Thursday, April 30, 1998

Legislature '98

’98 Legislature
well connected

Activists use the Internet
to shift their lobbying
efforts to high gear

By Richard Borreca


By jumping on the Internet to rally the troops, organize a cause or focus attention, people hoping to influence the Legislature are getting wired.

"It absolutely makes a difference in being able to connect," Toni Worst, president of Hawaii Clean Elections, says.

Gay activist Bill Woods reports being on the Internet five to seven hours a day, working to organize and advise.

"I started using e-mail about two years ago," Woods said. "I was overwhelmed at the amount of communication and also at the fairness.

"I spent years trying to get in the front door to talk to someone. Now with e-mail I have been able to talk to them personally."

By using e-mail lists to spread the word across the state, across the country and even around the world at a moment's notice, people on the 'Net are able to find people with a common interest and then organize them into a political movement.

Republican state Sen. Sam Slom, who began using the Internet early for his own businesses, says that while he welcomes all sorts of communication, e-mail messages are a mixed blessing.

"Some messages are thirdhand speculation, some are recipes, some are jokes and some more are just ads," he said. "And it takes a tremendous amount of time to go through it all."

Like many other state politicians, he tries to respond to letters and telephone calls, but admits it is hard with the new flood of e-mail.

"The positive thing is that the volume of e-mail is up. I have encouraged people to communicate," he says.

Worst uses the 'Net to keep League of Women Voters and other government reform supporters up to date on the work done by Hawaii Clean Elections campaign.

"It is a time-saver and a great organizing tool," she said. "Position papers and responses can be developed, campaign events can be synchronized and scheduled without a zillion phone calls, artwork can be attached or downloaded to graphics companies or printers, brochures and ads can be laid out."

Woods also uses his e-mail lists to alert supporters to positions, political problems and recently, to help with his own investigation of groups opposing same-gender marriage.

To investigate contributions, Woods copied the entire list of donors to a Save Traditional Marriage '98 fund-raiser and e-mailed it to friends and supporters in Hawaii and across the country.

He asked for help in identifying contributors who he said might have mistakenly given to the group, while thinking they were paying to hear a motivational business speech.

So far his investigation of campaign spending practices has prompted a state Campaign Spending Commission investigation.

But Gary Grimmer, attorney for the Save Traditional Marriage '98 committee, worries that Woods is using the Internet in new and untried ways.

"To me this is totally new," Grimmer said. "I suppose it is remarkable. It is one thing to send a thoughtful advocacy piece to names you find on the campaign spending list and another to send a letter asking what was in their minds."

In response, Woods said he found errors and possible law violations in the filings with the Campaign Spending Commission, so he was following up.

Another legal researcher, who anonymously joins several Internet discussion groups to follow their strategy, noted that the Internet allows a local group to reach out and become a part of a larger like-minded group.

The Rev. Frank Chong, director of the Waikiki Health Center, who is heading a lobbying effort for private social service agencies, relies on a fax machine rather than e-mail to get out alerts regarding legislative budget conferences.

"E-mail is a little too compulsive," Chong said. "When you get it, you respond. And you respond before thinking about it."

How to reach your
legislators with e-mail

Here are the e-mail addresses of local legislators:

Benjamin Cayetano

Mazie Hirono

James Aki
Rosalyn Baker
Robert Bunda
Avery Chumbley
Suzanne Chun Oakland
Lehua Fernandes Salling
Carol Fukunaga
David Ige
Marshall Ige
Les Ihara Jr.
Randall Iwase
Brian Kanno
Calvin Kawamoto
Andrew Levin
Matt Matsunaga
Mike McCartney
Wayne Metcalf
Norman Mizuguchi
Norman Sakamoto
Sam Slom
Malama Solomon
Rod Tam
Joseph Tanaka
Brian Taniguchi

Felipe Abinsay Jr.
Lei Ahu Isa
Sam Aiona
Dennis Arakaki
Romy Cachola
Ed Case
Jerry Chang
Galen Fox
Nestor Garcia
Kenny Goodenow
Chris Halford
Eric Hamakawa
Robert Herkes
Kenneth Hiraki
Ken Ito
Merwyn Jones
Michael Kahikina
Ezra Kanoho
Bertha Kawakami
Quentin Kawananakoa
Marilyn Lee
Barbara Marumoto
Bob McDermott
Ron Menor
Colleen Meyer
David Morihara
Hermina Morita
Mark Moses
Bob Nakasone
Tom Okamura
Marcus Oshiro
Paul Oshiro
David Pendleton
Scott Saiki
Alexander Santiago
Calvin Say
Joseph Souki
David Stegmaier
Nathan Suzuki
Mark Takai
Dwight Takamine
Roy Takumi
David Tarnas
Cynthia Thielen
Terrance Tom
Gene Ward
Paul Whalen
Michael White
Brian Yamane
Noboru Yonamine
Terry Yoshinaga

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