Six common-sense campaign reforms

In the 2008 Hawaii election, 269 candidates raised $13,197,012 (State of Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission). That’s a lot of money, especially when the economy is still struggling.

So as the next local election approaches, I’d like to propose some common-sense campaign finance reforms to protect us – and our donations.

1. Candidates must file for a position before fundraising. It seems dishonest to form “exploratory committees” that raise money for a campaign without a commitment to run for that position.  What happens if the politician doesn’t run for that office? Is the money returned to donors or just added to the politician’s “war chest”?

2. No campaigning or fundraising during office hours or the regular work week. Fundraising should not take time away from the job that an elected official already has. Fundraising can be done after-hours or while the Legislature or Council is not in session.

3. Strict limits on out-of-state contributions to local campaigns. This allows part-time residents or former residents to have a voice in Hawaii elections, while preventing undue influence by nonresidents or national organizations who don’t live here. What kind of limits do you think are reasonable?

4. Weekly reporting of campaign donations. Candidates and elected officials should publish standard weekly donor lists on their website or in contribution reports whenever they receive donations, regardless of whether it is an election year. Right now, reporting requirements vary.

5. Donations to a political candidate should be used for that candidate’s race, not donated to another campaign or political action committee. When donors support a specific candidate, they should be assured that their money will support their candidate’s election or re-election, not someone else’s. Candidates should donate their own money to campaigns they support.

6. No unspent campaign funds disbursed to a political party. Donors may support a specific candidate, but not necessarily the political party to which they belong. Unspent campaign funds should be saved in a campaign fund or donated to a local charity or nonprofit organization.

We should all be confident that donations are used to help the candidate, and that local voices are not drowned out by national interests. How else can we make our elections more honest?

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