Hawaii Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele avoids DC duties to fly planes

Trade the nation’s capital for the friendly skies?

Representative Kaiali’i Kahele (D-Hawaii) was absent from Congress for most of 2022 and has only voted five times in person – leading many to wonder what the congressman and commercial airline pilot is doing with his time.

This week, the Honolulu Civil Beat noted that Kahele has voted by proxy at least 120 times since taking office — taking advantage of a coronavirus-induced policy that has allowed members of the House of Representatives to nominate a colleague who is on the floor for them true, if this is the case cannot be present.

Only three other members of the House — Democratic Representatives Albio Sires of New Jersey, Lucille Roybal-Allard of California and Al Lawson of Florida — have used the policy more often than Kahele.

Kahele submitted his latest letter of intent to vote on April 4, citing the “ongoing public health emergency.” Since then, the congressman has been spotted at multiple public events across the state of Aloha — in photos without a mask shared on social media.

Kaiali'i Kahele.
MP Kaiali’i Kahele has voted by proxy at least 120 times since taking office.

Additionally, the outlet noted that Kahele skipped many events in Washington, D.C., including President Biden’s State of the Union address, meetings between Hawaii’s federal delegation and city officials, and a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week.

Kahele’s official government website proclaims that lawmakers “fly the wide-body Airbus A330 on both domestic and international routes.”

Spokesman Michael Ahn confirmed Kahele’s employment to Politico on Monday, saying he “flies occasional flights to maintain his certification.”

Kaiali'i Kahele.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele operates “occasional flights to maintain his certification” for Hawaiian Airlines.
According to his 2020 financial report, Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele made nearly $120,000 with Hawaiian Airlines.
Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images
Kaiali'i Kahele.
Spokesman Michael Ahn insists Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele hasn’t made nearly $120,000 since taking office.

It is unclear how often Kahele has flown in 2022 or how much money he has earned. Members of the House of Representatives are only allowed to earn $29,595 in outside earnings.

According to his 2020 financial report, Kahele made nearly $120,000 with Hawaiian Airlines. Ahn has insisted Kahele, who was elected in 2020, no longer earns as much.

“The congressman doesn’t make $120,000. He’s fully committed to ethics,” Ahn told Politico. “He is an active member of the airline union, the ALPA Pilots Union, and is a certified commercial pilot and active member of Hawaiian Airlines.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last month extended the proxy voting policy through May 14, much to the chagrin of House Republicans.

Members on both sides of the aisle have used – and abused – the policy since its implementation in May 2020, with some using it to devote time to campaign activities.

It’s unclear if Kahele will stand for re-election at this year’s midterms, but local reports have speculated that the congressman could throw his hat in the ring to become governor.

Ahn did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comment. Hawaii Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele avoids DC duties to fly planes


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