Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Buenaventura, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports sections 2, 3 and 7 of HB1476 and offers no opinion on section 6. HB1476 would anonymize campaign contributions (Sections 2 & 3) and give those eligible to vote vouchers with which to make campaign contributions (Section 6).
The League of Women Voters, both nationally and in Hawai`i, has long recognized the importance of reining in the reliance of political election campaigns on major contributions from private organizations and a small number of wealthy individuals. A large share of the general public has become concerned about
this problem following the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United.
For many years, those concerned about the corrupting influence of large campaign contributions, or the public perception of such corruption, have relied on contribution limits and “transparency” — public reporting of contributions and expenditures — to minimize these problems. But now almost all contribution limits have been found to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
But following recent SCOTUS decisions, “charitable organizations” and other SuperPacs have been able to hide the identities of major funders as they spend very large amounts to ensure the election of candidates they favor.
And is transparency by itself really enough to give the public confidence that a large campaign contribution will not result in greater access to and favorable treatment by a candidate elected with the help of such a contribution? The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is not confident: we don’t believe most citizens comb through reports of contributions and much less, remember them later as legislative decisions are made. More likely, their sense of unease about the agenda of major contributors out-weighing constituents’ interests continues in spite of transparency.
We find the idea of anonymizing all campaign contributions highly creative and likely to diminish the perception or reality of the corrupting influence of large contributions.
HB1476, Sections 2 & 3, propose that the Office of Elections receive all campaign contributions, bundle them, and send the amount donated to each candidate to that candidate at intervals throughout the campaign season. Obviously this would substantially increase the staff, office space, security and IT capability needed by the Office of Elections. HB1476 provides for an unspecified amount to be added to the Office of Elections budget to meet these needs. The League regards meeting those needs as essential to the success of this measure.
The League has not been able to study Section 6 if HB1476 (vouchers to eligible voters) and at present we have no opinion on it.
We urge you to pass this bill with Sections 2, 3 and 7 substantially intact. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.