Leaders of the Hawaii Republican Assembly say they will vigorously fight the legal threat from Lilly, adding that the reason for the threat is HIRA's criticism of the Republican Party of Hawaii for alleged mismanagement, chronic losses, fiduciary impropriety, and inability to effectively lead Republicans to victory; allegations chronicled in media coverage of HIRA's tussles with the state party over the past six years.
According to the state party's lawyer, the issue is not HIRA's strong opinion nor its conservative viewpoints but HIRA's logo, name and slogan, used by NFRA state chapters since the Assembly's inception in 1934. Lilly asserts that only the Hawaii Republican Party can use the word "Republican." Furthermore, lawyer says that their use of the national party's elephant precludes any other Republican organization from using any form of elephant symbol as its logo.
While neither the media nor the local Republican membership appear to confuse these two, of the dozen state Republican organizations, the state party complains that HIRA's existence "creates a likelihood of confusion in the minds of the public." However, after six years since HIRA was formed, it appears that the real issue is not the name or logo but the party's inability to earn political donations, maintain memberships, or appear relevant. The party attorney states in his accusatory letter that "your activities appear to not only be competing for economic benefits including donations, in some cases they attempt to actively obstruct contributions to the Hawaii Republican Party."
HIRA president Tito Montes: "Of course this is about money. Our sinking party keeps losing elections and their donors and members are steadily losing faith. While nobody in their right mind confuses HIRA with the state party, the liberals who've hijacked the Republican Party of Hawaii now choose to divert party funds and finite resources from winning elections to try and make us go away. Clearly, they see HIRA as a greater threat than the ruling Democrats. That tells you everything you need to know about their real motives."
In a letter to HIRA members this weekend, Montes explains, "2016 will be another lost cause because shutting down HIRA is our state party's priority. Party officers Fritz Rohlfing, Pat Saiki, and Miriam Hellreich have, without State Committee approval, rushed into a losing case which will cost the party a fortune in money and in time and energy they've shown to lack. Republicans in Hawaii deserve better leadership since it's obvious that Democrats are in for an easy ride. Our party's leaders already wasted one full year since the last election. Now, they'll blow the next 12 months between now and Election Day."
HIRA, which is exclusively comprised of card-carrying Republicans, says the group is prepared to go to court on behalf of the National Assemblies to argue that the state party has no exclusive ownership rights to the word "Republican" and that Lilly's case is entirely based on the notion that Republicans and voters in Hawaii are stupid, confused or both. They are neither.
Montes adds, "Somebody better warn all the Chinese restaurants in Hawaii that only one of them -- just a single one -- can use the word 'Chinese' in the name of their restaurant or Mike Lilly and the Republican Party are going to shut them down too. And if those restaurants have a dragon in their logo, they'd better pull down the dragon, change their name and start selling Italian food right away."
The parent organization of the Hawaii Republican Assembly (HIRA) is the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA). The Republican Assembly was founded in the 1930's in order to advocate conservative political solutions and to support the election of conservative candidates for public office and party office. Endorsed by the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the NFRA has chapters nationwide. Similarly, the Republican National Committee has state parties nationwide. The usage rights for both HIRA and the Republican Party of Hawaii originate with their national parent organizations between which there exists no national dispute over names, slogans, or logos.
It is unknown at this time if attorneys for the Republican National Committee (RNC) will be joining Lilly's fight or if he and the Republican Party of Hawaii are on their own.