Chamber of Commerce Hawaii hires the son of Senate president

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s leading business advocacy group has hired a new lobbyist, the son of the state Senate president.

Chamber of Commerce Hawaii has hired 28-year-old Dan Kouchi to serve as its new assistant vice president for government affairs and alliances, which some state officials say could disrupt proposals to increase the state minimum wage, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Tuesday.

The chamber has been an outspoken opponent of proposals for minimum wage increases. Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, has introduced a new bill that would incrementally increase the state minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Democratic Senate President Ron Kouchi said he sees no problem in his son lobbying at the state Legislature.

“He’s got a job to do. I got a job to do,” Kouchi said.

When asked if his son might use family ties to influence state issues, Kouchi said “the last time I checked, I paid his tuition and paid for his braces, so I don’t see how he has something over me.”

The Senate president’s obligation “first and foremost” is to his caucus, he said.

Dan Kouchi did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment.

“Our business advocacy team tracks numerous bills and Dan, as part of the team, will be advocating at the county and state levels, including at the Legislature,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the chamber.

The public’s perception of the relationship could become an issue, depending on how the minimum wage measure proceeds, said Gary Hooser, vice chairman of the state Democratic Party.

“The failure to pass or the weakening of the minimum wage proposal will be blamed no doubt on the strength of the lobbying efforts of the Chamber of Commerce,” Hooser said. “People will inevitably connect the dots, rightly or wrongly, and those dots will lead to the Senate president.”