UH Hilo Students Rally for Clean Elections

Yesterday over 75 students and community members marched from UH Hilo to The State Building to support Clean (Publicly Financed) Elections. Students carried individual signs that collectively read, “cut big money out of politics,” and, “clean elections = clean government.”

UH Hilo students rallying for clean elections

UH Hilo students rallying for clean elections

Amber Shouse, one of the student organizers of the event said, “Clean Elections is the reform that makes all other reforms possible. The pilot Clean Elections program for Hawaii County has worked well, and, as a result, our local government is more beholden to the public than to big money. We ask the state legislature to adopt the Clean Elections program for state races as well as county races.”

 

Citizens Rally to Save Clean Elections Program

Students Gather to Push Legislation Protecting Public Funding Pilot for County Council Elections

In the wake of an elections season dominated by private money and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v FEC, over thirty students and citizens walked from UH Hilo and gathered at the state building, holding signs and calling on state legislators to keep up funding for the Big Island public funding pilot program.

Even though the pilot program has been successful, allowing five out of nine current councilors to get elected without accepting any private money, funding to continue the program has been called into question.

The Campaign Spending Commission, which administers the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund, has been running at a deficit for several years.  Unless the Campaign Fund has more than $3.5 million by next September, the Commission may halt the pilot program.

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public

“It’s imperative the state find more funding for the Election Fund,” said Dr. Noelie Rodriguez, one of the event’s organizers.  “When candidates don’t have to spend time dialing for dollars, they can spend more time figuring out how to make the county better for everyone,” she said.

The crowd at the Capitol included many younger people, including Jennifer Ruggles, a Voter Owned Hawaii intern, who said “This pay-to-play system of elections just isn’t sustainable for the long term.  We need to address the issue of money in politics and publicly funded elections is the best place to start, and it needs to get adequate funding.”

To provide an alternative model to the outdated statewide partial funding program for elections, citizen advocates convinced legislators to implement a pilot program for Big Island County Council elections starting in 2010.

“Special interest money really undermines our system and we are very glad to have five councilors elected without accepting any,” said Rodriguez.

Advocates will also propose legislation this coming session to overhaul the statewide partial funding program.  Implemented in 1978, the program was meant to limit the influence of special interest money on elections and laws passed by politicians.  Over time, citizens say, the program became obsolete and now does not provide candidates with competitive sums of money.

“It’s a shame the 1978 program was never kept up to date and has become obsolete,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii.  “After the Citizens United court decision, people are finally ready to see the public funding program work once again,” he added.

In Hawaii there appears to be overwhelming support for a public funding program for elections that grants competitive amounts of money to candidates.  In a 2005 poll conducted by AARP, 86% of voting age Hawaii residents thought campaign contributions moderately or greatly influenced policies supported by elected officials.

 

March and Rally for Clean Elections

A march and rally will be held for Clean Elections at the University of Hawaii Hilo on Thursday, December 6TH

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public (photo stolen from RJ Mendoza)

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public.  Photo from a 2010 rally

March starts at the UHH Library Lanai at 12:00 or just meet at the STATE  BUILDING 1:00

[Return to the campus by 1:30]

The Big Island Pilot Clean Elections program is in danger.  Ask our state legislators to SAVE CLEAN ELECTIONS.

Contact your local representative and tell them what you thing:

Senators: Russell Ruderman 586-6890, Josh Green 586-9385, Gil Kahele 586-6760, Malama Solomon 586-7335

Representatives: Mark Nakashima  586-6680, Faye Hanohano 586-6530, Cindy Evans  586-8510, Richard Onishi  586-6120, Nicole Lowen  586-8400, Denny Coffman 586-9605, Clift Tsuji 586-8480.

Or Call toll free: 974-4000 and then give the last 5 digits of their phone numbers.

Supreme Court Rules Against Part of Arizona’s Fair Elections Law – Advocates for Hawaii’s Law Call on Legislators to Pass HB 1575

Statement from Common Cause Hawaii on today’s U.S. Supreme Court Ruling:

The controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruled today — in McComish v. Bennett — that one part of Arizona’s Fair Elections law is unconstitutional, but left the concept of publicly funded elections in tact. This is mixed news for advocates of Big Island’s Fair Elections pilot program.

Hawaii originally created a public funding option for elections during the 1978 Constitutional Convention, and are testing an alternative to that outdated program on the Big Island. The Big Island Fair Elections pilot was modeled after Arizona’s successful program.

The Roberts-lead Supreme Court shocked the legal community in 2010 by allowing unlimited private expenditures in election campaigns, and that decision paved the way for today’s ruling on the Arizona law.

Advocates for Hawaii’s Fair Elections pilot program anticipated this ruling, and in this 2011 legislative session tried to pass HB 1575, which would have preemptively modified Hawaii’s law to fit within the Supreme Court’s ruling. House Bill 1575 did not pass in 2011, but can still be voted on in the 2012 legislative session.

Candidates who are able to qualify for public funds under Hawaii’s pilot program receive money through a base allotment which is immediately given once a candidate gathers enough signatures and small contributions. If the publicly funded candidate is outspent by a privately funded opponent, matching funds are given to the publicly funded candidate. It’s the matching funds mechanism against which the Supreme Court ruled.

“When we saw that the Roberts-lead Supreme Court took on this case, we thought it was clear what their intent was,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii. “That’s why we called on legislators to pass HB 1575 during this past session, and why we’re counting on them to pass it in 2012” he said.

“The Supreme Court has once again sided with big-moneyed interests in this case, but the foundation of public campaign finance programs remains strong, and it’s more important than ever that we preserve and extend them,” said Nikki Love, executive director for Common Cause, Hawaii.

Hawaii has a long tradition of leading the way for a public funding option for elections. In 1978 during the Constitutional Convention, we created the current partial public funding program.

That program is managed by the Campaign Spending Commission, and funded by a three dollar check off on state income tax forms. Since 1978, however, the program has seen a reduction in usage, and citizen groups called for the creation of the Big Island’s pilot program.

“It’s more important than ever that Hawaii continues to pave the way for a public funding option for elections so that the voting public can take back control of an elections system that is largely being controlled by a wealthy elite” said Payne.

How Todays McComish Decision Affects Hawaii’s Publicly Funded Election

The Supreme Court made it’s decision today on the McComish hearings that are related to Arizona Citizens Clean Election Act and it does have a small ramification on how Hawaii’s Pilot project will go on.

From Voter Owned Hawaii:

Background

Hawaii is one of numerous jurisdictions with a “clean elections” or “fair elections” program to provide public funding for election campaigns. Hawaii’s pilot program for publicly-funded elections on the Big Island was first implemented in 2010. –The Hawaii program has a similar structure to Arizona’s and is therefore affected by today’s decision in McComish. The McComish decision only affects the “matching” funds, the second of two parts described below.

1. Base amount of public funding — The base amount is the initial allotment of money a candidate receives once they’ve passed the qualification or vetting process to receive public funds. The amount of money a candidate receives for their base amount depends upon how much the winning candidates (in that specific district) spent over the last two election cycles. This part is not affected by the McComish decision.

2. Matching Funds or Trigger Funds – “Matching” or “trigger” funds is the second way a publicly funded candidate can receive money in their race. In McComish, this is the specific mechanism the Supreme Court ruled against.

Matching funds come into play when a publicly funded candidate is running against a privately funded opponent who has spent more money than the base amount of their publicly funded opponent. Matching funds give the publicly funded candidate a dollar-for-dollar match when the privately funded candidate spends more money than the base amount of the publicly funded candidate. This allows the publicly funded candidate to remain competitive. The publicly funded candidate can receive a maximum of up to two times their base allotment in matching funds.

What this means for Hawaii’s pilot program

The McComish decision affects only one piece of Hawaii’s law, and we should adjust Act 244 accordingly. Voter Owned Hawaii and other organizations supported legislation in the 2011 legislative session (HB1575) that would have preemptively changed the matching funds mechanism (in the expectation of a negative decision from the Supreme Court).

We will continue to work in 2012 to pass legislation to address the decision in McComish.

Why it’s important for Hawaii to continue to lead the way for Fair and Clean Elections and a public funding option.

  • The idea of a public funding option for elections was established during the 1978 Constitutional Convention and has a strong legacy in Hawaii. We need to continue to honor that promise with a public funding option for elections that gives candidates enough money to run a competitive race against privately funded candidates.

  • This narrow decision leaves the foundation for public financing systems intact. The court has only ruled that the trigger fund provision of some public financing systems is unconstitutional—not the foundation of public financing.

  • Campaign systems that use trigger funds can be adapted to comply with today’s ruling with new matching funds systems, like that offered in HB1575.

  • Because of the recent Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, private money flowing into elections has skyrocketed even more. No less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake when it comes to making sure the public’s voice is not drowned out by private money.

  • As the Supreme Court continues its hostility to common sense legislation aimed at raising the voice of everyday people, elected officials must act to ensure our elections are truly of, by, and for the people and not bought and paid for by special interests.

Resources

http://publicampaign.org/mccomishnews

 “ . . . if we think these tremendous sums being spent [on elections], these tremendous sums being contributed, are not sums for which we are going to ultimately pay because of poor government . . . and because of undue influence . . . we are fooling ourselves.”    - Delegate Naomi Campbell during the 1978 Constitutional Convention

Hilo Student March for Clean Elections Covered by Big Island Bloggers

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public (photo stolen from RJ Mendoza)

Noelie Rodrigues still Rallying for the Public (photo stolen from RJ Mendoza)

I wasn’t able to make it, but three Big Island bloggers did that I know of.

Big Island Video News has the following excellent video on the event.

….Noelie Rodriguez, sociology professor at Hilo Community College, and members of Voter Owned Hawaii led about 50 students to the steps of the state building, where they demonstrated their support for what they call “clean” elections, and their opposition to the sudden legislative push for HB 345…”

Tiffany Edwards posted “Student’s March for Fair Elections“:

“…The crowd fought through wind and rain in their march to the state building calling on their state legislators to stop House Bill 345, which would delay enactment of the Fair Elections law...”

RJ Mendoza Posted “Clean Elections Rally“:

“…And of course the rent-a-cops stand around menacingly wielding their flashlights and walkie talkies…”

TUESDAY: March for Clean Elections

uhh-0171

Demonstration and March to the State Building For Clean Elections

Tuesday March 10 rain or shine

1:30pm gather on Library Lanai

2:00pm March to State Bldg.

[We can get you back to campus by 3:15.]

Wear red, white & blue.

Bring drums, horns, pots & pans, bells, flags, brooms, mops, balloons, etc.

Bring friends.

*Big Island students organized and won the Clean Elections Reform in the 2008 Legislature.  This program provides political candidates with an option to campaign WITHOUT needing to accept money from corporate and other special interest groups.

Already implemented in Maine, Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, North Carolina, Connecticut, Portland Oregon…Hawaii became the 9th State to enact this important anti-corruption legislation.  Candidates who campaign using public funds can spend more time listening to their constituents and less time fundraising.

IT CUTS BIG $ OUT OF ELECTIONS/GOVERNMENTDo not let our legislators postpone  this successful clean government reform. Hawaii’s taxpayers have donated $3 to this reform for years.  There is now $5,500,000 in the Hawaii fund for public funding of campaigns.  The Big Island Pilot Program will be fully  financed by merely the interest gathered on this account!