Monday, February 4, 2008

Campaign Spending bill up for hearing Tuesday

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin published this op-ed in yesterday's paper criticizing House lawmakers for introducing HB2455, a bill that clarifies the campaign spending law regarding corporate contributions. The opening paragraph of the op-ed states: "Several legislators are fast tracking a piece of legislation that would lift a $1,000 cap on the amount of money that corporations can give to legislators. House Bill 2455 would add fuel to the fire of cynicism people feel about politics."

We're not sure why the authors, Kory Payne and Jeff Mikulina, claim the House is "fast tracking" the bill; it has not received any special treatment or waivers, and it comes up for its first hearing tomorrow in the Judiciary committee. Of greater significance, however, is that the piece does not mention three important facts.

One, the House lawmakers who proposed the original legislation in 2005, Representatives Blake Oshiro and Sylvia Luke, have always said that it was not the intent of the legislature to cap the corporate contributions to $1000 in the aggregate. The Campaign Spending Commission, however, interpreted the new law differently. HB2455 is to clarify the law per the intent of the legislature, and in light of a recent ruling by the Second Circuit Court.

Two, in late 2006, the Charmaine Tavares Campaign interpreted the law in the same way as the legislature and filed suit against the Campaign Spending Commission. The Attorney General also submitted a brief on the Charmaine Tavares Campaign case and summarized:

“The fact that . . . non-candidate committees [must register] once they give or spend more than $1,000 to one or more candidates . . . ought to have absolutely no bearing on their ability to make campaign contributions to the limits specified in HRS §11-204. Nothing in the plain language of HRS §11-204 comes even close to suggesting that the Legislature intended for those limits to apply only to campaign contributions individuals make. Nothing in the plain language of the section precludes those limits from applying to contributions non-individuals like businesses make. The plain language of HRS §11-204 should be uniformly applied to all who make campaign contributions.”

Three, in May 2007, Judge Joseph Cardoza ruled in favor of the plaintiff, the Charmaine Tavares Campaign. The legislature is proposing HB2455 as a means of clarifying the intent of the law, and to reflect the court's ruling.

Thank you to the Supreme Court of Hawaii (Unofficial) blog, which was the source of much of the information above. Click here to read their entire post on the matter.

2/5/08 - An Update. The bill passed out of the Judiciary committee with a house draft 1. Barbara Uphouse Wong, Exec. Dir. of the Campaign Spending Commission, testified that the CSC has filed an appeal of the Cardoza ruling.

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