Joe Souki's conflicts of interest grow

Last year John Oliver mocked Joe Souki and the entire House for determining that Joe Souki who was employed by the American Chemistry Council to derail the Styrofoam ban, didn’t have a conflict of interest. (See 9:06)

That conflict of interest may have provoked laughs on a comedy show but it turned serious this year when Souki appointed Clift Tsuji as chair of the House Agricultural Committee.

In 2013 the House leadership fight between the Say faction and the “Dissidents” or more liberal faction led by Speaker Souki was resolved by courting Republicans and appointing them to vice chair positions.  This year apparent defections from the Say faction meant that Souki could win the leadership fight without going to Republicans.  One result of this was the former Say supporter, Tsuji’s chairmanship of the House Agricultural Committee.

Tsuji has been castigated by Babes Against Biotech for being one of the top 3 in taking donations from chemical companies operating in Hawai’i (Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF and DuPont).  Four of these companies are members of the American Chemistry Council employing Speaker Souki.

This year will see a pitched battle between the counties and the Big Six chemical companies on state pre-emption of county ordinances regulating chemical and GMO experiments, buffer zones for agricultural spraying, disclosure of what chemicals are being sprayed and bans on GMOs.

The battle is heating up.  In January  Kaua’i passed a buffer zone and disclosure ordinance which Dow, Syngenta and DuPont immediately challenged in court.  Dow and DuPont number among Speaker Souki’s employers.  No unseemly conflict of interest there, right?

The first judge ruled in favor of Dow, DuPont and Syngenta saying that state law pre-empts the counties on pesticide regulation, citing HRS 149A which establishes a comprehensive framework of pesticide disclosure and rules.   Groups are appealing.

Then Big Island passed a GMO ban and wound up in court also.

Last week Maui passed a GMO moratorium. This is essentially a ban because it requires that no more GMOs be planted unless they are proven safe – something that, despite the chemical companies’ frequent assertions, probably can’t be done.  Certainly the $7.9million in PAC money that Dow and Monsanto spent on Maui to defeat the initiative would hint that they have doubts about being able to prove safety.  Dow is Speaker Souki’s employer.

In a twist, supporters of the Maui GMO Moratorium jumped the gun and sued the County to be involved in rule making citing Mayor Arakawa’s antagonistic comments toward the initiative.  A few days later Dow and Monsanto filed to stop the ordinance from being implemented.

In 2010 the Biotechnology Industry Organization honored Clift Tsuji and Calvin Say with their BIO Legislator of the Year award saying:

“Speaker Say and Rep. Tsuji have been vocal proponents of agricultural biotechnology, its economic and fiscal contributions to the state, and the potential of genetically engineered crops to help feed the world,” said Fred Perlak, HCIA president.  “For the good of the state, both of these individuals have worked effectively and tirelessly to minimize policies that might negatively impact this vital industry.”  [emph added]

So Kaua’i, Big Island and Maui county won’t be looking for any help from the House Agriculture Chair for removing state pre-emption over pesticides and GMOs.

And Speaker Joe Souki should be in line for a big bonus from the American Chemistry Council.