Lawmakers, Court Taking Up Challenge Of Attorney General Subpoena In Mauna Kea Funding Probe

Feb 7, 2020

A bill making its way through the Hawaiʻi State Legislature aims to prohibit the attorney general from investigating a nonprofit that helped raise funds for opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea.

Senate Bill 42 was introduced earlier this week by Sen. J. Kalani English, a member of the Native Hawaiian Caucus, at the request of telescope protesters.

The measure is in response to a subpoena issued by the attorney general seeking bank records from The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance or KAHEA. KAHEA helped provide bail and other support for those arrested during protests on Mauna Kea.

The attorney general argues the investigation is justified because KAHEA may be supporting illegal activity by financially supporting demonstrations. 

Bianca Isaki, KAHEA board member and attorney, says the attorney general is setting a dangerous precedent.

She deplored what she said was the state using "its subpoena powers against a nonprofit that’s standing on its mission by doing community organizing by creating these very, I guess, kind of tenuous links between funding, community organizing, and civil disobedience."

The nonprofit has asked the court to dismiss the attorney general's subpoena. The case continues today in Circuit Court at 10 a.m.

Isaki said KAHEA could ask for a stay of the subpoena if Senate Bill 42 becomes law.

A procedural issue sent the measure back to the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs for further review.