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  • Roll Call: Hawaii’s DC Delegation Packs the Least Punch

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Hawaii’s congressional delegation ranked dead last in the country for its political influence, according to the latest Clout Index released by Roll Call last week.

    Roll Call’s ranking, based on the delegation’s “total size, longevity, majority party representation and formal positions of power,” shows that Hawaii’s clout has plummeted since 2013, when the state claimed 19th spot.

    Hawaii’s congressional delegation ranked dead last in the national ranking of political influence.

    Roll Call

    The plunge, no doubt, reflects the consequence of a generational turnover. In 2012, the delegation lost the considerable political influence of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, a 40-year congressional veteran who chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

    Three of the four current members of delegation — Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Horono, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — settled into their posts in January 2013, while Rep. Mark Takai assumed his post only this January.

    The ranking typically benefits the most populated states, because they “generally amass the most seniority, have strength in numbers from the party in power (whichever one it is), claim the biggest shares of the powerful panel assignments and promote their own for leadership posts.”

    California topped the ranking, followed by Texas, New York and Florida.

    But Hawaii was outperformed by Alaska, whose population — at about 740,000 — is almost half that of Hawaii. Alaska was 47th in population but 32nd in the ranking.

     

  • Bill Would Allow Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma to Seek Special Care

    · By Chad Blair

    U.S. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) last week reintroduced legislation designed to allow survivors of military sexual trauma to seek specialized care outside of the Veterans Administration health care system.

    Co-sponsors of H.R. 1603, the Military Sexual Assault Victims Empowerment (SAVE) Act, includes Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

    “The tens of thousands of military sexual assault survivors in the military must receive proper mental and physical care after experiencing such horrible trauma,” Gabbard said in a press release. “Stepping forward and seeking care is a battle all its own. Those who speak up must have their safety ensured and greater control over their own health decisions.”

    Veterans Day at Punchbowl Memorial.

    Gabbard added, “Sexual assault survivors have unique needs; they shouldn’t be forced to share personal and highly emotional experiences with a doctor who is not best-equipped to treat them.”

    Gabbard is a captain in the Hawaii National Guard who served two tours in the Middle East. Barr is the son of an Army veteran and the grandson of a World War II-era veteran.

    Said Barr, “We owe members of the military the best medical treatment available, and victims of sexual assault in the military certainly deserve the compassion, flexibility, and discretion to make their own decisions about the best course of care for their unique needs.”

    Click here for more information on the bill.

  • Hawaii Democrat Suggests Congress Won’t Vote on War Request

    · By Chad Blair

    The Hill has this item about a Democrat from Hawaii who has been in the news a lot lately. You can probably guess which one, eh?

    Excerpt:

    Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Thursday expressed doubt that Congress would ever vote on President Obama’s request for congressional authorization of military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its allies.

    “I honestly don’t know. … I can’t tell you there will or there won’t,” Gabbard, who sits on both the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services panels, said during an interview on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.”

    The president sent his war powers measure to Capitol Hill several weeks ago, and it was almost immediately pronounced dead on arrival by Republicans and Democrats.

    Aside from a handful of House and Senate hearings — which raised more questions about Obama’s request than answers — little work appears to have been done.

    Gabbard said “a lot of concerns” have been raised about the proposed war powers resolution, which she claims lacks a strategy for defeating ISIS and likened to the 2003 authorization for use of military force on Iraq. …

    It’s been a busy week for Gabbard on national TV.

    She also appeared on Wolf Blitzer’s CNN show and is scheduled to be on the Sunday CBS show “Face the Nation” with Bob Schieffer.

     

     

  • Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus Features Gabbard, Takai

    · By Chad Blair

    On Thursday — the 12th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard , a Democrat, and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) launched the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.

    They were joined at an announcement in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Mark Takai, the other Democrat of Hawaii, and Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA).

    Gabbard and Perry, both veterans of the Iraq war, will serve as caucus co-chairs.

    On this 12th anniversary of the #Iraq war, these post-9/11 veterans in Congress are dedicated to empowering #veterans pic.twitter.com/HSsymuPkEc

    — Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) March 19, 2015

    According to a press release from Gabbard’s office, the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus will include a bipartisan group of members who have served in the military after 9/11 “and who are dedicated to issues related to our newest generation of veterans. The caucus’ legislative agenda will focus on the 2.8 million veterans who have served and deployed since 9/11, and provide a forum for this new generation of veterans to voice their concerns and ideas.

    A Sept. 11, 2001, Memorial Healing Field at the Pentagon.

    Flickr: The U.S. Army

    “Taking care of our brothers and sisters in uniform who have selflessly served our country must be a priority for Congress,” Gabbard said on the press release. “The bond that exists between those of us who have served spans across all generations. …”

    Said Takai, “I am proud and honored to be joining my brothers and sisters that have

  • Krishna Cult Rumors Still Dog Tulsi Gabbard

    · By Rui Kaneya

    Eleven years ago, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, now a rising star in the Democratic Party, was a little-known state representative from a West Oahu district. It was her then-Republican father, Mike, who was in the political limelight.

    The elder Gabbard, known for his virulent anti-gay crusade in the 1990s, was challenging Democratic incumbent Ed Case in the race to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District. So, for a profile piece, a writer at Honolulu Magazine emailed him and asked about his family’s ties to a guru named Chris Butler, aka Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa, who leads an obscure offshoot of the Hare Krishna movement in Hawaii.

    But Tulsi Gabbard jumped in. “I smell a skunk,” she emailed back. “It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for … homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case.”

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s conspicuous silence on her family’s ties to guru Chris Butler has only made her detractors more suspicious.

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

    Much has changed with Tulsi Gabbard since then. She enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard and served two tours in the Middle East before successfully running for a seat on the Honolulu City Council in 2010. Then, in 2012, she got what eluded her father — a seat representing Hawaii in Congress.

    But one thing has remained: The Gabbard family’s ties to Butler still hound her — in the hallways of the Hawaii State Capitol, on blogs of political observers, on pages of online discussion forums, and in commentary sections of

  • The Faces of Tulsi Gabbard: GOP Buddy, Friend of India, Obama Critic

    · By Chad Blair

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was eyed as a rising political star even before she was elected to Congress in 2012 — she spoke at the Democratic National Convention that year just weeks after winning a primary election.

    But her profile on the national stage has risen to a new level in recent months.

    It comes in large part through multiple appearances on cable and network television news programs including CNN, ABC and Fox News, and in interviews with and reports by national and international press such as The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Economic Times.

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at the Democratic Party of Hawaii convention, May 24, 2014.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    As a military veteran who served in the Middle East, Gabbard is sought out for her views on U.S. foreign policy in the region. As the only Hindu-American in the Congress, she is a point of pride for many in India and America.

    In office for barely two years, she has made a point to work closely with Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. And she is the rare Democrat willing to openly criticize her party’s leader, President Barack Obama, who also hails from Hawaii.

    Obama Foreign Policy Critic

    In June 2014, for example, Gabbard said it “makes no sense” for the United States to resume military operations in Iraq to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and that she would oppose U.S. airstrikes in the region.

    That same

  • The Pod Squad: What’s Up With Rep. Tulsi Gabbard These Days?

    · By Mike Webb

    The appointment of a political neophyte as her chief of staff and criticisms of President Obama’s semantics in the fight against the Islamic State have put Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard squarely in the spotlight. So Pod Squad host Chad Blair sat down with Civil Beat staffers, Rui Kaneya and Todd Simmons, to talk about how these things could impact her effectiveness in Washington.

    The group talked about Kainoa Penaroza’s lack of experience compared to other chiefs of staff and how this could help or hurt Gabbard. They also discussed Gabbard’s concerns that president is being too cautious in his comments about radical Islam. Another question: is Civil Beat out of line by reporting on these issues?

    Press play to listen to the discussion or subscribe to the Civil Beat Pod Squad on iTunes or Stitcher. Mahalo for listening.

    The Pod Squad is produced by Mike Webb, Civil Beat’s sales and marketing director.

  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Needs to Answer Questions About Chief of Staff

    · By The Civil Beat Editorial Board

    Over the past two years, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has been the congresswoman who could do no wrong. The telegenic, rising political star has enjoyed a largely uncritical media spotlight, the likes of which is hardly ever afforded a new representative with a relatively short political resume.

    And she’s played in that environment like a pro. Here she is in the New York Times, there on CNN, and she is the rare Democratic official who regularly appears on Fox News.  It’s been quite an impressive phenomenon.

    But in recent weeks, she’s encountered her first major bumps in the road, and they’re providing a different look at the second-term congresswoman.

    Washington Magazine is among the many media outlets where Gabbard has received star treatment during her two years in office.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    As Civil Beat editorialized recently, Gabbard’s dogged, ongoing crusade against the president’s restrained public characterizations of terrorists has left many observers scratching their heads.

    Then last week, a new issue arose that raises fresh questions: the appointment of a longtime friend with scant political experience, and none in Washington, D.C., to serve as her chief of staff.

    Stories in Civil Beat and Hawaii News Now featured criticisms from prominent political figures and pundits calling the selection of Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza “unusual,” bizarre,” “perplexing” and “not a choice that nearly any other member of Congress” would make.

    Whether hiring Penaroza turns out to be a strong or poor decision, it’s another high-profile matter in which the representative’s judgment is being called

  • No Political Pedigree: Can Gabbard’s Top Advisor Succeed in D.C.?

    · By Rui Kaneya Chad Blair and Nick Grube

    Bruce Coppa remembers well the first call he received as former Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s chief of staff. It was about a man who had just threatened to blow up a plane at the Honolulu International Airport. By the time Coppa picked up, the crisis had been averted. But he still needed to brief the governor about what had just happened. It was part of the job.

    “They’re calling you because you’re the guy,” Coppa said. “You don’t get to test the water. Once you jump in — you’re in.”

    It’s the hardest gig Coppa ever had, and that’s saying a lot. He’s now a partner at Capitol Consultants of Hawaii, the most powerful lobbying firm in the state. Prior to becoming Abercrombie’s right-hand man, he held top executive positions in both the business and labor sectors, including with the Pacific Resource Partnership and the large PR firm Communications Pacific.

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has avoided questions about her new chief of staff.

    Cory Lum/Civil Beat

    That’s why he and other political observers find U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s latest hire as the chief of staff so perplexing.

    Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza, 30, who is the third person to hold the position in two years, doesn’t have the kind of political experiences found in the resume of a typical high-ranking congressional staffer.

    RelatedEyebrow Raiser: Tulsi Gabbard’s New Chief of Staff Baffles Political InsidersFeb 24

    He’s a former health-food sales manager for Puna Noni Inc., a family owned business based in Kailua, and an owner of

  • Eyebrow Raiser: Tulsi Gabbard’s New Chief of Staff Baffles Political Insiders

    · By Rui Kaneya

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is turning to a political neophyte to lead her operations in Washington, D.C.

    On Tuesday, the Hawaii Democrat announced that she has picked Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza to serve as her chief of staff, making him the third person to hold the top position in the two years she has represented Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District.

    The announcement of Penaroza’s appointment came in the form of a hastily issued statement, released a few hours after Civil Beat had requested an interview with the new chief of staff. Penaroza didn’t return a call to reporters in Honolulu or meet with a reporter and photographer who visited Gabbard’s Washington, D.C., office on Tuesday in part to ask about the new hire.

    Kainoa Penaroza, third from left, was a sales manager for Puna Noni until December.

    Screenshot: Puna Noni home page

    The press release doesn’t say when Penaroza began his job in Gabbard’s D.C. operation, but a LinkedIn profile has him working as a health-food products sales manager in Hawaii until two months ago. He also lists current ownership of a natural-clothing company that provides products to Whole Foods.

    In the press release, Gabbard describes Penaroza as “an entrepreneur and small business owner” and mentions that he worked for six years as a “national sales manager for a Hawaii company” but leaves out its name.

    Penaroza’s profile lists him as a sales manager at Puna Noni Inc., a broker at Ecoceptional Inc., and the owner of the Kailua-based Tag Aloha Co., “an Eco-friendly

  • Hawaii 2nd Congressional District: Gabbard Cruises to Re-election

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was sailing smoothly into a second two-year term Tuesday night, leading Republican Kawika Crowley in the race to represent rural Oahu and the neighbor islands in the U.S. House.

    Gabbard had 76 percent of the vote, to 18 percent for Crowley, according to early returns. Libertarian Joe Kent had 2 percent.

    Gabbard, a 33-year-old rising star in the Democratic Party, hardly had to campaign this election after running unopposed in the Aug. 9 primary.

    Tuesday marks the second time Gabbard has defeated Crowley, a 63-year-old professional handyman and advertising consultant.

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and state Rep. Mark Takai, left, are seen in this photo from a 2013 National Guard event.

    Jeff Cox/NGAUS

    In Gabbard’s first shot at a congressional seat in 2012, she blew past former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary and then beat Crowley in the general, winning 77 percent of the vote.

    This election season she’s spent more time helping others and presumably laying the groundwork for future elections, although it’s uncertain what position she might seek. There’s been speculation that Gabbard might run for the Senate.

    Gabbard and her political action committee have spent thousands of dollars helping fellow Democrats in Hawaii and on the mainland.

    The day after state Rep. Mark Takai beat six other candidates in the primary for the 1st Congressional District seat, Gabbard’s PAC gave his campaign $2,600. He was tied in the polls with Republican Charles Djou

  • Tulsi Gabbard Emails Thoughts on D.C. and Why She Wants 2nd Term

    · By Nathan Eagle

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is many things. A combat veteran. A Hindu. A national media darling.

    She’s also the Democratic candidate running to represent Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District for another two years.

    The race has received scant attention, though, as less lopsided contests and controversial ballot measures have dominated the political discourse.

    Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, seen here at AFGE’s annual legislative conference last year, is seeking election Tuesday to a second term in office.

    AFGE

    In her first shot at a congressional seat in 2012, Gabbard had to get by former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary.

    Hannemann, practically a household name, led in the polls early in the race but Gabbard pulled off a shocking 54 percent to 34 percent victory before cruising to a crushing win in the general election with 77 percent of the vote against Republican Kawika Crowley.

    Gabbard, 33, was unopposed in the primary this year and faces Crowley again in the general. She’s expected to defeat him by a similarly huge margin. Civil Beat’s latest poll had Gabbard 50 percentage points ahead.

    But the lack of competition doesn’t mean Gabbard deserves a free pass. Her record the past two years and plans for her next term are undeniably important, especially to her roughly 700,000 constituents on the neighbor islands and rural Oahu.

    Freed from having to campaign hard for her own re-election, Gabbard has been busy helping other candidates, making a litany of public appearances

  • Tulsi Gabbard Wants U.S. to Suspend Visa Waivers for European Countries

    · By Nathan Eagle

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is calling on the Obama Administration to immediately suspend the Visa Waiver Program for countries that have thousands of citizens fighting alongside Islamic extremists in the Middle East or elsewhere.

    In a statement, she names three European countries as examples of nations with people who have left to fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL (also referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS).

    “As things presently stand, Islamic extremists holding British, German, French or other European passports can simply get on a plane and fly to America without a visa. The safety and security of Americans should be of the highest priority, and this Visa Waiver Program puts the American people in great danger,” Gabbard, an Army National Guard captain who has served two tours of duty in the Middle East, said in a statement on her House website.

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at the Democratic Party of Hawaii convention, May 24, 2014.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    “By suspending the Visa Waiver Program, all visitors from these countries will have to go through a visa application process before they are allowed to step on U.S. soil.  Simultaneously, I will work with my colleagues to take action in Congress to address this issue and plug this gaping hole in our national security.”

    Thirty-eight countries participate in the waiver program, which lets eligible citizens visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.

    The CIA told CNN on Thursday that the Islamic State may

  • An Open Letter to Tulsi Gabbard

    · By Dave Pellegrin

    The Civil Beat staff has voiced frustration over its inability to get timely responses from you or your staff. Here’s my own recent experience:

    As one of your constituents — and an Army veteran — I submitted a question to your website several weeks ago. After getting no response, I followed up on Aug. 14 with a phone call to your Washington, D.C., office.

    An apologetic aide told me I’d be hearing back within a day or so. So far, nothing. I’m now asking more openly.

    In July, as reported by Associated Press: “A bitterly divided House panel has voted to condemn President Obama for the May swap of five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held prisoner in Afghanistan for five years.”

    U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was sworn into Congress at the start of 2013 by the body’s top Republican, John Boehner.

    votetulsi.com

    It was a party-line vote, with only you and one other Democrat, Mike McIntyre of  North Carolina, voting with 32 Republicans.

    I wrote, and then phoned, to ask why you had voted that way.

    In 2011 Israel released 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. It sent a powerful message about how much Israel valued its men and women in uniform.

    Your House vote violated the Soldier’s Creed — all the more remarkable given your own military service and admirable track record on behalf of our veterans.

    Did you think swapping, say, two Taliban for Bergdahl — but not five — would have

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono Takes on VA Over Hawaii Vet Problems

    · By Nick Grube

    Hawaii veterans complained to U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Tuesday about the reams of bureaucracy that often prevent them from getting timely access to health care and other services.

    Among their concerns were the long waits to be seen by Veterans Affairs doctors, troubles traveling from the neighbor islands and an overall sense that their needs are being ignored by those whose job it is to serve them.

    “The core issue may be one of attitude,” said Victor Craft, a Vietnam War veteran from Oahu. “The veteran is not a piece of paper to be shuffled through a never-ending corridor of administration. They are people.”

    A wheelchair-bound veteran in the audience at the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee Field Hearing at the Oahu Veterans Center on Tuesday.

    PF Bentley/Civil Beat

    Hirono held a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in Honolulu to address the concerns of Hawaii residents who served in the armed forces.

    Attendees included Craft and several other veterans, including Hawaii Army National Guard Capt. Elisa Smithers, who said she was a combat veteran who has struggled with alcoholism, nightmares and violent outbursts ever since serving tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait.

    VA officials and others involved in providing medical services to the military also testified during the hearing to explain what they’re doing to help ease the burden on veterans, particularly those living in Hawaii.

    In June, the VA released an internal audit showing average wait times for incoming patients. Hawaii’s VA system was the