Chair Luke, Vice Chairs Nishimoto and Johanson, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports policies that increase the public’s trust in the ethical operation of our government. We therefore support SB2634 SD1 HD1 which amends Section 97-3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to require lobbyists to itemize expenditures in specified categories.
Our law currently only requires the lobbyist report to list “total sum or value of all expenditures for the purpose of lobbying.” Obviously, total sum or value is not very useful to someone trying to “follow the money” and figure out if money is being used to influence our lawmakers.
SB2634 SD1 HD1 attempts to correct this deficiency by specifying items considered “lobbying materials” and requiring expenditures listed under "other disbursements" to specify the amount, date, purpose, and recipient of the disbursement.
Regrettably, the fact is that even if lobbyists in Hawaii are required to categorize and specify expenditures, almost all Hawaii lobbyists currently report their expenditures as zero, $0.00. Therefore, there is nothing to be categorized or described.
After the end of the 2013 legislative session and no bill to require more information from lobbyists had been given a hearing, an Associated Press story about Hawaii’s almost useless lobbyist reports was published, both in our Honolulu Star-Advertiser and on Yahoo News on the Internet. The article was mockingly featured with the headlines: “Hawaii lobbyist reports say little about influence of money on Hawaii politics; most report $0”
AP reporter Anita Hofschneider joked: “Lobbyist disclosures in Hawaii may be a misnomer — the records don't disclose much.
“Hardly any individual lobbyists reported spending even $1 schmoozing Hawaii lawmakers early in the recent legislative session, making it all but impossible for state residents to tell from the filings how special interest groups are affecting state legislators.
“Lobbyists haven't stopped wining and dining elected officials in the Aloha State, but a combination of outdated state laws, wide loopholes and lax oversight has created an environment where disclosure reports say little about how much is money spent, who is spending it and which lawmakers are being courted most often.” [news.yahoo.com/lobbyist-reports-little-influence-hawaii-150938962.html]
SB2634 SD1 HD1 is a very small step toward updating our lobbying law. The League of Women Voters of Hawaii urges you to take this step and keep going: The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Please PASS SB2634 SD1 HD1.
Thank you for hearing this lobbying disclosure bill and allowing us the opportunity to testify.