The Grassroot Institute, a 501(c)3, was founded in 2001 by Libertarian Dick Rowland. It’s goals include advocating for individual liberty, free markets and limited government. According to Civil Beat, it is a member of the State Policy Network, a national group that opposes unions and promotes “free market” philosophy. Perennial OHA candidate Kelii Akina is president and CEO.
The stated goals of the organization are to prevent federal recognition of the Hawaiian nation and to repeal the Jones Act. In fact they quote a conservative Heritage Foundation piece calling Hawaiian recognition “Balkanization”.
According to Civil Beat,
Rowland and Akina insist that the institute is nonpartisan, though Rowland acknowledges that it continues to work with the conservative-leaning Hawaii Reporter and Republican state Sen. Sam Slom. Akina said the institute is supported primarily by local donations, though it does accept grants for projects from nongovernmental organizations.
Additionally Akina’s group has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. You’ll recall ALEC is the organization which writes corporate-sponsored model legislation such as the “Stand Your Ground” gun law and others favoring Big Oil, Big Ag, Wall St, and Big Pharma. Grassroot has held joint conservative presentations with Koch Brothers funded FreedomWorks.
Grassroot Institute has come out in favor of Monsanto, writing against the Maui County GMO Initiative to stop GMO planting until a safety study has been done.
Akina’s group has advocated against Hawaiian recognition and the Akaka Bill saying:
We urge the Secretary not to proceed with any action to foster the recognition or creation of a government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.
The Hawaiian community is divided on the Akaka Bill – not because there is opposition to recognition but because some feel it does not go far enough in recognition. To be clear, Akina is opposing it because he doesn’t think there should be any recognition at all. In fact his group did a dubious study which focused only on the financial aspects of recognition, which appeared to conclude that OHA should not be managing ceded lands for the benefit of Hawaiians but rather the ceded land revenues should be taken over by the state and away from Hawaiians.
The Hawaiian Group DMZ Hawai’i, explains the division over the Akaka bill and the position of the right wing groups cashing in on the dissension:
Pro-Hawaiian independence groups have opposed the Akaka bill because it will ‘settle’ (read ‘extinguish’) sovereignty and land claims while subordinating Native Hawaiians to the Department of the Interior. Meanwhile, right wing anti-Hawaiian groups such as the Grassroots Institute, Aloha For All and the Heritage Foundation have opposed the Akaka Bill as “race-based” “special rights”. [emph added]
What gets confusing is that there is a Christian Right element active in the Hawaiian independence movement, some of whom have worked closely with the right wing Anti-Hawaiian groups like the Heritage Foundation.
So let us get this straight. Akina is running for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to essentially abolish it? That would be compatible with the Libertarian view on government in general.
A further question is this. Duke Aiona has a close relationship with Akina and the Grassroot Institute. Does that extend to their Koch Brothers ties and anti-recognition positions?