Chair Tokuda, Vice-Chair Kouchi, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports HB1491 HD2. This measure would
require SuperPacs to disclose whether their contributors which are not businesses or
individuals (e.g. other PACS or SuperPacs) are subject to state or federal disclosure
requirements, and to provide the internet address where that entity’s report can be
accessed or, alternatively, the name, address, occupation, and employer of each funding
source to that entity.
The Introduction to HB1491 persuasively lays out the rationale for requiring the disclosure of more information on the sources of money expended by SuperPacs. Following Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United, and further court decisions, citizens are left with few options to control the unregulated flow of very large contributions to and expenditures by “independent” committees. These outsize contributions are commonly presumed to influence not only the outcome of elections (by purchasing ads and generating other media coverage) but also, unfortunately, access to and possibly even actions of elected politicians. Citizens and good government watchdogs hope to identifiy and publicize the identity and political agenda of large contributors, in order to generate scrutiny of actions by elected officials which might be affected by those political agenda.
At present state disclosure laws do not allow this level of identification and scrutiny. HB1491 proposes increased detailed disclosures by SuperPACs, including details of the SuperPAC’s own organization and more information on the otherwise somewhat mysterious category of contributors to the SuperPAC which are not either individuals or businesses. Such contributors are often other SuperPACs, creating a confusing chain of semi-anonymous organizations which hide the identities and political agenda behind the contributions.
HB1491 promises to provide some clues into this opaque system of campaign finance. Astute and dedicated observers could use the information required by this measure to try to unravel the chain of contributions and the agenda inspiring them. This analysis could assist in holding office-holders accountable to the public for their actions relevant to the agenda of major contributors.
The sooner the effective date of this legislation, the sooner Hawai`i’s citizens will have some recourse when confronted with overwhelming media exposure to campaign messages whose source and ideological/business agenda are not obvious.
We urge you to pass this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.