Hawaii attorney general subpoenas Hawaiian Airlines for names of people who donated their miles to TMT protest
State Attorney General Clare Connors issued a subpoena to Hawaiian Airlines last month seeking the names of people who donated their frequent-flyer miles to activists who wanted to travel to the Big Island to join the protests on Mauna Kea.
Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser!
You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription.
Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story.
State Attorney General Clare Connors issued a subpoena to Hawaiian Airlines last month seeking the names of people who donated their frequent-flyer miles to activists who wanted to travel to the Big Island to join the protests on Mauna Kea, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser has learned.
The subpoena was withdrawn after lawyers for the airline resisted the demand for records, but protesters described the effort as an example of bullying by the Attorney General’s Office in an attempt to choke off support for the ongoing demonstrations against construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.
Connors also subpoenaed records from the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs last month to obtain information on OHA’s support for the
anti-TMT protesters. OHA has committed tens of thousands of dollars to providing dozens of portable toilets, rubbish collection and other amenities at the protest camp at the base of Mauna Kea Access Road.
“A subpoena is used in investigation of a crime. What crime are they alleging or investigating?” asked Edward Halealoha Ayau, one of the anti-TMT activists who describe themselves as “kiai,” or protectors of Mauna Kea. “And the answer is, none. That’s why when Hawaiian Airlines challenged them, (the Attorney General’s Office) said, ‘No need. No need respond.’”
“It is intended to intimidate and to have a chilling effect on any support for the kiai. What other reason could there be?” said Ayau, who has a law degree.
The OHA subpoena indicates that demand was issued in connection with an investigation of OHA, while the heading on the airline subpoena says it was related to “investigation of Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu.”
The Royal Order of Kamehameha I established a puuhonua, or place of sanctuary, at Puu Huluhulu at the base of the access road at the outset of the protests in mid-July.
The TMT opponents
have now been blocking
the access road for nearly
12 weeks. The protesters consider the telescope project to be a desecration of a mountain that many Hawaiians consider sacred, and say they will not allow the TMT to be built.
TMT spent a decade obtaining state and county approvals and fending off legal challenges to the $1.4 billion telescope project, and supporters say the development now has the legal right to proceed.
Many TMT opponents travel to the Big Isle from the other islands to participate in the protests, and protest leaders also have been traveling interisland to make community presentations about the anti-TMT movement.
KITV ran a brief story on July 22 announcing the
Hawaiian Airlines program to allow HawaiianMiles members to donate miles to Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu, which is described on the airline’s web page as “a cohesive set of groups dedicated to the peaceful protection of Mauna Kea.”
Hawaiian Airlines spokesman Alex Da Silva said in a written statement that the airline allowed donations of miles “to support nonprofits representing different perspectives of the Mauna Kea issue. We decided to leave each online portal open for 30 days. The airline did not contribute or donate miles to either fund.”
As for the subpoena, “the Attorney General issued a single subpoena requesting information about the donations to one of the entities. Hawaiian Airlines objected to the subpoena, which we felt was overly broad.”
Staff at the Attorney General’s Office refused to discuss the Hawaiian Airlines subpoena issued Sept. 13, or the OHA subpoena issued Sept. 11.
Krishna F. Jayaram, special assistant to the attorney general, issued a statement last week saying that “while I won’t confirm or deny whether an investigation is taking place, I can say that the Department of the Attorney General does not use the investigative powers
entrusted to us to bully any person or entity — that’s not how we operate.”
Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, who is one of the protest leaders, described the subpoenas as “an inappropriate move by government, and it’s a form of intimidation against those people who show any support for our movement.”
The Office of Hawaiian
Affairs announced late last month it had spent more than $39,000 in support of the anti-TMT protests on Mauna Kea. Most of that money was spent on the protest camp on toilet rentals and servicing, trash hauling and disposal fees, tent rental and lighting.
More than $8,000 was spent on staff and trustee travel for site visits and other activities, and more than $2,200 paid for legal
observers at the protests,
The OHA board of trustees unanimously approved
a resolution in July authorizing OHA staff to advocate for the protesters and to do “assessment and provision of health, safety and legal needs” for the activists.
OHA trustee Carmen Hulu Lindsey was among 39 demonstrators who were arrested July 17. Lindsey has said OHA funds are not being used to defend her against the petty misdemeanor charge.
Kamehameha Schools is also providing help to the demonstrators camped at the bottom of the access road, including providing a large tent and support for documentation of the protests through livestreams, photos and videos, but a spokeswoman said Wednesday that KS had not received a subpoena.