POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 14, 2012
Political controversy persists over a conference planned for federal judges on Maui, with two Republican senators calling for the event to be canceled or at least scaled back.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who have been questioning the need to hold the August conference at a "far-flung island paradise," sent another letter Friday to the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"During this time of extraordinary debt, and given the history of opulence — including repeated trips to the Hawaiian Islands — we believe you should cancel the million-dollar conference," the letter said. "Failing that, ample opportunities to scale back costs at this event and at future conferences remain."
The conference also was held on Maui two years ago, in Honolulu in 2007 and on Kauai in 2003. It's also been held on Kauai in 1977 and 1983, in 1987 on Hawaii island and on Maui in 1991.
The court, one step below the Supreme Court, has said the gathering will be for serious business meetings and that the venue is within the circuit's jurisdiction. The court serves Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
But Sessions, ranking member of the Budget Committee, and Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the court's response wasn't sensitive to the costs involved.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote to the senators last month that Maui was picked for its competitive room rates and cheaper travel costs because of the number of airlines serving Hawaii. He wrote that at $230 per night, the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa compares favorably with similarly sized hotels in Anchorage, Alaska, and Sun Valley, Idaho, as well as several California destinations.
Friday's letter requests information for the circuit's 2008-through-2013 conferences including contracts and receipts, and the names and duties of the employees attending the Maui conference, along with the dates they'll be in Hawaii.
A spokesman for the circuit didn't immediately comment on the latest letter.