Flying high with Kai Kahele

Hawaii’s Second Congressional District is the one that includes everything but Honolulu and the surrounding area on Oahu. It has been represented by Democrats since Hawaii was granted statehood. The amazin’ Mazie Hirono rose up from the district to display her idiocy to a national audience, but Tulsi Gabbard showed that idiocy was not a prerequisite for the position.

Kai Kahele has succeeded Tulsi Gabbard in the seat. However, it appears that Kahele has left it mostly unoccupied. The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that Kahele hasn’t been to Washington much this year. Instead, he’s voted by proxy since January. Ah, the benefits of the Pelosi Coronavirus regime.

Punchbowl News highlights a nugget buried in the story:

Kahele, a commercial pilot, is still working for Hawaiian Airlines. Kahele is licensed to fly the Airbus A330, Boeing 767 and Boeing 757, according to the FAA – all long-haul aircraft. Hawaiian Airlines flies between Hawaii’s islands, in addition to multiple destinations in Japan, South Korea and Australia. In addition, the airline services multiple airports on the West Coast, New York, Austin, Orlando and Boston.

Kahele’s office says that he is earning less than $29,595, the maximum amount allowed in outside income for members of Congress and some senior staff. Hawiian Airlines says its first officers make $81 per hour and they fly a minimum of 1,500 flight hours a year, for a total of $121,500.

But in the years we’ve been covering Congress and congressional ethics, we’ve never seen an arrangement quite like this before.

Punchbowl appends these points:

→ First of all, we asked Kahele’s office for any documentation from the Ethics Committee that shows that they approved this arrangement, whereby Kahele serves as a member of Congress but moonlights part-time for an airline. They didn’t produce it.

→ Kahele has only voted five times in person in 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Civil Beat story. This is permitted, of course, under the Democrats’ proxy voting rules. We asked Kahele’s office if he has been flying for Hawaiian Airlines while voting by proxy. They didn’t answer this either.

→ Hawaiian Airlines has business in front of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on which Kahele sits. The airline lobbies the federal government. So this means that Kahele is collecting a salary from a company that is trying to lobby the federal government, and more specifically the committee on which he serves.

→ Kahele has, on one occasion, talked about Hawaiian Airlines in a congressional hearing, expressing dismay about furloughs.

Punchbowl reiterated that they’d never seen anything quite like it, but not before dredging up this quotable quote from Kahele: “I have decided to sit here through almost 3 hours of this hearing because I not only sit here representing the Second Congressional District in Hawaii, but I also sit here representing 810 Hawaiian Airlines employees who all received warning involuntary furlough notices just a few days ago, of which 647 flight attendants and their families and 99 pilots and their families both received those same involuntary notices. American Airlines will be issuing 13,000 involuntary furlough notices beginning tomorrow. And so this is something that I am deeply concerned about.”

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