Chair Keith-Agaran, Vice-Chair Rhoads, Members of the Committee:
This is an exciting time for comprehensive public financing of political campaigns in Hawai`i (supported by 74% of us, according to a 2005 survey by AARP of voting age Hawai`i residents). In November, the first election cycle under the pilot project established by the 2009 Hawai`i legislature took place. The program seems to have worked well: 16 potential candidates registered to initiate the process of qualification for public funds; 8 qualified (collecting 200 $5.00 donations from registered voters in their district, among other requirements) and received public funding, 4 of whom (3 incumbents) won election to the Hawai`i County Council. The Campaign Spending Commission appears to have carried out its responsibilities well and without exceeding available funds.
HB1575 proposes to improve some aspects of the bill following the initial experience of our own pilot, and national comprehensive public campaign funding strategies.
For those of you who missed the arguments which led the 2009 Legislature to create the pilot of comprehensive public campaign financing for the Big Island County Council over 3 election cycles, my own “take” on why this kind of election reform is necessary:
1. Campaigns, as you all know better than I, are becoming more and more expensive.
2. Fund-raising to meet those expenses can eat up more and more of candidates and elected official’s time, replacing time spent investigating needs in their districts and listening/responding to constituents and colleagues.
3. Very often, tapping major businesses/unions/organizations for large donations seems to be the way expenses are met.
4. At least in the public eye (and a cursory examination of enacted legislation does not contradict the perception), interests of large businesses/organizations are predominant over public and long term interests.
5. Comprehensive public financing provides an equitable way to level the playing field for voters. (The partial public financing system adopted by an earlier Legislature is no longer useful for candidates as again, you all know better than I).
I urge you to support HB1575.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony. I regret I’m unable to present it in person.