Sadly, False and misleading attacks are being made against me.

Frustratingly, ads making false and misleading claims about me have been mailed by my opponent and repeated online. Misinformation already plagues national politics, we can do better than this in Hawaii.

 

Negative campaigning is not something I'll ever engage in, and I'm proud to run on the ideas I have and the work I've done with our community. There's a lot more to do if we are going to recover from COVID better than we went in, address tourism dependence, cost of living, and create sustainable jobs for our next generation. But in the meantime, since many have asked for it, here's an in-depth break down of the attacks made against me:

CLAIM 1:

FALSE

Attack mailer

with false claims sent last week.

"Chris Lee made it legal to publish law enforcement officers' names who...have a claim filed against them, before it's proven true."

 

Civil Beat reported that there have been over 80 cases of unwarranted assault by officers and over 100 cases of falsified police reports in Hawaii, often covering up misconduct. When an officer is believed to have violated someone's rights or the law, they are placed on administrative leave. After an investigation, when that officer is determined to be guilty, they are suspended or discharged. HB285 ends 25 years of policies keeping officer misconduct secret by releasing the names of officers involved with misconduct AFTER they are punished with suspension or discharge. This is similar to nearly every other state which also makes officer misconduct public to ensure transparency, accountability, and justice for victims.
 

"Chris Lee had this bill passed without a hearing or public input."

HB285 actually had four public hearings with public testimony and input. Here are the links to the public testimony from all four hearings:


Public testimony from hearing one
Public testimony from hearing two

Public testimony from hearing three

Public testimony from hearing four

CLAIM 2:

MISLEADING /

FALSE

"The offender is caught & released within hours."​

HB1552 and SB 192 don't change when people are eligible for release while waiting for trial. The bills prevent those who have not been convicted of a crime and are already eligible for release, because they are not a flight risk or danger to the community, to avoid being stuck in jail solely because they can't afford bail. 

 

This is important because bail is a tool to ensure accused people, whether innocent or guilty, will return for trial. But for those who are innocent but can't afford to pay it, being unjustly kept in jail means they are prevented from working, supporting their families, and carrying on with their lives. Mixing regular people like these with real criminals also introduces them to criminal networks and worsens crime overall. HB1552 and SB192 fix these problems and ensures that access to justice isn't a function of wealth.

Further contradicting the claim that I am "pro-criminal," and the suggestion that bills I've passed "release criminals within hours," is HB 2205 (2014) which I wrote and passed. This law explicitly targets the repeat, habitual offenders committing the majority of crime and prohibits habitual criminals from being immediately released back into the community.

HB2205 (2014), which Chris introduced and passed

"During COVID over 40% of the prisoners released have been rearrested, committing higher offenses than their initial arrest."

This is false. The vast majority of those released during COVID and rearrested were detained not for committing higher offenses, but for being homeless and violating county rules prohibiting sleeping in parks or other places. More importantly, by including this here, my opponent suggests that I am responsible for prisoner releases during COVID, which is also false. It was the Judiciary - not the Legislature - that decided to release prisoners to prevent viral spread in prisons. The legislature actually sent several requests to the Judiciary to consider other alternatives to release.

 

"SB192/HB1552 are Chris Lee's big achievements as Judiciary Chair."


Finally, I like to think equally important achievements as Judiciary Chair were the laws I helped author empowering voters by making it easy to vote by mail, which has already led to the record-setting voter participation in our elections this year, the bill I passed barring employers from discriminating against female employees, and law preventing corruption by prohibiting the Governor and Mayor from being paid by special interests on the side while serving in office.

CLAIM 3:

FALSE

Chris Lee introduced a universal income bill HCR89, that would give all Hawaii residents $500/mo, regardless of need -"

I have never introduced a bill that would do anything like this.

 

I did introduce HCR89, but it does nothing that is claimed. HCR89 is actually a resolution without the force of law, not a bill, and it convenes a working group to analyze what other states are doing to address financial security for families in light of economic inequality, job automation, and disruption. It does not give anyone a single dollar. Its goal is to analyze which options to address economic insecurity currently being explored by others places might be relevant for Hawaii. This includes an analysis of basic income pilots occurring around the world, and similar support for families in need such as the economic results of stimulus checks being mailed to every citizen during COVID.

"with the intent of eliminating welfare, food stamps, & housing assistance."

HCR89 does not advocate for the elimination of any safety net programs, and I have never advocated for the elimination of any of these programs.

CLAIM 4:

MISLEADING

This claim refers to a vote taken when the legislature intervened to protect local residents following years of controversy and opaque financial decisions by the City and County rail leaders that left the City's rail project delayed and over-budget.

In 2017, to make up for rail's budget problems, City leaders were preparing to raise property taxes to pay for cost overruns. "If the Legislature doesn't fund the shortfall, the city estimates that it would have to increase property taxes by 12 to 15 percent," HawaiiNewsNow reported.  Mayor Caldwell was pushing a City ordinance that would increase property taxes 10 to 14 percent.

To ensure transparency and accountability in the City's rail project that our community was demanding, and to prevent the City from immediately raising property taxes on everyone which would have driven up the cost of housing, the legislature passed SB4. It extended the City's authorization to collect the GET surcharge that pays for rail by 3 years, and increases the Transient Accommodations Tax which tourists pay when staying in Hawaii by 1 percent. Because tourists pay for about a third of the GET, but local residents pay for 100 percent of property taxes, SB4 ensured rail costs would be shared with tourists rather than placed solely on local residents. SB4 also required the City to open up rail documents and contracts to scrutiny, and provided for regular audits and reviews.

I did vote for SB4, but it wasn't because it was a "rail bailout using taxpayer money," it was because it prevented the City from increasing everyone's property taxes to pay for rail, reduces the burden on local residents by shifting the cost to tourists, and ensured audits and accountability for the City's rail decisions.

And as a result of passing SB4, the state began auditing the City's rail project and the public now knows this and much more:

State audit calls out city for "fragile" rail financial plan - KHON2

Audit - 18 rail consultants paid average of $500,000 a year in salaries - HNN

State auditor releases another report relating to Honolulu's rail project - KITV

CLAIM 5:

MISLEADING

This claim is based on this KHON2 story about a redevelopment project on a property in Waimanalo purchased by a family friend of the Obamas. It suggests that I helped them because they are politically connected, which is blatantly false in multiple ways.

Current law requires the legislature to approve of any easement to repair or build seawalls and shoreline structures. In 2015 longtime local owners of a shoreline property in Waimanalo asked for a resolution to repair their existing century-old seawall, not to expand it or build a new one that could worsen beach erosion. This happened when the property was still owned by the same local family to whom it belonged for decades, well before the new owners cited by this claim began redeveloping it. 

My opponent also cites Coastal Geologist Chip Fletcher in her attack. I've worked with Chip Fletcher to protect our coastline and beaches and he has this to say:

“To me, Chris Lee is one of Hawaii’s environmental superheroes. He’s worked to enhance public coastal access, increase protection for our beaches, prevent overdevelopment and shoreline hardening, and improve policies to address climate change.”  -Chip Fletcher

CLAIM 6:

MISLEADING 

"Chris Lee cares more about criminals than public safety...He introduced and sent forward, HB2068..."

HB2068 was actually introduced and led by a neighbor island Representative, though I signed on as a co-sponsor along with many other Democrat and Republican legislators because this bill started a discussion about correcting an unconstitutional injustice in which the Government could detain people forever without ever convicting them of a crime.

If someone is accused of a non-violent class C felony, but is found to be mentally ill and unfit to stand trial, current law allows the Department of Health detain them indefinitely whether they are innocent or guilty, without ever being convicted of a crime. This is obviously a far longer period of time than they would serve in prison if they were actually convicted of the crime. This is blatantly unconstitutional and the situation must be addressed.

 

 At the Legislature, it is common to co-sponsor the bills from fellow elected officials in order to attempt to address the issues raised by different communities around the state. No bill is perfect from the start, and that's why public hearings are held to hear from everyone, identify problems, and help craft stronger bills that makes sense and solve the problems that need to be addressed.

HB2068 went through multiple public hearings to find a way to address the Constitutional concerns of those being held. When this bill came to the Judiciary Committee that I chair, the Attorney General raised concerns that limiting the ability of the Department of Health to hold mentally ill people to 180 days, instead of indefinitely as current law allowed, was too short a time. So, I removed the 180 day provision to acknowledge the concern and sent the bill forward to the next committee to find an acceptable compromise that makes sense. This is exactly how the legislative process is supposed to occur.

 

It is outright false to say that I “care more about Criminals than Public Safety” as I have successfully led efforts and passed bills to increase the penalties for drunk drivers, keep habitual offenders behind bars, prevent stalkers from owning weapons, prevent murderers from getting reduced sentences, and even created the Gun Violence and Violent Crimes Commission to target criminals in our community. I've also introduced bills to strengthen our sex trafficking laws, and prohibit sex offenders from living near our schools or playgrounds.  Many issues are not as black and white as my opponent's attack suggests, and as an elected official, it is our responsibility to both uphold Constitutionally-protected rights and promote public safety.

CLAIM 7:

FALSE

This image is both a terrible photoshop and a false accusation.

 

I didn't work on SB2139 to help Gregg Takayama, a State Representative elected by the Aiea community. I worked on the bill because it was the right thing to do to uphold our Constitution and fix an unexpected problem with this years election.
 

When Aiea State Senator Breene Harimoto passed away earlier this year, his vacancy exposed a critical loophole in our election laws. Senator Harimoto was not up for election this year, which meant that when all the Republican, Democratic, and other prospective candidates in the Aiea community considered running for office, no one could run for his seat. Shortly after the filing deadline in June, Senator Harimoto passed away, creating a new vacancy.

However, because the filing deadline had just passed, current law said that anyone seeking to run for office from that community this year was no longer eligible to run for the new vacancy created in Senator Harimoto's seat, even though it wasn't an option they could have considered before. This would be the first time in the history of the state that an entire class of eligible citizens would be barred from running to represent their community through no fault of their own.

 

This kind of flaw in our laws cannot stand if we believe in ensuring a free and fair democracy. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, ensuring Hawaii's elections live up to the rights granted to all citizens by our Constitution is my responsibility. So, when the State Attorney General's office provided bill language in SB2139 to fix the problem created by Senator Harimoto's sudden passing, I helped work on the bill to ensure that any eligible citizen of any party could run to represent their community as our Constitution intended.
 

Logically, no matter in which community a sudden vacancy occurred around the state, there is always going to be an incumbent legislator in the House that would be affected, sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat. Gregg Takayama currently happens to represent the area in the House, and therefore is among the pool of Republicans and Democrats that had stood up to run for office in Aiea to which the SB2139 fix would apply. There is no way to avoid that, which is why we were careful to ensure SB2139 would apply to all candidates of all parties to ensure everyone equal treatment. I didn't work on SB2139 to help Gregg Takayama, and it certainly doesn't give him or any other candidate any advantage. I worked on it because I took an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our democratic process, and that's what SB2139 ensured.

I've always stood strong against real corruption and just this year led negotiations to pass a bill banning the Governor and all Mayors from getting paid by special interests while serving in office. It's the reason why I led the fight to pass HB285 (which I'm being attacked for by my opponent above) to address police misconduct and corruption in law enforcement. To stop the revolving door of government leaders becoming lobbyists and helping clients get special deals, I passed a law prohibiting the Governor and leaders of all State Departments, and decision-making boards and commissions, in addition to Legislators, from helping clients lobby the state immediately after leaving public office. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed that bill, but I plan to return and fight to pass it again, and will continue to fight to prevent corruption at all levels because the strength of our community and our democracy rests on a transparent and accountable government.

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