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The Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel on Maui (Photo: Wikipedia)

California Lawmakers Defend Attending Conference in Hawaii

Lawmakers face growing outrage over going to conference despite COVID-19, quarantine concerns

By Evan Symon, November 19, 2020 6:31 pm

On Thursday, California lawmakers who are attending the Independent Voter Project conference at the Fairmont Kea Lani on the island of Maui in Hawaii have begun defending their decision to go.

Many of the lawmakers, who have been identified as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents from both houses, have been severely criticized by many in California for attending the annual junket due to skyrocketing COVID-19 rates in the state and Governor Gavin Newsom moving most Californian Counties to the highest COVID-19 tier. With many Californian lawmakers already facing mounting scrutiny for ignoring COVID-19 guidelines, most notably Governor Newsom himself, the decision to travel while both California and Hawaii have 14 day quarantines has raised many questions as to whether the junket trip was even necessary, if not potentially harmful health and safety-wise.

The Independent Voter Project has refused to name those who are attending the conference, which is being held at the $500 a night Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel in Wailea. As of Thursday, the following California lawmakers have been confirmed to have gone to Maui for the conference:


Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals)

Wendy Carillo (D-Los Angeles)

Jordan Cunningham (R-Paso Robles)

Heath Flora (R-Ripon)

Mike Gipson (D-Carson)

Chad Mayes (I-Yucca Valley)

Jose Medina (D-Riverside)

Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park)


Andreas Borgas (R-Modesto)

Bill Dodd (D-Napa)

Many of the lawmakers, as well as the conference host, have defended the conference, noting that health and safety measures against COVID-19 have been observed, including passing a COVID-19 test before going.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

“This event promotes intelligent public policy in our state,” said Assemblyman Cunningham in a Wednesday statement. “In fact, we are here discussing ways we can safely reopen our society and save our small businesses, workers, and kids. We paid for my family’s tickets and COVID tests with personal money — no state funds were used.”

Other lawmakers expressed similar reasons, including noting that they were paying for the trip themselves, and not at the expense of the host or taxpayer.

“The blanket response to Covid-19 does not work for small businesses, schools, and working families in rural California,” said Assemblyman Bigelow in a statement. ‘I am paying for myself to be here, following the strictest Covid-19 safety protocols, and tested negative to Covid-19 just prior to my arrival.”

Assemblywoman Carillo also commented, Tweeting “Yes, I am currently in Hawaii for a 4-day bipartisan conference focused on reopening our economy during COVID-19. This trip is not funded through tax-payers dollars.

“If any of this created any mixed messages or caused confusion, let me apologize.”

Outrage continues over the lawmakers Hawaii conference

However, these statements have done little to quell the growing outrage over their actions.

“They’re supposed to be setting examples and showing what Californians should be doing during a lockdown,”  noted San Diego political analyst and former lobbyist William Thompson to the Globe. Thompson also informed the Globe that he had been to similar conferences before.

“Look at what they’re saying. Some of them confirmed bringing family with them. There’s been suspicious denials of taxpayer money funding the trip without anyone asking. For junkets or fact-finding missions, those are legitimate ways of having the trip be paid by either who the junket is for or the taxpayer respectively. But them going out like this, it’s pointing to this being more of a vacation.”

“And it would have been more forgiving if this was an isolated location. But no. It is in Hawaii, a state that is even more locked down than California. And, you know, what is that telling Californians? Vacations to places with a lot of people are okay now? The Independent Voter Project should have canceled this or made it a Zoom event. But they didn’t, and these lawmakers decided to go anyway. Honestly, how dare they.”

The taxpayer and consumer watchdog group, Consumer Watchdog, also chastised the move.

“In normal times it is an abuse of office to have oil, utility and other big companies that lobby in the Capitol paying for an Hawaiian getaway replete with golf, hula show and mai tais,” Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court said on Wednesday. “In COVID times, it is an abomination that legislators would break quarantine to play in the sun at a four-star resort.

“You can have a discussion about opening safely on Zoom if you don’t care about the golf, the beach and the mai tais. This has and will always be a world-class junket. This year it’s also a lethal one that shows disrespect for the quarantine and those hunkering down to do the right thing.”

In response, many Republican and Democratic lawmakers denied being in Hawaii, giving visual and physical proof through social media during the week. Among them was Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) who immediately sent a tweet of himself at a Sacramento Starbucks to a Twitter user asking lawmakers where they were at.

The conference on Maui, which is also being attended by state lawmakers from Texas and Washington state, is expected to run through Thursday, with many expected to stay behind for a time to adhere to state quarantine laws.

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11 thoughts on “California Lawmakers Defend Attending Conference in Hawaii

  1. This “Let them eat cake” mentality among our elected officials is getting real old. They should have been on zoom like they demand the rest of us do. As long as they continue their “do as I say not as I do” attitude we will remain on lockdown. When they have to behave as we do or if their income is effected by these draconian lockdowns, only then will this tyranny stop.

    1. If they think I’m locking down—-ha ha. “Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the goverment but illegal for the citizenry.” Thomas Jefferson

  2. They are working very diligently!! I’m a guest at the Fairmont and truly impressed with their focused and due diligence!

  3. Have any of the lawmakers in attendance explained why zoom wasn’t good enough? I’d love to hear the answer…..um uh, my wife said I had to go but uh, I didn’t really want to but uh, I was already on the plane so um, uh, I should have got off but uhh I already had a cocktail and my clubs were shipped ahead so I uh uh um had to go get them. And uh, we’d rather spend Thanksgiving outdoors in Maui.

  4. It’s HAWAII! Enough said. After 11 months of lockdowns and quarantines and not going anywhere fun even for them, What better reason (or excuse) do they need go there except now while using a conference as a excuse to go to the sunny beaches of Hawaii where they can have fun in the sun, IF they can get out of the 14 day quarantine to do so, when they are not busy with the conferences before it’s time to go home? Unless the conferences are going to happen AFTER the mandatory quarantine is over, everybody all the politicians going to the conference probably won’t be back until after December.

  5. “…with many expected to stay behind for a time to adhere to state quarantine laws.,

    Of course they did….on the beach….

    Thanks for posting the names of these parasitic leeches…

    Zoom wasn’t good enough to attend your seminar, folks ???
    How come it is for us????

  6. Those with taxpayer income & little oversite continue to frolic. The reasoning must be that it is easier to concentrate on the disastrous lockdowns and shot in the foot ruination of small businesses in CA, on the golf course, in Hawaii, than attending townhall’s with your unemployed constituents.

  7. Shame on all of them! Evan when you get all the names of those who went please let us know in a follow up article.

  8. So they plan to stay and “quarantine” adhering to state laws? Whose state laws? My understanding of the 14 day quarantine is that when you return to Calif one is required to self quarantine for 14 days. So quarantining in Hawaii (which they said they waived the quarantine rule IF you had a negative test 3 days before arriving) is required by which state? And a meeting on re-opening state economies is a joke since they are doing their darnedest to destroy anyone is isn’t in entertainment industry, a public union job, teachers union or silicon valley.
    Rule by dividing the people

  9. Interesting, I understand Fresno is beautiful this time of year. Why Hawaii?
    If it were in Fresno, would they have been so inclined to gather and “solve” the impending economic disaster in California? I guess in Hawaii, legislators can clear their heads and do their best thinking.
    2020 The Great Awakening…
    To be continued in 2021, are you ready?

  10. When you lock down the State of California due to a pandemic, tell the citizens they are to cancel their traditional Thanksgivings and Christmas’s, put small briskness owners out of business, offer not help to the citizens financially or otherwise, stop them from gathering with more than 3 families, then give them a curfew and run off to Maui I think you all have a lot of nerve and it is completely irresponsible of you all! This is something that could have been done over zoom practicing the rules that you have given to the citizens of California! When your seen dining at the French Laundry, not social distancing, you lied about it being outside and all 12 of you were shoulder to shoulder enjoying a $10,000 per person meal when the residents of CA are lucky to be putting a mean on the table for our own families! Trust me when I tell you WE WILL NO LONGER OBAY YOU! Every single county has informed their citizens the Sheriff’s will NOT be enforcing your “rules” any
    Longer! In fact, we’ve been holding rallies after 10pm and will continue to do so! Lastly, to all of you… WE HAVE YOUR NAMES AND YOU CAN PLAN ON BEING VOTED OUT!!! Your all a bunch of rich Hippocrates!

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