Chair Hee, Vice-Chair Shimabukuro, Members of the Committee:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports the intent of HB 2533, HD2 which would amend Hawai`i’s campaign finance law to provide public funding for elections to the state House of Representatives, subject to qualifying collection of signatures and donations, and to other requirements.
Following recent SCOTUS rulings, particularly the Citizen’s United decision allowing unlimited independent expenditures supporting candidates for election, Hawai`i like other states has experienced troubling increases in expenditures to influence voters’ perception of candidates. I’m sure it did not escape your attention that a lot of money spent in the last election in Hawaii came from out of state, and also that wealthy individuals and “independent” committees made some eye-popping expenditures. We are not convinced that these expenditures were primarily motivated by the public interest of citizens of Hawaii as a whole.
Large private expenditures on elections also raise the cost of campaigning, threatening to prevent the election of ordinary citizens and requiring sitting legislators to spend excessive time and energy fund-raising for their next election rather than attending to the peoples’ business.
Public funding has been recognized by the State of Hawaii (as well as a long-standing and well-supported position of the League of Women Voters), as a preferable way to pay for elections. That’s why we have a tax check-off to support public funding of elections.
The League takes no position on Sections 4 and 5 which define maximum public funding for specific offices (Mayor, Governor etc.) because we have not studied this adequately to form an opinion.
The League wishes to call attention to the admirable performance of the Campaign Spending Commission in implementing the previous pilot of public funding for Hawaii County Council elections. We are happy to see that Section 9 of HB 2533 provides for extra funding for the additional responsibilities and costs which the Commission office (as well as County Election offices) will incur under this legislation. The CSC has shown innovative and responsible management of its duties; it deserves a guarantee of adequate and stable funding for its important work in supporting democratic elections.
Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony.