Clever, common, corrupt and legal campaign finance abuse – Hawaiʻi politics

A half dozen friends, all who happen to be legislators with large balances in their campaign accounts, gather in a bar or restaurant – each cuts a check for $2,000 from their campaign accounts and hand it over to the candidate with the tough upcoming election.

They throw back a beer or two, slap each other on the back, then walk back to the Capitol to continue the people’s work.

This happens over and over again – candidates raising $10,000 – $12,000 a pop from a handful of sitting legislators to who they will then owe their loyalty.

In Honolulu especially, legislators and candidates from across the islands will sometimes announce and hold fundraising events where only 4 or 5 people show up. These “events” will often be held in a bar or restaurant within walking distance of the Capitol, or more recently online via Zoom. The publicly posted “ticket” price will be listed as $150, $250, $500, or $1,000.

The primary purpose of these “events”, is to create a legal opportunity for legislators who happen to be flush with campaign cash to transfer some of that cash, into the campaign account of candidates who are less flush – and perhaps who are facing a tough upcoming election.

These legislators are not bad people. They are just friends helping friends (and future allies). It’s all done within the law, the law these same folks are in charge of.

One of the fundamental principles driving campaign spending regulation is that campaign donations should be used only for the purpose of election activities. Donors are supposed to give money to candidates for the purpose of helping them get elected – not for the purpose of allowing their donation to be used to help other candidates get elected.

Allowing legislators to use their own campaign funds to purchase a couple of tickets to attend another candidate’s campaign event sounds reasonable until you learn of the abuse.

Fortunately, there’s a bill before the legislature HB721– which will eliminate this practice.

HB721 is part of a package of bills being proposed by the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct (CISC) and it’s scheduled for a hearing before the House Committee of Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs, Wednesday, February 22 at 2pm.

HB726 is part of this same package and on the same agenda – It’s also extremely important to support and “Prohibits state and county elected officials from soliciting and accepting campaign contributions during any regular session or special session of the state legislature..”

At the present time, legislators are legally permitted to request and receive campaign money from businesses and persons who have bills before the legislature – at the very same time that their bill is being voted on.

HB726 will stop this.

Please submit testimony in strong support, please take the time also to email or call your own district Representative and Senator. For their name and contact information go to “Find Your Legislator”.

Encourage them to support HB721 AND HB726 – AND all CISC Commission recommendations on this agenda. A few more of these good bills are listed below.

HB705 – Requires legislators to post for public review how they spend their “legislative allowance”

HB706 – Requires legislators to disclose relationships with lobbyists or lobbying organizations

HB707 – Disqualifies a person from holding elective office for ten years upon conviction of making a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim.

HB708 – Requires lobbyists to disclose for public review the exact bills or actions they are attempting to influence.

There are too many to list here, so please go to the actual agenda. Take the time to review the bills, contact your own district Senator and Representative to support these important reforms

AND make sure you include that one reform that makes all other reforms possible (that is not on this agenda but still needs your support) – Publicly Funded Elections – SB1543!

Please. Time is short.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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