Seems there’s a chance that a group of “dissidents” in the state House of Representatives are attempting to replace Speaker Calvin Say with Maui’s own beloved Speaker Emeritus Joe Souki, says today’s Maui News. And Souki is taking it at least somewhat seriously:
“I think it depends at this point on how much I really want it,” said Souki, who was approached over the phone by anonymous House members saying they had 18 votes for him. “If the majority feels a change is in order, I should consider it.”
Souki (who sounds eerily like Elmer Fudd) is one of the most senior members of the Hawaii state Legislature. First elected in 1982 (the same year he opened Joseph M. Souki Realty, his day job), he’s currently running unopposed for what will be his 16th term of office (Say is one of the few members more senior, having first been elected in 1976). Souki rose to the Speaker’s post in 1993, only to lose it five years later to Say, who’s held it ever since.
Souki–like Say, a lifelong Democrat–is also one of the more controversial House members. You don’t have to look over Souki’s own personal disclosure forms, on file with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission (and available here) to see why.
In addition income Souki draws from the Legislature, Joseph M. Souki Realty and Social Security, Souki also makes between $10,000 and $25,000 as a “consultant” (read: lobbyist) for the American Chemistry Council. Based in Washington, D.C., the ACC represents a huge number of chemical companies like BASF, Bayer, Chevron Oronite, Dow Corning, DuPont, ExxonMobil and Shell.
In 2011, Honolulu Civil Beat wrote this story about how Souki lobbied the Maui County Council on behalf of the American Chemistry Council back in 2009 when the council was deciding on banning Styrofoam packaging:
Souki made clear that he was testifying not as a lawmaker but as a citizen and as a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council. Later in the same meeting, Councilmember Michael Molina asked a styrofoam manufacturer if council members might be able to visit the company’s Oahu production plant when they fly over “to network with our legislators like Mr. Souki.”
In that story, Civil Beat also reported that in 2010, when the House was deciding on a bill that would charge 10 cent fee on shopping bags–a bill the ACC testified against–Souki asked the House leadership if could vote on the bill, and was told yes.
The personal disclosure form for 2012 also shows that Souki owns 1,620 shares of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. stock and another 729 shares of Hawaiian Electric Industry, Inc.
Souki’s also the only state legislator (that I know of) who has a parody website–an apparent result of Souki’s vocal and vigorous support of the old, extremely controversial Hawaii Superferry. As chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Souki accepted campaign contributions from Hawaii Superferry Inc. and helped out the company by tabling at least one bill that would have required a full environmental review of the Superferry (something the Hawaii Supreme Court eventually ruled was, indeed, required).
To call Souki a Maui political institution is an understatement. And to contemplate his returning the most powerful job in the state House is almost too much for this journalist to bear.