Organizations ask for Support for Public Funding Option for Elections
In a campaign season that is likely to set new boundaries for large amounts of private money flowing into election campaigns, a coalition of groups are calling on candidates to pledge their support for fair elections programs, like the pilot program currently running on the Big Island for county council elections. A comprehensive public funding option, or fair elections, allows candidates to try to qualify for a competitive amount of public money for election campaigns, as an alternative option to raising private money.
While Hawaii has had a partial public funding program in place, paid for by a three dollar check off on state income tax forms, it has become increasingly obsolete as the cost of elections has continued to rise. “Voters in the 1978 Constitutional Convention realized we didn’t want outside special interest money controlling our laws, so we created the partial public funding program at that time,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii. “We need to upgrade this program to make it a viable option again, and we’re counting on candidates to pledge their support for that idea,” he added.
The groups have published which candidates have signed or not on Voter Owned Hawaii’s website.
In 2008, Voter Owned Hawaii and other groups pushed for the passage of a bill that created a pilot program on the Big Island that offers a full public funding option for candidates for county council elections. Sixteen candidates filed “intents” to qualify, and eight candidates managed to gather the signatures and small contributions needed to get access to public funds.
Proponents of this program believe that separating money from politics is good for the public’s interest. “It’s primarily because of outside influence on our laws that we burn imported fossil fuels to power over 90% of our energy and ship in over 85% of our food,” said Payne. “By allowing taxpayers to step in and take back control of our election funding, fair elections can help us limit the influence of mainland corporations and move towards a more localized economy where a greater amount of the money stays in Hawaii,” he said.
According to Nikki Love, executive director for Common Cause, Hawaii, fair elections programs are good for democracy. “If we want elected officials to be accountable to us, not big special interest donors, we need a comprehensive fair elections program. The partial public funding mechanism just doesn’t work anymore,” said Love.
Advocates for fair elections also believe the environment will benefit if more candidates choose try to qualify for public funds for their campaigns. “Whenever campaign contributions influence how elected leaders vote on environmental policy, the environment usually loses. Many of the largest campaign contributors in Hawai`i have a significant and negative impact on the environment, such as the utilities, oil companies, and developers,” said Brian Bell, a Sierra Club volunteer.
For more information, visit http://voterownedhawaii.org or call 457-8622. Voter Owned Hawaii is a non partisan, non profit organization working to upgrade and modernize Hawaii’s obsolete partial public funding program.
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