Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair San Buenaventura, and Committee Members:
Today we testify on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Hawaii’s voting public. The League strongly supports HCR 53, which asks the U.S. Congress to call a national convention to address concerns raised by the Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission Supreme Court decision. We believe HCR 53 is favored not just by our members, but voters throughout Hawaii. Organizing a Federal Constitutional Convention to repeal this decision is a somewhat slow undertaking, but we wholeheartedly support this effort knowing we must try everything to protect voters from the continued corrupting influence of big money in politics.
It is still shocking that corporations and unions are permitted to intervene in elections at every level of government - from our mayoral elections to President of the United States. Making things worse, because such organizations are barred from donating money directly to candidates or national party committees, we have seen the emergence of a complex web of National Party Committees, State, district and local Party Committees, multi-candidate Political Action Committees, Political Action Committees that are not multicandidate, and Authorized Campaign Committees, each with its own set of regulations but overlapping spending limits. This situation makes it nearly impossible to be certain about the source of donations, especially for Federal elections. “Dark” money indeed. How did the framers of our Constitution ever imagine this happening? They didn’t, and nothing except full disclosure of donations is acceptable.
Without question, Citizens United has frustrated the Hawaii League’s goal of campaign finance reform. During this legislative session, of course we support measures providing for direct public financing of our state elections, for candidates who voluntarily accept campaign spending limits. And we enthusiastically support the excellent public service provided by our State Campaign Spending Commission. But we’re realists – we know these measures don’t get at the basic underlying problem of unlimited amounts of money available from special interest organizations.
Voters - not organizational donors- are supposed to be at the center of our election system. Voters do understand that big money entities such as super PACS don’t represent them, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that Federal officials aren’t listening to us. Since Citizens United became law in 2010, the U.S. Congress has done virtually nothing to stop the flood of money into political campaigns. And what of our Federal Judiciary? If anything the U.S. Supreme Court has added to this rush of money by failing to overturn Citizens United and last year in the McCutcheon v. FEC case by overturning aggregate limits on campaign contributions. With Federal failure to legislate and Federal failure to interpret laws and regulation, citizens now turn to a remedy outlined in HCR 53.
We urge you to pass this resolution. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.