First Amendment Concerns Raised Over Subpoena Against KAHEA

February 1, 2020, 2:35 PM HST · Updated February 1, 2:35 PM
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Clare Connors

Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i (ACLU of Hawai‘i) claim that the Department of the Attorney General is “abusing its regulatory power” over non-profit organizations by investigating KAHEA for supporting the Maunakea demonstrations.

KAHEA is an environmental advocacy group based in Honolulu.

“In the ACLU’s view, targeting nonprofit groups and investigating them for their advocacy and political affiliation violates the First Amendment and Article I, Section 4 of the Hawaiʻi Constitution,” a press release from the organization read.

“The investigation against KAHEA follows a worrying trend of subpoenas issued to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawaiian Airlines also for their support of these same demonstrations.”

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The ACLU has not taken a position on the Thirty Meter Telescope. However, the organization argues that the AGʻs “heavy-handed actions” could have a chilling effect.

“This is about the First Amendment rights of all organizations to engage in political advocacy without fear that the government will use its regulatory power to penalize them for doing so,” the press release added.

“There are acceptable ways for the Department of the Attorney General to investigate organizations that abuse their non-profit status or that break the law, but here the Department does not have evidence KAHEA has done either. Using the Attorney General’s oversight to penalize advocacy groups for their “support” of the Mauna Kea demonstrations is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.”

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