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Court ruling protects transparency in Hawaii political campaigns

By Staff | May 28, 2015

Hawaii residents must be able to “follow the money” and determine who is attempting to influence their vote through contributions to political candidates.

Politics and business are intertwined, so it’s not surprising that a political action committee had challenged the constitutionality of Hawaii’s campaign finance laws, including transparency provisions applying to all political action committees that spend over $1,000 to influence a state election.

Last week, thankfully, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii’s campaign finance laws.

“Without these laws, it would be impossible for the public to determine what interests are funding political action committees, including the big-money SuperPACs,” said state Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao.

The federal appeals court also upheld Hawaii law banning government contractors from contributing to candidates for legislative office.

“Campaign finance laws exist to inform the public and protect the democratic process,” said Attorney General Doug Chin.

“The Ninth Circuit’s ruling reaffirms these values, and I am very pleased with the result.”

The court’s opinion noted that during the 2010 election, one of the plaintiffs, an Oahu electrician, contributed more $50,000 to candidates, candidate committees and party committees.

Campaign finance disclosure statements from all state candidates and political action committees are available for free on the Campaign Spending Commission’s website at ags.hawaii.gov/campaign/.

Keep an eye on who pays to put candidates into political office. Do they get a return on their investment somehow?

“This ruling underscores the importance of encouraging transparency in political campaigns and guarding against corruption,” Izumi-Nitao commented.