March-April 2000 Home   Newsletters

May 2000

August 2000

Who Killed the Clean Elections Bill and Why? (Laure Dillon)
President's Message (Pearl Johnson)
Welcome New Members
Honolulu League: Annual Meeting (Grace Furukawa)
At the Legislature (Jean Aoki)
Senate Seat Challengers Short-changed in 2002 Elections (Jean Aoki)

At the Legislature

A little more sunshine has shone over the legislative process this session as the much-maligned conference committee process was amended to require open voting by all of the conferees. At the urging of Larry Meacham of Common Cause and with support from some of the Senate leadership, then a threatened lawsuit by the Republican Party, legislative leaders promulgated new rules for the conference process. The rules include the requirement that all conference chairs be present before negotiations begin and that there be a quorum of the conferees before open voting takes place.

Although I was not able to attend any of the conference committee sessions, I did watch some on 'Olelo. While there seemed to be some confusion about the rules in the beginning, the sessions did proceed well. There was much discussion and agency professionals in the audience were consulted from time to time to provide more information. While we can't rule out the possibility that agreements will be made before the open meetings, we do hear their arguments and see their votes.

Many people commented on the orderliness of the last few days of this legislative session as compared to the previous sessions. The extra care in planning and scheduling, and more discipline on everyone's part that were a necessary part of implementing the open conference committee policy, paid big dividends.

A Measure Long Needed

I've been moaning about many of the good government bills that died along the way, some in the conference committees after sailing through both houses, and especially the public funding of campaigns bill and access bills, but there were some bright spots. One campaign reform measure which we had been supporting but never thought would be adopted was the capping of donations to nonprofit organizations and charities from campaign funds.

It has been common practice for candidates to use campaign funds to donate to nonprofits and charities especially during the interim period between elections. Candidates with large campaign chests have been known to expend more on donations than for actual campaigning. Actually, we would have been happy to see this practice completely banned, but are happy to see it capped, at least. Now candidates are limited to donating an aggregate amount equal to the contribution limits for their offices - $2,000 for offices with two-year terms, $4,000 for offices with 4-year terms, and $6,000 for candidates for state-wide races.

Campaign funds should be used for the purpose for which they are intended – communicating with the public on one's positions on issues and one's qualifications to represent one's district. Donations to charities and community groups are commonly called "seeding", and are close to the buying of votes. The Campaign Spending Commission recently ruled that only surplus campaign funds could be used for donations. Money you raise to run your campaign could only be used for that purpose, but after an election cycle, whatever money you have left over could be used for donations. This would be very unfair to candidates who barely raise enough to wage a credible campaign.

Jean Aoki
Legislative Chair, LWV Hawaii

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