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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

HB 128 HD1 SD1

Relating to

Senate Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations (JGO) - chair: Taniguchi, vice chair: Takamine

Thursday, April 9, 2009, 10:00 A.M. Conference Room 016

Testifier: Jean Aoki, LWV of Hawaii Legislative Liaison

Click here to view HB128 HD1

Chair Taniguchi, Vice Chair Takamine, members of JGO,

The League of Women Voters, while supporting the original intent of a bill, the contents of which have replaced the contents of HB128, has serious concerns about some of the amended provisions in the present bill. Two good bills, one to correct some of the election laws which were found wanting in the Elections of 2008, and the reorganization of the campaign spending laws have been held hostage to the need for some vehicle to push forward some unwise policies.

Chapter 11 – section _86, Depletion of Funds (a) states, β€œThe Commission shall be under no obligation to provide moneys to candidates unless there are two years of budgeted expenses in reserve in the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund.” Assuming that the budgeted expenses referred to in the above sentence does not include an estimate of money needed to fund any election campaigns, we would be safe to assume that the purpose of the Election Campaign Fund has been changed now to that of paying for all of the expenses of the Campaign Spending Commission.---- that the purpose for which the fund was established is secondary to the needs of th CSC. The sole purpose of the Election Campaign Fund when it was established was the financing of the public-funding of election campaigns.

There is an obvious conflict of interest in the CSC's financial viability being dependent on the amount left in the Fund. It would be very difficult for the CSC to support any expansion of public funding of election campaigns. The law supports their main concern for the husbanding of the funds to cover the operating and staffing expenses of the commission. We're afraid that as long as the expenses of the CSC are paid from the Election Campaign Funds, this conflict will continue.

We, of course, support the adequate funding of the CSC. We need the commission and its staff to enforce the campaign spending laws. Our concern is with the funding mechanism.

Adding to our worries about this fund is the provision in SB 884, SD2, HD1(proposed) which would transfer the interest on the money in the Election Campaign Fund to the general fund beginning in July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2015. The interest on the money in the fund is not excess money. It is money badly needed for the purpose for which ithe fund was established.

Another serious concern is with Chapter 11-_58 Campaign Funds Only Used for Certain Purposes on page 34-35 which addresses charitable contributions from campaign funds. Subsection (3) doubles the amounts that candidates can donate to charitable causes , and subsection (4) expands charitable contributions further by allowing unlimited contributions to public schools and libraries.

Admittedly, most of these are all worthwhile causes, worthy of community support, and many of them have grown to depend on these donations from campaign chests to meet their budgetary needs. It has long been our conviction, that donations to community groups and institutions from election campaign funds do not really qualify as legitimate uses of such funds. While part of campaigning is the developing of good will toward the candidate, this can be achieved in ways other than by donations from campaign funds.

The implications of using donations as a campaign tactic is mostly negative. It is construed as seeding the community – a form of vote buying. When a candidate outfits a whole high school band with uniforms, the favorable publicity reverberates through the community-- in the PTA bulletins, in the high school paper, in word-of-mouth communications by grateful parents, etc., With little effort, an incumbent in a position to attract enormous amounts of contributions, can make supporters of a major proportion of his/her constituency.

Also, it is unfair. Those incumbents who are in a position to attract maximum contributions can donate more than others with leaner campaign chests. First time challengers are really put at a disadvantage unless they have money of their own to use.

Another negative impact is the need to raise more and more campaign funds as the cost of campaigning rises with the changes incorporated in this bill. I doubt that many legislators relish the soliciting of campaign contributions, but when groups that have become dependent on your generosity count on you to come through every year, how can you refuse?

It is easier to not start something that may be difficult to control, than to stop it at some future point. Let's stop the escalation of campaign costs. Do not let the chase for funds leave you with little time to communicate with the voters and sell them on your ideas, your plans for the community and the state, and learn about their needs and expectations.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on HB 128, HD1, SD1, proposed.


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