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December 2009

April 2010

Combined Newsletter Issue
President's Message (Pearl Johnson)
Elections Commission (Jean Aoki & Pearl Johnson)
A Revolution from the Court? (Mary G. Wilson)
Act 244 - Hawaii County Council - Campaign Finance Project (Sue Dursin & Sue Irvine)
Mahalo Contributors
Hawaii County Report (Helen Hemmes)

Act 244 - Hawaii County Council - Campaign Finance Project

On November 5th, Barbara Wong, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission (CSC), came to Hilo to present a public workshop on implementation of the pilot project for comprehensive public funding of Hawaii County Council races created by Act 244. Sue Dursin rose at 4 a.m. to join Sue Irvine at the sessions. We attended with about 25 citizens including council members Enriques, Ford, Ikeda, Onishi, and a few staff from the County Clerk’s office.

Few potential candidates other than incumbents attended the workshop. A few more may have attended repeats of the session, but there was no publicity for these events locally (other than Sue Dursin’s calendar posts) and they were not listed on the County website calendar. Video explanations of Act 244 are now available at the Campaign Spending Commission’s website.

The Hawaii Elections Project, with funding from the LWV of Honolulu Education Fund, is presently seeking to hire an independent entity to monitor implementation of Act 244, as the State provided no money to monitor outcomes.

Sue Irvine and Sue Dursin have the following list of concerns as implementation of Act 244 proceeds:

Will the 200 signatures and $5 check or money order from voters in a candidate’s district required to trigger comprehensive funding prove too high a barrier for participation? Incumbents should be able to reach this amount of support, but lesser known candidates may have difficulty.

The act has been drastically underfunded ($300,000 maximum appropriation for 2010 election cycle.) This was unnecessary, as funds are available under the Campaign Spending Commission, without tapping scarce general funds. Underfunding will not be a problem if few candidates meet the rather daunting comprehensive public funding requirements. If many candidates meet the requirements, the money is to be handed out “first come, first served” which would certainly cause negative publicity.

(At our last board meeting, Hawaii County LWV declined to endorse Council member Pete Hoffman’s resolution asking the Legislature to raise the funding limit for 2010. The board was reluctant to act at that time, but there will likely be a statewide push for more funding after the 2010 election cycle. Hoffman’s resolution failed to pass.)

At this point, there has been little publicity on the Island concerning Act 244. This may be appropriate for now (see paragraph on underfunding – fewer candidates aware means less chance of funds being depleted.) We hope this lack of publicity is not because our Council Chair and County Clerk are on public record opposing Act 244.

An unopposed, publicly funded candidate will receive only 30% of funds allocated until an opponent files to run in that race. A privately funded candidate who waits to file until the last moment may leave the publicly funded candidate without the other 70% of funds promised, as all funding for the program may have been depleted by that time.

Aside from the above concerns, we were pleased to hear Barbara Wong, who also went on public record opposing Act 244, promise good support for candidates trying to qualify for comprehensive public funding. She stressed that candidates should continue checking for updates on the CSC website, where it appears good software should help file all campaign spending reports.

We look forward to the independent analysis of Act 244, and trust that, although planning for the study is being done on Oahu, knowledgeable people in Hawaii County will be consulted during the evaluation.

Sue Irvine
Sue Dursin

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