Honolulu, Hawai‘i: On Friday, March 3, 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i (the ACLU of Hawaiʻi) filed an amicus brief in support of KAHEA’s attempt to stop the Department of the Attorney General from enforcing a subpoena for KAHEA’s bank records as part of the AG’s investigation into the environmental non-profit’s support of the Mauna Kea demonstrations. The brief argues that targeting and investigating KAHEA for their advocacy and political affiliation concerning Mauna Kea intrudes on the organization’s speech and associational rights, improperly retaliates against KAHEA for its position on the Thirty Meter Telescope, and risks the privacy of KAHEA’s donors and supporters. The investigation into KAHEA follows a disturbing trend of subpoenas issued to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Hawaiian Airlines miles donors also for their support of the Mauna Kea demonstrations.
While the ACLU does not take a position on the Thirty Meter Telescope, this case is about the right of the people to organize and demonstrate without fear that they will find themselves under investigation for doing so. Whether you are in favor or against the Thirty Meter Telescope, the AG’s heavy-handed actions have a chilling effect on everyone’s rights. 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 seems to be using isolated acts of alleged civil disobedience as a pretext to launch far-reaching investigations into organizations that support the Mauna Kea demonstrations. Using the Attorney General’s oversight to penalize advocacy groups this way is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.