Chair LUKE, Vice-Chair NISHIMOTO, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports SB577 SD2 HD1. This measure includes two important provisions: 1) the operating expenses of the Campaign Spending Commission (CSC) would be paid out of the general fund; and 2) fines paid for violations would be deposited in the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (HECF).
The League of Women Voters, both nationally and in Hawai`i, has long recognized the importance of reining in the reliance of political election campaigns on major contributions from private organizations and a small number of wealthy individuals. A large share of the general public has become concerned about this problem following the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United. Ensuring the effective operation of Hawai`i’s partial public funding program is to date the best antidote to these potential sources of influence on state candidates and their positions. In recent years however the funds available to publicly funded candidates have been limited due in part to 2009 legislation which required that CSC operating expenses (e.g. staff, communications) be paid from the HECF rather than the general fund. In addition that legislation required campaign spending fines to be deposited in the general fund rather than the HECF. These depletions of the HECF have limited the amounts available to support the partial public funding program and the possibility of expanding the program to more public offices or providing more public funds to qualified candidates.
SB577 SD1 would effectively reverse both these pernicious changes. If enacted, the HECF will have a far better probability of adequately supporting the partial public funding of future election campaigns.
We suggest an effective date of July 1, 2016 for this measure, to allow for adequate preparation and budgeting while not postponing implementation past the 2018 election cycle.
Campaign Finance Reform is widely recognized as one of the most critical items on national and state agendas. The League believes this bill is one of the most important being considered in this session. We urge you to pass it. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.