The League of Women Voters of Hawaii opposes H.B. 2455. We strongly disagree with the proposed changes in Section 1, para (a)(2)(c) to allow corporate contributions to a candidate to be subject to the same contribution limitation as that imposed upon a person or any other entity.
Such a change will render the state's $1,000 limit on corporate donations largely meaningless, and would violate at least the spirit of the state's election law.
Corporations should be forbidden from making contributions from their corporate treasury. They gain influence in shaping policy by their sheer size, economic muscle, and the goodwill accumulated by providing money and access. Corporate treasuries are huge, but most citizens’ bank accounts are not. We must not allow corporate treasuries to have a bigger voice than the average individual citizen, especially when that “voice” is translated to mean “influence.” The perception and the reality are that, in too many instances, money not only influences but determines public policy.
With public concern about the increasing costs of campaigns and the potential for corruption that arises when money and politics are combined, even the appearance of improper influence should be scrupulously avoided. Corporate donations and the real or perceived influence which a company wields from such donations – the power of companies to shape public policy in their favor to promote their agenda -- is part of the broader issue of integrity in government and gaining/maintaining public trust. It’s vital to consider the ethical implications of political contributions for "favors" and/or to "purchase political support," what some would call a form of bribery. The list of potential impacts is long: government contracts, regulations, tax laws, trade laws, etc.
Campaign finance laws are intended to reduce the potential for corruption, or even the appearance of corruption. Limiting the amount and source of campaign contributions is one of the most common tactics for regulating money in politics. All but five states also regulate corporate contributions -- 23 states have limits on the amounts corporations may contribute to candidates, and 22 states have an outright ban on corporate contributions.
We must not allow this change that would result in added influence over elected officials on key issues. We must all be vigilant to limit connections between political money and government action. There is no valid or compelling reason for Hawaii to increase corporate contribution limits.
We urge you to hold H.B. 2455. Thank you for this opportunity to testify.