OHA hires law firm
to lobby Congress

The Washington, D.C.-based
firm will report to the board

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has hired a Washington, D.C.-based law firm to lobby Congress and the Bush administration for passage of the federal native Hawaiian recognition bill also known as the "Akaka Bill."

OHA logo The board on Thursday voted 8-0 to authorize no more than $450,000 from its current fiscal year budget to hire the firm Patton Boggs LLP.

OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said the hiring of Patton Boggs augments the opening of OHA's Washington, D.C. bureau in February. Combined, the agency is better positioned to advance self-determination for native Hawaiians, she said.

The contract requires Patton Boggs to report weekly on their lobby, along with regular telephone conferences to keep OHA officials apprised of ongoing expenses, activities and other action.

Apoliona said recognition is urgent and critical to neutralize political and legal challenges to the programs and assets that help native Hawaiians in education, housing, health care, economic development and cultural preservation.

"We believe the passage of this measure sets the future context for designing Hawaiian governance, locally and nationally," Apoliona said.

Meanwhile, not everyone is pleased with OHA's lobbying campaign. James Manaku, at a committee hearing Wednesday, said OHA's television and newspaper ads in support of the Akaka bill raised concerns Hawaiians will secede from the United States. And non-Hawaiians are worried how the Akaka bill will affect them, he said.

Trustee Dante Carpenter, a former Big Island mayor and legislator, responded the Akaka bill calls for a nation-within-a-nation status for Hawaiians, not secession. He said OHA needs to continue to help educate the community at large about the bill.


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