Dems kill amendedBy Ben DiPietro
Voting along strict party lines, House Democrats killed a Republican attempt yesterday to amend a campaign finance-reform bill by limiting the awarding of state contracts to political contributors.
The 12 House Republicans voted in favor of the amendment written by Bob Watada of the state Campaign Spending Commission.
The defeated amendment would have prohibited contractors who donate money to political campaigns or political parties from being allowed to bid for state contracts for at least one year.
Anyone who won a contract would have been prohibited from contributing for up to a year after the contract was completed.
Rep. Galen Fox (R, Waikiki-Ala Wai) said the amendment would "cut the nexus" between campaign contributions and the awarding of state contracts.
The amendment was rejected by all House Democrats, who called it overreaching and possibly unconstitutional.
Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki-Tantalus), former director of an organization seeking campaign finance reform, said the language disallowing contributions from people who have state contracts was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1976.
Schatz supported the provision preventing people who contribute from bidding on contracts and rejected claims by Big Island Rep. Paul Whalen that he was being hypocritical after running for office on the pledge of reforming the election process.
"You make contributions and are not allowed to seek non-bid contracts, but you can't implement the converse, not allowing the right to make a contribution. The 1976 Supreme Court decision was clear about that," Schatz said.
Asked why the Democrats spiked the amendment, Watada said: "Because that's where a lot of the money comes from for their campaigns."
The amendment was based on language from the Federal Election Commission, Watada said. Twenty-nine states have near prohibitions on government contractors making any contributions, and several other states have less-encompassing laws.
"The purpose is to break the direct quid pro quo," although contractors could get around it by making contributions outside of the one-year limit, Watada said.
The House did approve a pilot project to provide public financing to candidates in the 2002 Honolulu City Council elections, with Rep. Robert Herkes (D, Puna-Kau), voting against it.
Candidates would get $35,000 in public financing if they forego outside campaign contributions and collect qualifying $10 contributions from at least 1 percent of the registered voters in their districts.
House Republicans voted for the bill, but said it didn't go far enough and $35,000 wasn't enough to run a competitive campaign.
"This bill here, this token for the city and county elections, is a joke," said Whalen (R, Kona-Kau). "We can do so much. It's unarguably good for fair elections to get dirty money out, but Democrats won't do it."
Schatz agreed the bill doesn't go far enough.
"The question is whether you should circumvent the committee process and put a floor amendment in that has some major constitutional questions," he said.
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