Bill for public campaign financing in Hawaii dies


HONOLULU — A bill that would have changed campaign finance laws for state elections in Hawaii died in the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, halting its progress unless the group decides to hear the bill again this session.

House Bill 2533 would have provided public funding for campaigns for elections to the state House of Representatives and would have changed spending limits and the maximum amount of contributions made to candidates for other offices.

It was intended to help lawmakers focus on serving their constituents instead of constantly fundraising, supporters said.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Clayton Hee said more work needs to be done on the measure.

“This bill has a lot of loose ends, including, but not limited to, the amount of money to be used for what office, the fact that it may require limiting the number of candidates for districts and statewide and an unknown concern by the Campaign Spending Commission that with this program, they believe strongly that more staff will be required and this bill does not presently have money in it,” Hee said. “This bill may be a step in the right direction, but it’s an idea that is not — in my opinion and the opinion of the staff attorneys — sufficiently fenced in.”

Rep. Karl Rhoades, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a sponsor of the bill, said he was disappointed with the outcome.

“I think that especially after Citizens United, the flood of money coming into campaigns all across the country and in Hawaii is corrosive to democracy in the long run,” Rhoades said. “This bill would have made it so that people’s grassroot ties were more important that the money they could raise.”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allowed unlimited corporate spending on campaigns.

As a result, elections are too influenced by deep-pocketed political action committees, said Janet Mason, legislative chairwoman of the League of Women Voters. She said that in recent Hawaii elections, a lot of money has poured in from out-of-state.

“We’re disappointed, but we’re not going to give up,” Mason said.