Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Har, Members of the Committee:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports HB 1499, which would amend Hawai`i’s
Constitution to remove expenditures intended to influence elections or promote lobbying, from the
Constitution’s protection of freedom of speech.
Following recent SCOTUS rulings, particularly the Citizen’s United decision allowing unlimited
independent expenditures supporting candidates for election, Hawai`i like other states has experienced
troubling increases in expenditures to influence voters’ perception of candidates. The organizations and
individuals behind these expenditures are not providing unbiased information on candidates; rather they
are attempting to control public policy in their own interests through promoting candidates likely to support those interests.
One of the key links in the chain of SCOTUS decisions which has led to Citizens United and its resulting distortion of elections funding, was the finding in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) that "spending money to influence elections is constitutionally protected free speech."
While Hawai`i cannot control the application in federal elections of standards defined by SCOTUS, HB1499 could preserve more democratic, less oligarchical elections for state and county offices. The Leaguebelieves this bill would support the intent of “one person, one vote”, which is foundational to American elections policy.
We urge you to pass this bill. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.