Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, members of the Committee:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports HB1481, HD2 as part of our mission of promoting a healthy democracy through fair and free elections.
The latest election cycle with its massive inputs of money including monies from individuals and organizations outside Hawai`i, and anonymous contributions, dismays us as it does many of Hawai`i’s citizens, government officals, and legislators.
Full voluntary public funding of election campaigns will allow candidates (including incumbents) to focus on the needs of their districts and the people of Hawai`i, rather than the pursuit of money for increasingly expensive campaigns. The recent pilot of full voluntary public funding in Hawaii County Council races has been successful in allowing 5 of 9 Council members to be elected without spending time and energy chasing dollars. The public can trust that these successful candidates will devote themselves to the public good.
The interests of the largest contributors to election campaigns are often perceived as having the potential to influence the choices made by elected officials. There is no evidence that these perceptions are correct; nonetheless this perception, together with media reports on large contributors to campaigns, may erode trust in government. HB1481 HD2 would take this concern off the table.
We support the changes introduced as HD2.
We recognize however the question of how to fund this program. Recognizing that the Legislature will decide how to address funding, the League would like to make a few comments.
1. There are also costs to continuing the present system of private funding. While it is impossible to calculate these costs, they surely include the large number of hours spent on fund-raising by legislators and challengers; the costs incurred by our invaluable Campaign Spending Commission tracking and analyzing fund-raising and expenditure reports and administering the largely ineffective current partial campaign funding program; and, potentially, legislation which serves a certain sector of the economy but may have the result of comparatively raising costs on other sectors or the general public.
2. The number of candidates who will choose and qualify for public funding, given the revisions in HD2, will be limited.
3. Without having conducted any analyses of the following options, and in the spirit of brainstorming, we believe there may be creative ways to address the funds required in the current fiscal environment: for example, including only primary elections but not general elections in the program, or restricting the program to either House or Senate races. Legislators and other advocates probably can come up with other options.
Enacting HB1481 HD2 will go a long ways to affirm public confidence in the State Legislature, and pride in its achievements. This legislation would put Hawai`i ‘s legislature high on the map of innovative, public spirited states. Our members statewide urge you to support HB1481 HD2.
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony