top one-fourth of the following webpage:

For details of the history of the Akaka bill in the 108th Congress 2003 - 2004, see the following webpage that exceeds 150 printed pages:


YEAR 2004 (108th Congress, Second Sesson)

As it became apparent that opposition to the Akaka bill was too strong to pass the bill in its entirety all at once, a new stealth process was implemented to pass the bill in small pieces by hiding the pieces deep inside major legislation on unrelated topics. The first piece was the establishment of a U.S. Office for Native Hawaiian Relations, included in the omnibus appropriations bill passed in January 2004. See:

There were extensive stealth tactics during 2004, especially after the summer recess ended. For stealth tactics used during 2004, see the bottom three-fourths of the following webpage:

For details of the history of the Akaka bill in the 108th Congress 2003 - 2004, see the following webpage that exceeds 150 printed pages:


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(c) Copyright 2001 - 2004 by Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

Email: ken_conklin@yahoo.com