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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

HB 215 HD1

Relating to
Campaign Financing

Campaign Financing

House Committee on Finance (FIN) - chair: Oshiro, vice chair: Lee

Friday, February 27, 2009, 4:00 P.M. Conference Room 308

Testifier: Jean Aoki, JoAnn Maruoka, LWV of Hawaii Legislative Team

Click here to view HB215 HD1

Chair Oshiro, Vice Chair Lee, members of the Committee on Finance,

The League of Women Voters cannot support HB 215, HD1, in its present state, leaving out some important provisions with, we think, intentions of adding provisions relating to the deleted ones.

The original goal of HB 215 was the reorganizing and clarification of the campaign finance laws, and the expressed updating which would suggest some substantive changes. So first, I would like to make a few comments on the formatting of some of the sections.

The committee working with the Campaign Spending Commission staff did a commendable job in putting related provisions together in logical, understandable fashion. There are some weaknesses in outlining sections and subsections so that they make sense at first reading. An example would be

11-15, Registration of candidate Committee...........found on page 20, line 20.
(b) Before filing the organization report, each committee shall mail or deliver an electronic filing form to the commission.
(c)The form shall include a written acceptance of appointment and certification of each report. It would make for more clarity if both sentences were combined into one. Each subsection should make sense on its own.

On page 47, line 16, Reporting Deadline. When any reporting deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday designated in section 8-1, the reporting deadline shall be the next succeeding day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday.

This particular provision might be placed toward the front of this document since reporting deadlines are discussed earlier and this provision should be clear to everyone required to conform to these deadlines.

Missing from HB 215, HD1, beginning on page 45, line 22 “Electioneering communication” means any advertisement:

1. (A) Broadcast from a cable, satellite, ......
4. ...That is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.

These ads which purport to be issue ads but really are advocacy ads without using words like “vote for” or “vote against”, are called sham issue ads, which the average person sees as an advocacy ad.

This is an important provision that should be reinstated in HB 215, HD1.

Before we discuss the two most glaring omissions in HB 215, HD1, JoAnn will discuss some other parts that need some amending.

§11-O Individual shall not serve as a committee officer in certain circumstances; committee prohibited from acting in concert, or soliciting or making contributions, sub-paragraph (b) on page 28 lines 1-4 appears contradictory and does not make good sensesince the immediately preceding subparagraph (a) precludes its need. Subparagraph (a) states “No committee that supports or opposes a candidate shall have an officer who serves as an officer on any other committee which supports or opposes the same candidate.” Subparagraph (b) states “If a committee has an officer who serves as an officer on another committee which supports or opposes the same candidate, the committees shall not act in concert with, or solicit or make contributions on behalf of, any other committee.” We strongly urge you to either strike out subparagraph (b) completely, or to better state what we think is the real intent, rewrite it as: “(b) No such independent non-candidate committee shall act in concert with, or solicit or make contributions on behalf of, any other committee.”

§11-HH Contributions by state and county contractors prohibited, subparagraph (a) on page 50, lines 17-19: the change from the current statute to limit the donation ban to only those contractors who are “exempt from competitive solicitation” (in other words, non-bid contracts) would greatly narrow who the ban covers and does not make good sense. This would increase the possibility, if not the likelihood, for inappropriate contribution pressures and/or actions by those involved in the competitive bid process, which is a risk contrary to what we understand the intent of the bill is. We strongly encourage you to remove the non-bid only limitation, and keep it applicable to all.

§11-NN Aggregation of contributions and expenditures, subparagraph (b) on page 56, lines 4-9: the new explanation on partnership contributions is complex and cumbersome. Since it certainly does not clarify or enhance understandability for those who would need to follow the requirements of this section, it does not make good sense. We question why this is necessary, and strongly urge you to delete it, instead using the existing language in the current statute.

Our biggest objection to this bill is the two missing provisions. The first is Section 11-204 (b) which states, “No person shall make contributions to a noncandidate committee, in an aggregate amount greater than $1000 in an election. This section shall not apply to ballot issue committees.

One of our biggest concerns is the increase in campaign costs. In the main, availability of money, whether one's own or one's access to money, determines who can continue in races and most often, who ultimately wins. Added to this is the reluctance of well-qualified people to run for office faced with the prospect of having to raise the huge sums needed, not just to compete against other candidates, but to be able to challenge noncandidate committees opposing you or actively supporting some other candidate.

The second missing provision is Section 1151, Contributions limited from nonresident persons.

(a) Contributions from all persons who are not residents of the State at the time the contributions are made, shall not exceed twenty percent pf the total contributions received by a candidate or candidate committee for each reporting period.

(b) This section shall not be applicable to contributions from the candidate's immediate family.

If left out completely, it would mean that 100 per cent of one's contributions could come from the mainland. Or something less restrictive than the present law could be substituted. In either case, it would not be a prudent move. We should not be amending these laws to suit the temporary aims of any political party. That's gamesmanship that the public should not tolerate.

We ask that you restore the two place holders to the original language and make some of the changes we, and others recommend.


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