Aloha readers! I received some helpful feedback to improve navigability to older articles on this site. I will be updating the site soon. In the meantime, below are the links to the investigative series on the Kailua-based Science of Identity sect and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's deep involvement. Thanks for checking it out! - CG
Butler's Web: Krishna, Politics, and QNET's International Pyramid Scheme
Butler's Web, Part 2: Who is Gabbard's Guru?
Butler's Web, Part 3: Grooming the Second Generation
- Christine Gralow
by Christine Gralow
KAILUA, HI - Windward O'ahu has not experienced significant damage from Hurricane Lane, which weakened to a Tropical Storm then a Tropical Depression before veering away from the island yesterday. O'ahu remains under a flash flood watch until 6pm HST today.
Business owners and residents who prepared yesterday for potential hurricane damage repeatedly said, "Better safe than sorry," as they boarded up windows and placed sand bags at entryways. Here's how some Kailua businesses and homes were prepared yesterday afternoon, when Lane was a Category 2 hurricane approaching the island.
By Christine Gralow
Earlier this week, Hawai'i Public Radio aired a piece that included an interview with me and a statement from a Tulsi Gabbard spokesperson.
Gabbard’s spokesperson stated, in an email to HPR Political Reporter Wayne Yoshioka, “Tulsi Gabbard is not going to participate in anything involving Gralow who has a history of bigotry and fabrications and we aren’t going to help amplify her Hindu-phobia.”
The statement was a predictable diversion. Gabbard’s team has been using various tactics to try to shut down my investigative reporting on Gabbard and the Kailua-based Science of Identity Foundation for well over a year now. The tactics seem to be growing increasingly desperate.
First, Science of Identity disciples came to my home, apparently to try to intimidate me, after I asked questions at a Gabbard town hall in Waianae. That’s when I realized I was dealing with a group that operates a lot like Scientology.
Then, Gabbard’s D.C. publicist, Chris Cooper of The Potomac Square Group, sent a rambling email to an editor at Honolulu Magazine about me. Cooper’s general M.O. is to use his status as a former Wall Street Journal reporter to rake in money from politicians who want stories buried. He is tied to Fusion GPS, which is also run by former Wall Street Journal reporters turned ethically challenged D.C. damage fixers. Per Politico, Cooper is also being investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee around his 2016 work for Kremlin attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“I can assure you that if i (sic) have anything to say about it, Tulsi will not cooperate with Ms. Gralow,” Cooper wrote on June 30, 2017, to the Honolulu Magazine editor, who had expressed strong interest in my work. “Ms. Gralow is a political activist. She is not a reporter.”
Per FEC records, the Tulsi for Hawai'i campaign paid Cooper $19,400 on October 6, 2017.
Next, after I independently published my first article on the Science of Identity Foundation’s international financial trail, someone tried to shut it down by launching two amateurish Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
Throughout all of this, numerous posts kept popping up about me from fake Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit accounts. The claims against me included Hinduphobic bigotry and four restraining orders.
One such fake account also targeted special education teacher and former Hawai’i State Teachers Association Vice President Justin Hughey. When HSTA endorsed Sherry Alu Campagna over Gabbard, an “Aquino Purificacion” jumped in to comment on Facebook, “Not surprising considering a TRO was filed against HSTA VP Justin Hughey by the owner of a small business on Maui after he entered the business threatening and harassing Tulsi’s staff.”
There is no record of a TRO ever having been requested or issued against Hughey. The “Aquino Purificacion” account was easily traceable to Gabbard's copywriter, Marissa Rodriguez. Gabbard's FEC records include multiple payments to Rodriguez, who also uses the fake name “M.P. Magayon” on Medium to post pro-Gabbard propaganda.
Gabbard has enormous name recognition in Hawai'i, and analysts say she will win tomorrow’s Democratic primary election against Alu Campagna. If Gabbard does win and continues to pursue a national political career, as expected, what’s next for her P.R. team? Joining Trump’s national efforts to shut down the free press altogether?
By Christine Gralow
Ige could be leading Hanabusa, Hirono might be more popular than Gabbard, and Schatz’s approval rating might be less than one percentage point below Gabbard’s. That’s what two political polls Civil Beat published last month actually found, given the polls’ margins of error.
Margin of error is a statistical measure of a poll’s reliability. The American Association for Public Opinion Research has cautioned journalists to, “Remember, margin of sampling error applies to the poll’s estimate of EACH candidate, and a candidate usually needs to be ahead by 1.5-2 times the margin of sampling error to be statistically significant.”
Merriman River Group conducted several polls for Civil Beat in early May. Civil Beat published articles about the polls from May 22 through May 24. A large majority of people polled were on landlines vs. cell phones.
One poll asked likely Democratic primary voters, “If you vote in the Democratic primary, which candidate are you most likely to support for Governor – David Ige, Clayton Hee, or Colleen Hanabusa?”
Of the 707 people polled, 37% responded that they would most likely vote for Hanabusa, 31% responded that they would most likely vote for Ige, and 11% responded that they would most likely vote for Hee. The poll had a 3.7 percentage point margin of error.
That means the pollsters could be reasonably confident (assuming there were no significant polling problems) that, in early May, somewhere between 33.3% to 40.7% of Democratic primary voters were likely to vote for Hanabusa, and somewhere between 27.3% to 34.7% of voters were likely to vote for Ige. So while it's possible Hanabusa did actually lead Ige in early May, it’s also possible that Ige led Hanabusa by 1.4 percentage points (34.7% to 33.3%).
Nonetheless, Civil Beat chose to publish the oversimplified headline, “Hanabusa Leads Ige By 6 As Primary Draws Closer.”
In another poll, Merriman River Group asked a sample of 967 registered voters if they "generally" had "a positive or negative opinion of” Trump, Obama, Ige, Caldwell, Schatz, Hirono, Hanabusa, and Gabbard.
This poll had a 3.2% margin of error. The pollsters found they could be reasonably confident that approval ratings in early May for the four current Congressional delegates were:
Gabbard: Somewhere between 57.8% - 64.2%
Hirono: Somewhere between 55.8% – 62.2%
Schatz: Somewhere between 50.8% – 57.2%
Hanabusa: Somewhere between 40.8% - 47.2%.
Given these intervals, it is possible that Gabbard had the highest actual approval rating in early May. It is also possible that Hirono’s approval rating was 4.4 percentage points above Gabbard’s (62.2% to 57.8%). The difference between Gabbard's and Hirono's numbers was statistically insignificant. The poll also found that Schatz's actual approval rating in early May could have been 1.4 percentage points above Hirono's (57.2% to 55.8%) and just six tenths of one percentage point below Gabbard's (57.2% to 57.8%).
Yet Civil Beat’s editor chose to run with the headline, “Tulsi Gabbard is Hawaii’s Most Popular Politician.” The article featured a cute picture of a happy Gabbard with the caption, “Hawaii’s voters love Tulsi Gabbard.” Half of the article was devoted to Gabbard.
Did Civil Beat choose click baiting over accurate polling analysis? Or is its editor statistically challenged?
Clarification, June 2, 2018: Merriman River Group conducted three other polls for Civil Beat in early May that are not analyzed here. Those polls focused on the Lt. Governor's race, the First Congressional District race, and a potential constitutional convention.
Aloha Democratic Party of Hawai'i and ACLU Hawai'i! I hope the Democratic Party of Hawai'i convention is going well this weekend and that it brings a much-needed economic boost to the Big Island.
I would like to share concerns regarding U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and violations of constituents' First Amendment rights. My intent in exposing this is not to create a political rift, but to spark a needed discussion in the wake of Wednesday's federal circuit court ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment by blocking dissidents on Twitter. My concerns about Gabbard include and go far beyond Twitter.
I would like to disclose that I am impressed by Sherry Campagna, Gabbard's Democratic primary challenger, and I welcome her campaign. I am a resident of Hawai'i's 2nd Congressional District. I do not work for Campagna, and I was not involved in her decision to run for Congress. I am a member of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association, which endorsed Campagna earlier this week. I am not one of the leaders of HSTA. I played little to no role in HSTA's decision to endorse Campagna. I am a full-time teacher and part-time journalist.
Last year, I exposed Gabbard's deep involvement in the Science of Identity sect, which is led by Kris Butler (aka Chris Butler, Jagad Guru, etc.). I also exposed this sect’s ties to an international money laundering ring. I knew little about Gabbard and nothing about Campagna when I decided to research this interesting group in my community.
The First Amendment also, of course, protects freedom of religion. Gabbard clearly has the right to participate in this sect's activities, so long as those activities do not violate others' human or civil rights. Despite accusations from Butler disciples, I am not a religious bigot. I have defended both Gabbard and Senator Mazie Hirono against actual religious bigotry on social media.
For over a year now, I have experienced and witnessed harassment and violations of the First Amendment rights of Gabbard's constituents. I have six key concerns, which relate to 1) Twitter 2) a publicist being paid to discredit me as a journalist 3) cyberattacks 4) online defamation 5) Butler disciples coming to my home after a Gabbard town hall and 6) false reports to U.S. Capitol Police.
1. The Twitter Problem
A United States Representative's professional Twitter page is a public forum. People cannot be blocked from that forum unless they are engaging in threats or other speech not protected by the First Amendment. Please see this Knight First Amendment Institute lawsuit.
I was blocked from Gabbard's public Twitter page after simply exercising my intellectual freedom and using my critical thinking skills to ask questions. I chose to make my questions public on Twitter because Gabbard's press team has failed to answer all of my questions sent via email. Not one question has been answered. Other Gabbard constituents, who by no means threatened or harassed anyone, have also been blocked. In one case, a Gabbard constituent was blocked for simply sharing one of my articles.
2. The D.C. Publicist Paid to Discredit Me as a Journalist Problem
Gabbard's communications team also made a strategic effort to stifle freedom of the press in Hawai'i when they chose to pay a D.C. publicist, Chris Cooper of The Potomac Square Group, to discredit me as a journalist to a mainstream news editor here. This editor was interested in my work, and we had an agreement. I was careful to ask the editor if I could identify as a freelancer for her publication when questioning sources for an article on Gabbard and Science of Identity. She agreed that I could. Soon after I began doing so, the editor received the below email from Cooper. Gabbard's recent FEC records show she paid Cooper's The Potomac Square Group nearly $20,000.
Cooper's paid email contains multiple grammatical and factual errors. He has not actually worked as a journalist in nearly a decade. He is currently best known in D.C. for accepting money to spin Bahrain's human rights abuses and taking a job with Kremlin lawyer and informant Natalia Veselnitskaya (of Trump Jr. meeting fame). Cooper hung up on me when I politely asked him to confirm his email address. I recorded that conversation, because I had a legal right to do so.
3. The Cyberattack Problem
Soon after I launched my independent news site to publish my investigative series, the site was subjected to two DDoS attacks. I do not yet have definitive evidence of who was behind those attacks. The attacks are being investigated. There was only one article on my site at the time. It was about Science of Identity and the Gabbard family's involvement in the sect. A man who runs another news website in Hawai'i, Hawai'i Free Press, claimed he also experienced a DDoS attack after publishing articles about Gabbard and Science of Identity.
4. The Online Defamation Problem
This problem began when I participated in a discussion on The New Yorker magazine's Facebook page about Kelefa Sanneh's article on Gabbard. A "George Bacay" quickly chimed in to comment: "Christine Gralow has record of TROs with 4 different people so uh?! Temporary Restraining Orders People."
There has never been a TRO requested or issued against me.
On Tuesday, as I read comments on HSTA's Facebook page regarding their endorsement of Sherry Campagna, I saw this, from an "Aquino Purificacion": "Not surprising considering a TRO was filed against HSTA VP Justin Hughey by the owner of a small business on Maui after he entered the business threatening and harassing Tulsi's staff."
I checked Hawai'i's civil court records. There is no record of a TRO ever having been requested or issued against Hughey. Hughey and I are both special education teachers. The First Amendment does not protect libel.
(Update 1 May 27 7:47pm: Someone just tried this TRO tactic again, in another Facebook discussion of Gabbard. See the third photo below. The Hawai'i civil court screenshot used by both "George" and "Kaleo" shows no evidence of TROs against me. Two of those civil cases involved me winning my deposit back from landlords who thought they could just keep it. One case involved a judge agreeing that my safety was at risk and that I needed a TRO against someone else. The fourth case was a misfiling of one of the landlord/tenant cases.)
(Update 2, June 27 5:39pm: I have confirmed that "Aquino Purificacion" is paid Tulsi Gabbard Copywriter Marissa Rodriguez. Rodriguez is also "M.P. Magayon" on Medium.)
5. The Disciples at My Home after the Town Hall Problem
I experienced retaliatory intimidation at my home shortly after I asked critical questions at a Gabbard town hall in Waianae, O'ahu, last year.
First, John Bishop, a long-time Butler follower and husband of Science of Identity President Jeannie Bishop, repeatedly photographed me at the town hall. I expect to be photographed and recorded when speaking at public town halls, and I have no problem with that. I am not a naturally paranoid person. But this was different. Bishop was not news media. He appeared to zoom in on me and photograph me dozens of times, not while I was speaking, but when I was just sitting there. Bishop appeared to do the same thing to LGBT rights activist and Democratic Party of Hawai'i Assistant Secretary Michael Golojuch Jr., who I happened to sit next to at the town hall. This photographer seemed hostilely fixated on Michael and me. I did not know anything about Michael at the time.
I was later able to confirm with former Butler disciples that Bishop has indeed engaged in odd surveillance jobs for Butler. One former Butler disciple I spoke with also admitted to infiltrating gay pride parades and tracking the activities of gay rights activists. He was under Butler's control at the time. Butler has taught his followers an extremist homophobic philosophy.
The night of the Waianae town hall, a clip of me asking Gabbard about her Syria trip funders appeared on Hawai'i News Now. The next day, two Butler disciples were parked immediately outside my home. As I left my home to walk my dog, I clearly saw their faces and quickly recognized one of them as a close personal and business associate of Gabbard Chief of Staff Kainoa Penaroza.
One week after this first lovely visit to my home, I observed two more Butler disciples parked immediately outside my home. One man stared at me as I again left my home to walk my dog. His wife tried to hide behind him in the passenger seat. I observed her taking pictures of me and the front door area of my home. I will refrain from publishing these young people’s names, because I believe responsibility for their actions ultimately lies with their guru.
6. The U.S. Capitol Police Problem
Gabbard's staff and/or close political supporters have also used the U.S. Capitol Police in apparent attempts to harass and intimidate critically thinking constituents.
Someone made a false report that I impersonated a Gabbard staffer. I did not. Two other Gabbard constituents say Gabbard's staff also reported them to Capitol Police and accused them of harassing Gabbard after they simply asked tough questions. The Capitol Police agent who called me after receiving the false report was nice enough and seemed to understand the situation. Since I had him on the phone anyway, I told him everything I know about Gabbard, Butler, and the Science of Identity Foundation.
A truly democratic election cannot be held when such tactics are being used to silence concerned constituents, journalists, and union leaders.
Mahalo for reading.
Christine Gralow, M.S.Ed., M.J.
Teacher and Independent Journalist
U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, '03
1. Butler's Web: Krishna, Politics, and QNET's International Pyramid Scheme
2. Butler's Web, Part 2: Who is Gabbard's Guru
3. Butler's Web, Part 3: Grooming the Second Generation
by Christine Gralow
The Hawaiian Kingdom Blog released a letter today written by United Nations Independent Expert Alfred deZayas to two Hawaii Circuit Court judges.
In the letter, dated February 18, 2018, deZayas wrote, "I have come to understand that the lawful political status of the Hawaiian Islands is that of a sovereign nation-state in continuity; but a nation-state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation."
DeZayas addressed this letter to Hawaii Circuit Court Judges Gary Chang and Jeannette Castagnetti. Chang presides over Hawaii's Land and Tax Appeal Court. Castagnetti presided over the contentious Nelson v. Hawaiian Homes Commission case, in which she ordered the Hawaii State Legislature to pay the Dept. of Hawaiian Home Lands $28 million in 2016.
"To call this (U.N.) document 'remarkable' is an understatement," David Keanu Sai told Hawaiian Kingdom Blog.
Sai, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from U.H., has led several international complaints regarding the legal status of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He explained in an email to Meanwhile in Hawai'i that his complaints aimed to expose "the continued existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent and sovereign State."
Sai said a relative of Routh Bolomet, "a Hawaiian-Swiss citizen," alerted him last week to deZayas' letter.
In the letter, deZayas referred to his review of a 2017 complaint from Bolomet to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Bolomet complained of "historical and ongoing plundering of the Hawaiians' lands, particularly of those heirs and descendants with land titles that originate from the distributions of lands under the authority of the Hawaiian Kingdom," deZayas wrote.
DeZayas served as the U.N. Human Rights Council's Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order from May 2012 through April 2018. He wrote the letter while serving in that position. He previously served as Secretary of the U.N. Human Rights Committee and Senior Lawyer with the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. He is a Cuban-born U.S. citizen with a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He currently teaches at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Law.
Meanwhile in Hawai'i has reached out to deZayas to try to gain more legal context on the letter. This article will be updated as more information is received. Mahalo to Hawaiian Kingdom Blog for publicly sharing this document.
For independent, community-based photo and video journalism on the Hawai'i island lava flows and eruptions, see Lava News on Facebook. They are also helping people check on their homes and getting people needed supplies. They will likely be the first to report on any new eruptions or flows. Hope everyone stays safe!
Aloha. Readers might be surprised to see a hard news piece here this week about the Hawai'i Emergency Management Agency's siren testing in Kailua. After directly experiencing the confusion caused by this siren testing and realizing that no other news organization was on top of the story, I decided to cover it.
While I continue to work on another longform piece, the time between publication of longform stories is - well, long. I have decided to change Meanwhile in Hawai'i's tagline from "Quality Longform Journalism" to "Reporting from the Community, for the Community." The tagline will be updated here soon.
I will cover hard news and community events as needed, and I will begin accepting freelance submissions. Thank you for your patience as I balance this side job with my separate, full-time position.
To those new to this site, please check out my three-part investigative series on the Kailua-based Science of Identity sect and the Gabbard political family's involvement.
Part One - Butler's Web: Krishna, Politics, and QNET's International Pyramid Scheme
Mahalo nui loa.
by Christine Gralow
Kailua, HI - Just twelve days after announcing its new administrator and ten weeks after terrifying the public with a false nuclear missile alert, the Hawai'i Emergency Management Agency confused residents and tourists in Windward O'ahu with an off-schedule, emergency siren test at Kailua's Kalama Beach Park yesterday.
Most Hawai'i-based news organizations that received a HI-EMA press release about the siren test also failed to publish the information online before HI-EMA began testing the siren at approximately 9:00 a.m. yesterday.
HI-EMA Public Information Officer Richard Rapoza emailed a press release regarding yesterday's Kalama Beach siren test to Hawai'i's mainstream news organizations at 2:58 p.m. Tuesday. The press release was not posted on HI-EMA's website.
KHON2 was the only news organization to post an article that was accessible to the public online before the siren testing began. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser did not publish the information online until more than one hour after HI-EMA began testing the siren. No other news organization published information about the testing that was publicly accessible via online search engines.
"We probably should have done more," said Honolulu Star-Advertiser City Desk Editor David Butts, after hearing concerns about the community's experience.
Butts said he lives near Kalama Beach Park, and his wife contacted him at work at 10:20 a.m. yesterday, confused about why she was repeatedly hearing an emergency siren sounding at the end of the month. Her confusion was shared locally by mail carriers, students, teachers, and tourists, who said they had not heard news of the testing in advance. HI-EMA typically conducts siren testing at the beginning of each month.
“I listen to KSSK every morning,” Kailua resident Denise Fleming said, “and I did not hear (radio host) Michael William Perry say one thing about this test.”
KSSK is one of HI-EMA’s official Emergency Alert System broadcasters. KSSK's news department has not yet responded to two calls seeking information about when or if the station informed the public of the Kalama Beach siren testing.
When asked if the HI-EMA press release could be found anywhere on the agency's website, Rapoza acknowledged it could not. He then checked the Twitter feed on the agency’s home page and found a tweet about the Kalama Beach siren test there. The Twitter feed appears in small print on the side of the website, next to an eye-grabbing March 12 headline about the agency’s new administrator, Retired U.S. Navy Captain Thomas Travis.
HI-EMA did post information about the Kalama Beach siren test just after 4:00 a.m. yesterday on its Facebook and Twitter (#siren) pages, but only 18 people total shared HI-EMA’s two Twitter posts, and 25 people shared the Facebook post.
There were no information signs posted about the siren test at Kalama Beach Park or in the surrounding area yesterday. An on-site HI-EMA employee announced the test via loudspeaker, but the announcement could only be heard in the parking lot and bathroom/shower area. It could not be heard from the beach. The emergency siren, however, could be heard from several miles away.
The siren was clearly heard at Kainalu Elementary School, which is one mile from Kalama Beach Park. Students and school employees were alarmed. Administrators said they were not contacted by HI-EMA about the testing. Parents and teachers called the school’s front office with questions about the siren.
In the wake of the January 13 false missile alert, and after hearing three consecutive, monthly nuclear siren tests, Hawai'i residents now associate emergency siren noise with the threat of a nuclear attack.
HI-EMA reinstated use of Hawai'i's state-wide emergency sirens for nuclear alert monthly testing on December 1, 2017. The agency abandoned use of the nuclear alert test (a wailing tone) on March 1, after public outrage and national media scrutiny of the false missile alert. HI-EMA has returned to testing only the natural disaster siren (a steady tone).
“If HI-EMA had just waited until next week (April 2) to test the siren, no one would have been confused,” Butts said.
Featured Story, Part Three of a Three-part Series
Butler's Web, Part One
Butler's Web, Part Two
By Christine Gralow
Kailua, HI - When current Hawai'i State Senator Mike Gabbard was 29, he sent a letter from American Samoa to a temple in Bombay. It was January 1977, and Gabbard was then Assistant Dean of Instruction at American Samoa Community College. He sought spiritual guidance from A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) - better known as the Hare Krishna movement.
In the letter, Gabbard described how he was first exposed to ISKCON in 1973, through a chance meeting with a man named Vijay, who stopped in Samoa while on a mission to spread Krishna Consciousness in Fiji. Gabbard wrote that Vijay stayed at the Gabbard family's home in Samoa for a week, introducing the family to ISKCON tenets. Soon after, Gabbard began regularly chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, selling Spiritual Sky incense, and distributing ISKCON's Back to Godhead magazine at Mike’s Sport Shop, his family business in Samoa. Gabbard also described for Prabhupada his travels to ISKCON temples in California, Colorado, Hawai'i, and New Zealand.
"The four years since my meeting with Vijay has been a roller-coaster ride," Gabbard wrote in the letter. "By roller-coaster ride: I mean that I can understand why Lord Caitanya and you stress association with devotees."
The genuine soul-searching Gabbard expressed in this letter marked an early stage of his family's journey into the dizzying world of Kris (aka Chris) Butler’s Science of Identity Foundation (SIF), a secretive sect headquartered here in Kailua, on O'ahu's Windward Coast.
As covered earlier in this series, the SIF network is a complex web of political grooming, shady international financial connections, and alleged cultism. Three long-time, high-ranking Butler followers who have served as SIF financiers – Allan Tibby, Joseph Bismark, and Patrick Bowler - have faced international criminal allegations of money laundering, syndicated estafa (racketeering), and drug smuggling, respectively. In 1977, Honolulu Advertiser investigative reporter Walter Wright uncovered Butler's underhanded involvement in a Hawai'i political party called Independents for Godly Government, which Butler's followers financially floated with mysterious funds.
The Move to Hawai'i and Early School Days
Prabhupada mailed a reply to Mike Gabbard from West Bengal, India, dated February 18, 1977.
"Your idea for starting a Krsna Conscious center in American Samoa is very good," Prabhupada wrote to Gabbard in a letter filed at the Bhaktivedanta Archives in Sandy Ridge, NC, "but first you must be well conversant with our philosophy."
Later that year, Prabhupada died in India at age 81. He had wildly succeeded in spreading his Krishna Consciousness movement in the West, even reaching pop culture through George Harrison and The Beatles. His movement had spread especially quickly here in Hawai'i, among the counterculture hippie crowd.
After Prabhupada's death, Butler declared himself one of Prabhupada's pure devotees and true disciples, despite having had a brief and rocky relationship with the Indian spiritual leader. (As detailed in part two of this series, Prabhupada actually denounced Butler several times and accused him of criminal activity.)
Butler, who has gone by many names, began going by Srila Prabhupada soon after the ISKCON founder's death.
In 1983, the Gabbard family moved from American Samoa to Hawai'i, where they became deeply involved with Butler and SIF. Within SIF, Mike Gabbard became known as Krishna Katha das (also spelled Krsna Katha das), and his wife, Carol, became known as Devahuti dasi. Their daughter, current U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai'i) was just two when the family relocated to Hawai'i.
By this time, many of Butler's earliest and most devoted followers had young children. Butler strongly advised against sending the children to public schools or even allowing them to associate with non-SIF children. As a professional educator, Mike Gabbard was charged with running a private SIF school on O'ahu for children of Butler's disciples, the Ponomauloa School. Gabbard's deep spiritual devotion to Butler also soon led to his position as Butler's secretary of personal affairs. Carol Gabbard helped run her husband's Ponomauloa School, and she served as the secretary of a SIF branch in Arizona.
In 1984, when SIF's private schools were just starting up, Butler delivered a lecture on education to his disciples in Honolulu. A transcription of this lecture was widely circulated within SIF and leaked to Meanwhile in Hawai'i - along with dozens of other internal SIF documents - by a former Butler disciple who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. Three men who grew up within SIF say they recall repeatedly listening to a recording of this lecture as children at SIF schools. Another former Butler disciple confirmed her presence at the lecture and identified others named in the lecture transcription.
In the rambling lecture on education, Butler discussed his broken childhood dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player. He claimed his family was driven out of Louisiana and tracked by the CIA when he was a "baby," due to the family's communist and civil rights stances. (As covered in part two of this series, his father, the late Dr. Willis Butler, was, in fact, a far-left political activist with communist sympathies.) Butler also railed against public school teachers in the lecture and discussed his father's disappointment in him when he failed classes as an adolescent.
"The teachers aren’t interested in teaching," Butler said in the 1984 lecture. "They’re simply going for their paycheck, which of course you can know by the fact that they go on strike if they don’t get enough money, right? F**k the kids, we want our money, more money, we only make $22,000 a year. You know how hard it is to live with $22,000 a year when you’ve got three cars and four houses?"
Butler advised against allowing children to watch television, and he lectured against teaching evolution and history.
"Screw the history book," he said.
Butler also discussed his interest in politics, addressed "Krsna Katha das" (aka Mike Gabbard) directly during the lecture, and encouraged the children of his disciples to go into politics.
"What you’ve got to do is get one of these kids to run for office," Butler said. "Find out why you have to be a certain age to run for office … or a school board."
Dark Days - Inside the Baguio Boarding School
In the late '80s, in addition to Mike Gabbard's school on O'ahu, SIF began running a remote boarding school for the children of Butler's disciples in Baguio City, Philippines. The school was modeled loosely after traditional Indian gurukuls, where children studied directly with a guru away from home. Unlike traditional gurukuls, however, Butler – the guru – did not reside at the Baguio school or have any direct interaction with the children. In place of direct spiritual and educational guidance from their guru, the students listened to Butler's recorded lectures and bowed to pictures of Butler. Children of Butler's followers from the U.S., Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand were sent to the school.
Butler was "never there," said Ian Koviak, who attended the Baguio boarding school for over four years, from ages 12 to 16.
"My mother joined SIF in late 1989 in New York City," Koviak explained in an email to Meanwhile in Hawai'i. "It was not long before we moved to LA, Malibu, where Butler was at the time, and not too much longer after that I went to the Philippines school."
Koviak, now 38, said he listened repeatedly to Butler's lectures while at the Baguio school, including the 1984 education lecture.
"Some lectures bashed scientists like Carl Sagan and other modern thinkers," Koviak wrote. "Then there were the private tapes that were only for his disciples and close followers. Those went into graphic detail about homosexuality and male on male intercourse."
Koviak said the students also watched a video produced by Mike Gabbard's Stop Promoting Homosexuality organization, which included footage of men having sex in public. Koviak said he began seriously reflecting on this school experience and reconnecting with old classmates in 2011, when he started a blog about the school.
"I started the blog because I was feeling odd about what we went through," Koviak wrote, "I wanted to see if this was the feeling others shared."
Koviak and four other former students of the SIF boarding school all say they were regularly hungry and sleep deprived while at the school. They also all say they spent at least four hours a day chanting, often in a dark room. They say Butler disciples Ramon "Toby" Tamayo and Allan Tibby (aka Acharya das) led the school. The former students emailed school pictures and old school newsletters to Meanwhile in Hawai'i. In one of the newsletters, Patrick Bowler – a long-time Butler disciple and SIF financier who was arrested in 1997 for running a major international hashish smuggling ring – is listed as a cash contributor to the school.
While the former students all say their school days involved some traditional classes taught by outside teachers - such as math and grammar – they say the main focus of the school was the SIF philosophy and worship of Butler. Per Butler’s 1984 lecture, they did not take history classes, learn about evolution, or watch television. The men all painted a strikingly dark picture of their experiences at the school, and they all say they have struggled psychologically as adults. Four of the men used the term “indoctrination” when describing the school experience.
Only Koviak and Rama Ranson - who has become a vocal anti-Butler critic online - wished to be publicly named. The three other men requested anonymity, because they wish to remain in contact with relatives who still worship Butler, and they fear retaliation. Meanwhile in Hawai'i confirmed these three men’s identities, their parents' status as Butler disciples, and their attendance at the SIF Baguio school.
Ranson, also now 38, said his parents sent him and his younger brother to the boarding school in 1993, when he was 14 and his brother was 12. Ranson said he felt "a deep impulse to get out of that school immediately."
After two weeks at the school, Ranson said, he exaggerated an illness to "escape," and he was eventually allowed to return home to his father. He said his younger brother, Sudama, stayed at the school, was raised by non-relative SIF members for the remainder of his childhood, and currently closely serves Butler in Kailua. Ranson now runs the website Rama Ranson vs. the Cult.
A third man, who attended the Baguio school for four years from ages 11 to 15, said, "We were taught to follow the teachings and words of Butler as if they were the holy divine word itself."
"At first it was kinda' cool to go to a new place," the man continued. "But soon I did not like it. We were always hungry. I almost committed suicide when I was there. I really wanted to go home but was told that my parents did not want me to go back home."
The students were taught that, "Fag**ts are taking over and doing disgusting things," the man said. He also told Meanwhile in Hawai'i that he reported sexual abuse at the school and was accused by school leaders of lying about it.
A fourth man, who attended the school for a year in the early '90s said, “We were taught Butler and [his wife] Wai Lana were the only true messengers of God, and serving them would be the ultimate mission in life."
"They strip you of your individual identity," the fourth man said, recalling his memories of the SIF boarding school. "They humiliate you, try to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. You weren’t allowed to talk to any outsiders. You were not allowed to contact your family."
"Everything we did there was in preparation for whatever they wanted us to do next."
A fifth man who attended the Baguio school in the early '90s said he suffered from depression and addiction as an adult after realizing that his guru, Butler, did not love him.
Three of the men also attended Mike and Carol Gabbard's SIF school on O'ahu, the Ponomauloa School. They said the O'ahu school was "more mellow" than the Baguio school. Children lived at home with their parents while attending the Gabbards' school, the men said, but they were still taught to worship Butler, and they were repeatedly exposed to sexually graphic, anti-homosexual material.
One former student said the Gabbards were at times good teachers, but all school lessons essentially tied back to Butler's philosophies.
"I know nothing of U.S. history or world history," one of the former students wrote in an email to Meanwhile in Hawai'i. "I am just now reading poems and books, like Catcher in the Rye, one would normally read in school."
The men all say they believe SIF's schools in the Philippines are now run more responsibly, but one man said there is still a "full on indoctrination school" in Bukidnon, Philippines, called Madana Mohana Academy.
The Madana Mohana Academy's website advertises its service to underprivileged children from preschool through 12th grade. The school claims to be "non-sectarian." The website includes a quote by Jagad Guru (aka Butler) and refers to him as "a renowned philosopher and educator." Children can be seen bowing in front of a large, framed picture of Butler in a video shared publicly on the Madana Mohana Academy’s Facebook page.
Mike Gabbard did not respond to inquiries from Meanwhile in Hawai'i. Neither did the Science of Identity Foundation.
Tulsi Then and Now
The five men who attended the boys' boarding school in Baguio City all say there was also a SIF girls' boarding school in the Philippines at the time. They all believe Rep. Tulsi Gabbard attended the SIF girls' school as a teenager in the '90s. Two of the men say they also grew up around Rep. Gabbard on O'ahu. Male and female students were strictly separated at the Philippines boarding schools, per Butler's instructions, the men say.
Rep. Gabbard has been strikingly evasive with journalists and constituents regarding her continued close discipleship with Butler and her teenage years in the Philippines. Though it seems she has removed mention of the experience from her official biography, several articles referencing her "two years spent at an all-girls missionary academy in the Philippines" can still be found online.
A Nov. 2017 article on Rep. Gabbard in The New Yorker also mentions that, "as a girl, she spent two years in the Philippines, at informal schools run by followers of Butler." (It is also clear from the The New Yorker article that Rep. Gabbard was less than forthcoming with the reporter regarding her relationship with Butler and SIF.)
Other than these two mysterious years in the Philippines, Rep. Gabbard was home-schooled as a child by her parents. Her ex-husband, Eduardo Tamayo, is the nephew of Ramon "Toby" Tamayo, who ran the Baguio City boys' school. Her current husband, Abraham Williams, is also a second generation Butler disciple. So are at least three of her current, key Congressional staffers, including Chief of Staff Kainoa Penaroza, whose father, William Penaroza, chaired a Butler-connected political party in the '70s called Independents for Godly Government. At least two of Rep. Gabbard's current Congressional staffers are first generation Butler disciples, including her mother-in-law, who manages her Honolulu office.
Rep. Gabbard did not reply to multiple inquiries from Meanwhile in Hawai'i.
Mike, Carol, and Tulsi Gabbard all began their political careers at roughly the same time, in the early 2000s, ostensibly following Butler’s advice to go into politics – "or a school board." They all demonstrated strong anti-gay and pro-environmental agendas at the time, reflecting Butler and SIF's views.
Carol Gabbard won a seat on the Hawai'i State Board of Education in 2000. Her agenda as a school board member included supporting private schools and opposing efforts to protect gay students from harassment in public schools. Tulsi Gabbard supported her mother's apparent effort to whitewash the school harassment problem, telling The Honolulu Advertiser in 2004 that figures released by her mother proved, "our schools are not rampant with anti-gay harassment."
Mike and Tulsi Gabbard both won local elections in 2002 – Mike as a Honolulu City Councilmember and Tulsi as a member of the Hawai'i House of Representatives. At 21, Tulsi Gabbard was the youngest legislator in Hawai'i's history.
In 2004, Mike Gabbard ran as a Republican and lost the race for the Congressional seat his daughter now holds. He campaigned heavily against same-sex marriage, and his daughter vocally supported his efforts at the time. He won a seat in the Hawai'i State Senate in 2006. In 2007, he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, causing significant controversy within the Hawai'i Democratic Party.
Tulsi Gabbard joined the Hawai'i Army National Guard in 2003 and served two tours of duty in the Middle East. She ran successfully for her current Congressional seat as a Democrat in 2012, and she won re-election in 2016. She began publicly stating that she supported same-sex marriage equality during her 2012 Congressional race. Her voting record on the issue has since been consistent with that stance.
Rep. Gabbard raised eyebrows within Hawai'i's LGBTQ Caucus, however, when, in 2015, she reportedly told an Ozy journalist that although she officially supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, her "personal views haven't changed" regarding homosexuality.
And just last month, The New Yorker reported, when asked about Butler, Rep. Gabbard said, "I've never heard him say anything hateful, or say anything mean about anybody."
To former Butler disciples like Koviak and Ranson - who say they grew up repeatedly hearing profane, hateful comments from Butler - that statement is hard to stomach.
"It's silly to even conceive that she never heard her own guru's rants and raves about 'fag**ts and homos,'" Koviak wrote.
On the campaign finance front, Federal Election Commission data show Rep. Gabbard's 2012 Congressional campaign received significant backing from individuals within Butler's SIF network – many of whom also donated to her father's 2004 and 2006 Republican campaigns.
Rep. Gabbard's more recent campaign finances suggest a move away from financial dependence on the SIF network and toward a network of individuals tied to India’s far right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rep. Gabbard spoke and fundraised at Overseas Friends of BJP events in Los Angeles and Atlanta in 2014.
Rep. Gabbard gained national popularity within progressive Democratic circles – including calls for a 2020 Presidential run – after she resigned from the Democratic National Committee in early 2016 to support Bernie Sanders' Presidential bid. She has also, however, faced recent criticisms for her perceived Islamophobia and support of foreign dictators, a perception fueled by her international activities and social media posts.
In the past four years, Rep. Gabbard has been criticized for opposing U.S. efforts to hold Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accountable for alleged human rights abuses against Muslims in India; tweeting in support of Vladimir Putin's military campaign in Syria while criticizing Obama for not taking military action in Syria; insisting that Obama use the phrase "Islamic extemism"; traveling with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; and - perhaps most infamously - traveling to Syria with Syrian Social Nationalist Party escorts to meet with Bashar al-Assad.
Curiously, this reporter also learned last month that D.C. publicist Chris Cooper of The Potomac Square Group was hired to write a letter on Rep. Gabbard’s behalf in July 2017 to a mainstream news editor here in Hawai'i. The apparent intent of the letter was to discredit this reporter and prevent this series from being published in Hawai'i's mainstream news media.
Incidentally, in 2016, the same Chris Cooper was hired by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya’s Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGIF) to promote a Russian docudrama aimed at reversing U.S. sanctions against Putin and his financial associates. Veselnitskaya and HRAGIF also happen to be at the heart of the U.S. Justice Department’s current Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
While this may simply be a coincidence without nefarious connections, it seems an odd professional choice - considering recent questions about Rep. Gabbard's loyalties - to hire a publicist with such ties. Neither Rep. Gabbard nor Cooper responded to questions about the letter.
Note: Sen. Mike Gabbard did not respond to two emails from Meanwhile in Hawai'i regarding his January 1977 letter to Prabhupada. Meanwhile in Hawai'i confirmed the factual contents of the letter. Two sources with deep inside connections to SIF and Sen. Gabbard also confirmed the authenticity of the letter. The letter was leaked to Meanwhile in Hawai'i by a former Butler disciple. As mentioned above, Prabhupada’s letter of response to Sen. Gabbard is on file at the Bhaktidevdanta Archives in Sandy Ridge, NC.