Campaign Finance Reform
POSITION IN BRIEF
Action to support effective campaign spending controls, limitations on contributions and expenditures, and indirect and direct public financing of campaigns
In order to insure the public’s right to know, to combat corruption and undue influence, and to make it possible for candidates to compete more equitably for public office, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii believes that a campaign spending law must include features that require:
- Full and timely disclosures of all campaign contributions and expenditures 2. Limitations on contributions and expenditures
- Candidates to have one central committee to control and report all financial transactions
- Establishment of an independent body to monitor and enforce campaign finance laws with strong penalties for violations
- Indirect public funding of campaigns, such as TV or radio time, campaign brochures, or other services which would be supplied at public expense to eligible candidates, and/or
Direct public financing of campaigns in order to reduce the escalating cost of campaigns, eliminate the undue influence of large contributors, free the candidates and public officials from the burdens of fundraising, level the electoral playing field so that any qualified candidate has the opportunity to run for office regardless of wealth or access to it
- Broaden the base of campaign financing to a workable level through tax credits/deductions, income tax check off, voluntary contributions, and government appropriations
In addition, the expenditure of public funds for candidates should be administered in the following manner:
- Public funding should be made available for candidates, not political parties, for all elective offices in both the primary and general elections.
- Financing and services from public funding must be sufficient to adequately fund candidates and encourage participation in the public funding program (but not unduly burden taxpayers)
- To qualify, candidates must show tangible support of a constituency by (either signatures and/or seed money) securing a set number of signature with a small contribution and a prescribed maximum amount of private seed money which may be allowed.
Consensus January 1979
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii has been concerned about campaign spending since the late 1960’s. We have lobbied at the legislature and at the state Campaign Spending Commission; and two leaguers have been members of the Campaign Spending Commission.
The Hawaii League began a study of state campaign practices and finance in 1968 as a natural outgrowth of our Election Laws and Ethics studies. Our first position, reached in 1969, emphasized disclosure of contributions as well as expenditures. Legislation passed in the early 1970’s implemented this position, though not in all details.
In 1973 the national League of Women Voters embarked on a study of campaign spending and public financing of elections. The resulting national position, applicable to all federal campaigns for public office, differed from the Hawaii League’s position in two areas: (1) it favored limits on contributions and spending; and (2) it called for direct public financing of campaigns. The state board, after reviewing local League responses to the national consensus, determined that members did support limits on spending and contributions at the state level, but did not support direct financing. Therefore, we acted at the state level, using the national position, with the exception of direct financing for state offices. (National position is outlined in “Impact on Issues”)
In 1973 Hawaii adopted mandatory spending limits for all candidates. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently decided that spending limits were unconstitutional unless candidates accepted public funding. Because of this, the state board decided in 1978 that we needed to update our previous position and to try again for consensus on direct financing and related topics. In 1979 the
membership reached agreement on several points governing the administration of public financing and reaffirmed the position in favor of indirect public funding.
During the 1979 and 1980 legislative sessions, the League supported Common Cause/Hawaii in its efforts to plug a “loophole” in the disclosure provisions of Hawaii’s campaign spending law. A bill to this effect was enacted in 1981.
Subsequently, the League has opposed bills that would repeal or weaken the state campaign spending law. We have also supported resolutions calling for an evaluation of the law. Problems that need to be addressed: voluntary spending limits, contribution limits, monitoring independent committees, and enforcement.
“Update: Public Financing of Election Campaigns”. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, 1978
In 1997, due to the escalating costs of campaigns both nationally and locally, and the abuses noted by soft money and attack ads disguised as issue advocacy, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii reviewed its position on campaign finance. The membership then approved adding direct to indirect public funding to our position.
(Underlined areas are additions)