CPA Mobility – Follow the Lobbying Money

CPA Mobility - Follow the Lobbying Money

moneyNothing is more telling about how little a trade association’s leadership respects its members than how it spends its members’ money.  Take Hawaii’s 2015 legislative session as an example.  According to filings with the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, the HSCPA and each of the large international accounting firms in Hawaii (Ernst & Young, KPMG, and Deloitte – members of “The Accountants Coalition” or “TAC”) hired the following lobbyists in late 2014 and early 2015 (see for the actual filings):

HSCPA Ernst & Young KPMG Deloitte
2015 2013-14 2015 2013-14 2015 2013-14 2015 2013-14
Robert Toyofuku X X X
Timothy Lyons X X
Lisa Konkola X X
Tammy Velasquez X X
George Morris X X X X X X
Bruce Coppa X X
John Radcliffe X X X X X X
Celeste Nip X X


That is a lot of lobbying horsepower to promote “No Notice, No Fees, ‘No Enforcement’” CPA Mobility legislation in Hawaii for the benefit of out-of-state and foreign CPAs and their firms!

629 (22.5%) of all Hawaii CPA licensees are currently based on the mainland or in foreign countries according to the DCCA’s latest Geographic Report.  That is equivalent to two or three jumbo jets of CPAs flying in to serve Hawaii clients this year!  And that does not include those working in Hawaii under temporary permits to practice. 

So what is the vision of HSCPA’s leadership for CPA services in Hawaii?  Do they want 50% of the Hawaii CPA market controlled by mainland and foreign-based CPAs?  75%?  How much will satisfy HSCPA’s leadership? 

As you know, HAPA is a volunteer trade association operating on the principle of practitioners serving practitioners.  It has no paid lobbyists.  To better assess how the legislative game is being played and how to best represent its members’ interests, HAPA requested a proposal for lobbying services during the 2015 legislative session from a high-quality lobbying firm.  The price was $75,000 for one year.  If this is indicative of the kind of money the HSCPA is paying for its lobbyists, how much money is the HSCPA spending to lobby for the benefit of out-of-state and foreign CPAs?   And, whose money is the HSCPA spending? 

How much money is something we may never know.  Typically, the bulk of the costs for promoting legislation are not reflected in the publicly-filed expenditure reports.  The public reports generally only disclose the cost for work done at the Capitol and do not include the more expensive preparatory work, meetings, and other work done outside of the Capitol.

As for whose money is being spent, are local HSCPA members funding the HSCPA to lobby against themselves?  Is the HSCPA being bankrolled by the AICPA, the large international CPA firms, or both?  No matter what the scenario, the HSCPA’s leadership has clearly picked sides.  Are they working for you or against you?  You decide.