Bill to Create Public Funding Option for Elections Headed to Final Committee

Advocates for campaign finance reform were pleased today when the Senate Ways and Means Committee passed House Bill 1481.  The bill would create a law that would modernize Hawaii’s outdated partial public funding program for elections.

HB 1481

The original public funding program was implemented during the 1978 Constitutional Convention, but has become ineffective over time.  In the 2012 election cycle, only one house candidate used the program.  Advocates in favor of house bill 1481 say it is now time to upgrade the old program.

“Delegates in 1978 fought hard to implement this important program, and we owe it to them to modernize it to make it useful once again”, said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii, a non-partisan non profit organization working to pass the bill.

This proposed policy has been gaining national attention also.  Public Campaign is a non-partisan, non-profit that works on federal legislation for publicly funded elections and has been supporting organizations locally.   According to Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign, “States are the true laboratories of democracy and Hawaii has the chance to be a national leader in addressing the growing influence of special interests in our political system.”

“We’re delighted with this bill’s passage, and excited about the prospect of leveling the playing field for House candidates,” said Janet Mason, Vice President of League of Women Voters, Hawaii.

In 2008, Voter Owned Hawaii led and effort to implement a similar program for Big Island County elections.  That program ran in the 2010 and 2012 elections and was deemed successful.  Currently, five out of nine councilors on the Big Island were elected without accepting money from special interests.

Payne says the program is intended to serve taxpayers.  “Special interests donate to politicians to get a return on their investment, and right now they’ve cornered the market on elections and the public is not invited to the party.  Publicly funded elections will save taxpayer money by allowing politicians to make decisions based upon what’s best for the people instead of campaign donors,” he said.

 

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.

 

Voter Owned Hawaii Retracts Statement on Publicly Funded Elections

Aloha,

Unfortunately, we had inaccurate information regarding the impact of redistricting on the Big Island pilot Fair Elections program.  We were under the impression that redistricting would nullify the program.  That was incorrect.

We still need to pass language that was contained in HB 2700 HD1, and we’re going to be working to get that language re-inserted into another bill.

Thank your for staying with us and for all of your help.  We’ll let you know what are next steps are asap.

 

Mahalo,

Voter Owned Hawaii

http://voterownedhawaii.org

808-457-8622

 

http://www.facebook.com/voterowned.hawaii

https://twitter.com/#!/VoterOwnedHawai

Sign Wave and Rally Thanking County Council – Act 244 Fair Elections Pilot Program

Large signs and visuals at May 10 rally in front of Kamehameha Statue on Kamehameha Ave

Media Release:

WHO: Students and Citizen Supporters of Act 244 — Fair Elections Pilot Program for Big Isle County Council Elections

WHAT: Sign-Wave and Rally Thanking County Council for their support for broad public interest over narrow private interests in elections.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 10, 3:00 PM until 4:30 PM

WHERE: In front of Kamehameha Statue on Kamehameha Avenue, between the intersections of Pauahi St. and Manono St.

WHY: According to an AARP Survey, 74% of eligible voters in Hawaii support modernizing Hawaii’s outdated partial public funding option to a full public funding option.  Act 244 is a pilot program running for Hawaii County Council elections testing this program.  Four out of nine Hawaii County  Council candidates are now publicly funded under Act 244.  Citizens want to say “mahalo” to the Hawaii County Council for supporting this program and for doing what is right.

CONTACT:  Noelie Rodriguez 895-3494, Jennifer Ruggles 333-0784, Keahi Tajon 896-2880, Kory Payne 457-8622

Voter Owned Hawaii

House Kills Law That Would Adjust Big Island Public Funding Pilot

Media Release:

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today for a case that challenges one piece of Arizona’s Clean Elections law, which was enacted by voters through a ballot referendum 13 years ago.  This is significant for Hawaii because our pilot public funding law on the Big Island is modeled after Arizona’s.

In anticipation of a negative ruling by the Supreme Court, Fair Elections advocates submitted legislation that would adjust the specific piece of the program that would be affected by the court case.

“Even though the Supreme Court upheld the idea of public funding for elections in the 1976, we’ve seen a new trend with the current makeup of the Supreme Court,” said Kory Payne, executive director for Voter Owned Hawaii.  “In the expectation of a negative ruling from the Supreme Court, we submitted legislation this year that would have adjusted Hawaii’s law preemptively.  That law was killed by Representative Keith-Agaran in the House Judiciary Committee,” he said.

John McComish

John McComish, an Arizona Republican running for state office, originally filed the complaint against their Clean Elections program.  McComish was running against a publicly funded competitor.  Like Hawaii’s law, publicly funded candidates can receive limited amounts of matching funds when their privately funded opponents outspend them.

Proponents of Hawaii’s pilot Fair Elections pilot program say this is a good thing.  “We don’t let people pay judges when they’re interpreting laws, so why would we want private money to determine what laws are made in the first place?” said Payne.

Since the addition of Justice John Roberts during the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court has demonstrated a willingness to step in on campaign finance issues.  Last year, they made a controversial ruling on the case Citizens United v FEC.

After McComish lost his case in a lower court, the Supreme Court stepped in and blocked enforcement of Arizona’s provision last June and decided to hear the case.  This, say advocates of Fair Elections laws, is alarming.

In 1978 Hawaii created its original public funding program during the Constitutional Convention.  The Campaign Spending Commission and the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund were established then, and voters were able to try to qualify to receive public funds.  Advocates lobbied for a modernization to this program in the form of the Big Island pilot.

“Hawaii was ahead of our time when we created the public funding option in 1978, but since then the program has become ineffective and outdated,” said Payne.  “The Big Island pilot program is an exciting new way to resurrect our effort to limit the corrupting influence of money in politics,” he added.