Saturday, April 18, 2009

Big Vote Today on Clean Elections

Another emergency message came in last night from Voter Owned Hawaii. I usually investigate something before I put it up, but given the time frame, I'm just going to post this and let people make their own decisions. The message, verbatim:

We know movies usually come out on Friday nights, but Saturday (today) is different.

Lawmakers will decide on SB 884 and it will be a show you don't want to miss! Bring popcorn and a blanket (air conditioning will be blasting) and watch as legislators decide whether or not (here's where the plot is) to add Section 25 (of HB 39) to SB 884. It's the old bait and switch plot. Will legislators switch Section 25 (of HB 39) over to SB 884?? If so, this would knowingly undermine Act 244, the Big Isle Fair Elections Act ( For those of you who want more technical details, see below ).

(If you are not on Oahu, but listening, can you help us by making phone calls to our supporters tomorrow?! Just respond to this email with your phone number and we'll call you - Mahalo!!)

WHEN: Saturday, April 18 4:00 PM

WHERE: Room 309 at the Capitol

(Can you be a volunteer? -- Help us call through to our supporters tomorrow! If you can volunteer, please respond to this email with your phone number and we will call you!! )

As you know, we worked 10 years to pass a Fair Elections Law. Last year, Hawaii became the 9th state in the U.S. to pass this important reform. It's a movement that is sweeping the country....

Technical Details

1. While HB 345 to delay Act244 is dead (it could still be brought out by Sen JGO
technically but not likely),

SB 884 is being fast tracked, and it could completely undermine Act 244
(hearing tomorrow, Saturday at 4:00 PM )

2. When opponents to this bill realized HB 345 wouldn't pass, they figured out
that they could raid the Haw Election Campaign Fund to bring it under
the $3.5 million threshold
(by Sept 1 this yr).

If the HECF is under $3.5 million then Act 244 cannot run (and, w/ the
continued efforts to raid the HECF -- even before the stock market crash
act 244 might never run, which may be the play)

3. SB 884 goes to Conference Committee at 4:00 PM tomorrow Saturday.

Senator Donna Kim, and Senator Hanabusa are the legislators who can make or break it

4. SB 884 Takes from the HECF in two ways:

a. takes the interest from HECF

b. it could potentially contain another section ( Section 25 in the companion bill
HB 39 ) ---- this section would give the finance director the
authority to take a set amount out of the HECF on July 1.

If this section allows more than $500,000, we could be sunk, not
able to meet the $3.5 million threshold. ( $1 million might also be
safe, but the numbers are shaky )

Right now, in HB 39, there's a $1 placeholder in Section 25, leaving
it open for negotiation.

As the conference committee goes through this, line by line, tomorrow
night, they'll come to Section 25 of HB 39, and have to decide whether
or not they're going to raid the HECF and exactly how much.

This is a concern. The House has already indicated support to do away
with Act 244 - Big Isle Fair Elections.

5. The Hawaii Election Campaign Fund is different from other special funds in 2 ways:

a. most importantly, it has a constitutional mandate from the 78 Con Con
(section 5 of Const I think)

b. taxpayers check off money on tax forms ( legally, the state can take certain
amounts of money from the HECF )

To Recap

SB 884 is the new vehicle to potentially raid the HECF, bringing it under the $3.5 million
threshold. On Sept 1 2009 (year before an election year), if the HECF balance
is under $3.5 million, Act 244 cannot run.


Also, if you haven't done it yet, please consider writing a letter to the newspaper editors. If you send a letter, please BCC the letter to

Here's what to do:

  1. Compose an email to be sent to,,, and letters@westhawaiitoday
  2. Begin your letter how you want, you may want to start by saying "Dear editor, I'm writing in response to Sunday's editorial from Big Island House reps regarding HB 345..." or something similar to that.
  3. Write your letter. Feel free to use the talking points below.
  4. Call the Tribune Herald editorial department at 930-7324 and ask them to print your letter.

Talking Points:

  1. The Supreme Court has already turned down an appeal to hear the constitutionality of the matching funds mechanism of some comprehensive public funding programs. This is a clear sign that they don't believe there is a case. To use speculation about a possible court case as a reason to undermine Act 244 is disingenous.
  2. It's a fact that oil costs are going to start rising again, and this is going to leave Hawaii helpless in many areas: tourism, food security, and energy security. It's precisely because of the pay-to-play elections system that Hawaii is hamstrung in all of these areas. These are the urgent issues of our day, and it's going to get worse before it gets better. It's interesting then, that it would be a modest pilot program for public funding that would create the type of urgency that would cause five House Reps to spend their time on an editorial to oppose it. Aren't there better things to do then to spend time oppoosing a program that would help solve the very problems we should be tackling? Stop HB 345 and let the Fair Elections Act have it's chance to run as a pilot program.
  3. Money is not an issue. The money does not come out of the General Fund, but instead out of the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund. This money, by law, must be used for publicly funded elections.
  4. Money is not an issue. In order for the Fair Elections program to run, there must be $3.5 million dollars in the fund. This will guarantee that the Big Island Fair Elections Act doesn't deplete the fund.
  5. There is a cap on the Fair Elections program that is set at $300,000. It cannot use any more money than that.
  6. The projections being cited in Sunday's editorial are inflated and do not take into account the difficulties of the qualifying process in order to access public funds. In Arizona, even after the program had been running for three election cycles, the average number of candidates who qualified per district was 1.17. Even though 24 candidates ran during the last Big Island county election, some of those candidates simply put their name on the sheet without running a serious campaign.
  7. Citing the economy as a reason to delay the Fair Elections Act is only a scare tactic. In fact, it's during bad times that it makes the most sense to run a program like this. The very reason we're in the bad economic situation we're in is because of privately financed elections. Big Banks essentially marched right in to the Securities and Exchange Commission and convinced regulators to change debt-to-capital ratios and risk management factors for the lending industry. These were major factors in creating the fake bubble in the housing market that lead to the recession. The only reason these banks could do that is because they finance the campaigns of the legislators who appoint the leaders within these regulatory bodies.
  8. Citing Massachusetts is another scare tactic too. Voters enacted the Massachusetts "Clean Elections" program through a ballot initiative. The Speaker of the House at that time however, Thomas Finneran, was staunchly opposed to the measure and refused to fund it. The Massachusetts Supreme Court then found the Massachusetts Legislature in violation of their Constitution.
  9. In summary, legislators can use all of the scare tactics that they want to, but in the end, this is a matter of challenging the "powers that be". Fair Elections allows qualified candidates who have trust in their communities to run a legitimate campaign to at least get their ideas onto the table for debate. In general, this makes sitting legislators uncomfortable because it allows more people to participate in a game that right now is only open to people who have connections to money.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Voter Owned Hawaii



If you haven't written a letter-to-the-editor, please consider doing that with our easy-to-use form. Just click here!

Thanks again for your help to pass the "reform that makes all reforms possible"!


Voter Owned Hawaii


1 comment:

amberjay17 said...

I was amazed that even with so much public support for the clean elections pilot to run without delay the county council voted against it.