Rep. Kai Kahele defended his part-time job as a commercial pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, saying the arrangement was in line with house ethics rules, and attributed his long absence from the Capitol to the pandemic after questions arose as to whether he was breaking ethics rules to continue his work with the airline.
Members of Congress are limited to earning a maximum of $29,895 from outside revenue sources in 2022, according to rules set by the House Ethics Committee. In a statement, Kahele’s office said the Hawaii Democrat earned $29,151.79 from Hawaiian Airlines in 2021. And so far this year, Kahele has flown three flights for a total of 14.2 hours flight, earning less than $2,861.90.
His outside income has also raised questions about a potential conflict of interest, since Hawaiian Airlines has business before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Kahele sits on this committee, which has jurisdiction over the airline industry.
The House Ethics Committee declined CNN’s request for comment.
Kahele’s office also explained that he has not voted in person since January because he is worried about new variants of coronavirus and lives in a multi-generational family home. But his office said he remains committed to his DC job.
“To limit his exposure to COVID-19 and the potential for the virus to spread, our office has tried to reduce Rep. Kahele’s cross-country travel while ensuring he fulfills all of his responsibilities in Congress.” , Kahele’s spokesperson said in the statement provided by the MP.
“The congressman hasn’t missed a single vote this year. He continues to participate in HASC and T&I committee hearings and maximizes his time back home by engaging with his constituents and addressing their concerns. at the federal level.
Questions about Kahele’s work with Hawaiian Airlines were raised after the Honolulu Civil Beat ran an in-depth story about her attendance on Capitol Hill this year and her personal earnings since taking office. The report revealed that Kahele has voted by proxy at least 120 times since the start of the year, which means that another lawmaker has voted for him.
Hawaiian Airlines has directly lobbied the federal government on a slew of bills, of which Kahele is a co-sponsor, and CNN has confirmed the airline has been contributing to Kahele’s campaign every year since 2019. Although the arrangement is Unusually, Kahele’s support of these bills and Hawaiian Airlines donations are not illegal.
Hawaiian Airlines did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNN.
Kahele’s office defended his seat on the transportation and infrastructure committee, saying his experience as a commercial pilot offers a “unique perspective.”
“The Congressman brings a unique perspective to the T&I Committee as a current, qualified American commercial air transport pilot and strengthens the voice of all pilots, cabin crew and air cargo operators at home in Hawaiʻi and across the States. United,” his spokesperson said.
Captain Joe DePete, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, defended Kahele in a statement, saying he was a “strong advocate for aviation safety, frontline workers and those who have helped us through the storm.” pandemic”.
He added, “We salute him for his service to our nation and his commitment to staying grounded in the real world while serving in Congress.”
Kahele, a freshman congressman who was elected in 2020 to replace Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, was a pilot before running for office. The Honolulu Civil Beat reported that Kahele plans to run for governor this year.