President's Message (Jim Koshi)
Council is Coming
Campaign Spending (Patricia Card)
Citizens Jury Project
Firearms Control Coalition (Evelyn Bender)
Public Issues Channel Launched
Key Legislative Dates
"We must level the playing field." Those are the words I keep hearing. I heard them from the chairman of the Campaign Spending Commission. I heard them from the executive director of the Commission. And I heard them again on January 7th at a Senate Judiciary Committee Informational Hearing on Campaign Reform with Senator Ann Kobayashi and Senator Rey Graulty presiding.
Everyone seems to agree that incumbent advantages must be addressed so that challengers can compete. Just how that should be done is another question. In part, the Campaign Spending Commission was created to help level that field.
The Campaign Spending Commission was created to supervise campaign contributions and expenditures, hold public hearings to investigate evidence of violations, administer and monitor the distribution of public funds from the Hawai'i Election Campaign Fund, and act as a depository for statistical reports filed periodically by the candidates and committees.
Overseeing requests for information and interpreting the campaign spending statutes, the commission discusses complaints brought to its attention and decides if there is sufficient or probable cause to require an investigation. Then they make a recommendation to the Attorney General's Office which will proceed to investigate the allegation.
Comprised of five commissioners appointed by the governor and selected from a list of ten submitted to him by the Judicial Council, this body met in September with two vacant slots for commissioners. By the October meeting two new commissioners had been added. Two meetings later, a case nearly a year old is still being reviewed.
Issues which will be considered in House Bill 150, before the Legislature when it opens this January, were also discussed. Examples of issues are: What is the definition of a fundraiser? When is a contribution considered a contribution? Who is a candidate?
At the January 7 Senate Judiciary Committee informational hearing, testimony was given regarding leveling the field everyone keeps talking about. Some of the suggestions were: Aggressively enforce the statutes that have been drawn up by the legislature and not wait until a complaint has been filed. Pick up the pace of the proceedings when there is a complaint and avoid the impression that confidentiality is more important than efficacy. Develop public forums so that candidates can get their positions out to the public and in doing so reduce the need to raise campaign funds at all. And, invoke penalties so that there would be greater deterrent to campaign spending irregularities.
In this coming election year it will be interesting to follow the discussions and decisions of this body. May the field actually prove to be level.