ACLU lawsuit accuses
campaign commission of
restricting free speech
Councilman resents reportBy Pat Omandam
Decency. Honesty. Fair play. These are the voluntary campaign ground rules set down by the State Campaign Spending Commission for every candidate who runs for elected office.
But this code of fair campaign practices is now under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union, which claims the code violates a candidate's constitutional right to free speech.
The ACLU yesterday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the commission on behalf of Roger Ancheta, an unsuccessful Republican candidate for state Sen. Randall Iwase's (D, Waipahu-Mililani) seat during the 1998 general election.
Ancheta received a letter of censure from the commission Feb. 11 for failing to comply with the code during the elections. The commission unanimously ruled Ancheta's use of a campaign brochure last October in which he questioned whether Iwase served special interest groups rather than the taxpayers were personal attacks aimed at Iwase that violated the code.
The brochure stated when Iwase was chairman of the Senate Planning, Land and Water Use committee last year, his downtown law firm received nearly a $1 million from Bishop Estate for land and water use legal work. The mailed brochure also contained a cartoon caricature of Iwase in a money-stuffed shirt pocket labeled, "special interest."
But the ACLU contends the censure of Ancheta by a government agency to sanction truthful speech in the political arena is a clear violation of the constitutional right of freedom of speech. Matt Viola, ACLU cooperating attorney, said the commission infringed on a right of a candidate to discuss freely and openly the issues and conduct of his opponent.
Ancheta yesterday said he did nothing wrong.
"What I did was tell the facts, tell the truth to the people of the 18th District about Mr. Iwase's conflict of interest," he said.
In his lawsuit, Ancheta states that all the facts that he alleged were true and that he had the constitutional right to comment on the implication of those facts.
Furthermore, he had asked the commission to refer Iwase's conduct to the Hawaii State Bar Association and to the Legislature for investigation, which it did not do.
ACLU Legal Director Sandy Ma added there are other cases involving political speech in which the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that the government cannot interfere with a candidate's right to political free speech.
Commission Executive Director Robert Y. Watada stands behind the code. He said it is basically states a candidate will conduct his or her campaign positively and not distort the facts. "Basically, we view it as a pact the candidates make with his or her opponents," he said.
Councilman resentsBy Mike Yuen
spending commission report
City Councilman Duke Bainum and his campaign committee say that a recent state Campaign Spending Commission report contained "inaccurate and irresponsible" information on the amount he spent on his election during the most recent four-year election cycle.
But commission Executive Director Bob Watada defended the study, saying the same methodology was applied to all candidates who made personal loans to their campaigns in one election cycle and then forgave those loans in the next cycle.
What that does, Bainum said Monday, is inflate his spending for the 1998 cycle with expenses for his 1994 race.
The commission reported that Bainum spent $627,900 to beat Sam Bren, who spent nearly $2,000.
Bainum's campaign committee chairman, Bertrand Kobayashi, said the $627,900 figure included $246,700 that Bainum loaned to himself for the 1994 campaign; Bainum forgave that loan during the four-year 1998 election cycle.
Under state law, once a campaign loan is forgiven, it is then recorded as a campaign expenditure.
"In Duke's case, where loans were made in one period and paid off in another period, the number may look overstated," Watada said. "But that's not something we can control."
Bainum said the commission is being "accurate to a fine point of the law," but ignoring that its figure for his 1998 race reflects not one -- but two -- campaigns.
Even if the $383,200 figure that Bainum said he spent during the four-year 1998 election cycle is used, he still emerges as the biggest spender among last year's candidates for Council.
Trailing Bainum was Councilman John DeSoto, who spent $197,700 and had loans of $13,240, according to the commission's study. Councilman Andy Mirikitani spent $97,900 and had loans totaling $233,300.
While Bainum didn't like being tagged as a $627,900 spender, he didn't see spending $383,200 as excessive. He is, Bainum said, an independent politician, and it takes a willingness to spend to enhance his name recognition and to get his message out.