Thursday, November 18, 2004

Watada feels
winds of change

Bob Watada, state Campaign Spending Commission executive director, is going back to the Legislature next year to clean up how politicians raise money because of a new public demand.


Bob Watada: The campaign spending chief hopes for help from two new state senators

A legislative wish list

Here is a list of Bob Watada's campaign spending proposals:

» Extend electronic filing to all candidates.
» Ban contributions from corporations, unions and banks.
» Ban contributions from government contractors.
» Prohibit contributions from being used for community and charitable organizations.
» Increase criminal penalty for campaign law violations from a misdemeanor to a felony.
» Limit out-of-state contributions from corporations, unions and noncandidate committees that have little relationship to Hawaii residents.

In the upcoming 2005 session, Watada says, he thinks he will have two new allies in Sens. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) and Clarence Nishihara (D, Waipahu). The two beat incumbents who had run afoul of campaign spending laws.

"I feel there is a real desire for change and especially with Nishihara and Hee," Watada said, noting that their wins show that the public wants to clean up campaign fund raising.

The changes, Watada said, are designed to "bring more transparency to campaign finances so the public can see who is getting campaign donations."

Hee recommended that portions of Watada's list be included with the Democratic legislative package.

"Transparency is long overdue with respect to those who make contributions," Hee said. "There is no reason why someone who is isolated in Hana can't use the Internet to find out how much someone is getting."

Nishihara agreed that requiring candidates to file their campaign statements electronically and make the information available on the Internet is needed.

"The public is not going to go away on this issue of campaign spending. It is something that needs to be addressed," Nishihara said.

Nishihara pointed out that the incumbent he defeated, Cal Kawamoto, was "seen as a major roadblock" to campaign spending reform.

Hee, who beat Melodie Aduja, who had been fined by the Campaign Spending Commission, said he also wanted to stress campaign reform during the 2005 Legislature.

Watada said his office is getting many calls from people who do not understand that only candidates for major offices, such as mayor or governor, are required to file electronic campaign reports.

For two years, Watada has been unsuccessful in winning enactment of a law banning contributions from unions and corporations. He is recommending modeling the law after the federal campaign code, which bans corporate and union contributions but allows contributions through political action committees.

"Our investigations have shown that you can move a lot of money around through corporations and we can't detect who actually gives the money," Watada said.

Another controversial item would be banning government contractors from donating to campaigns.

"When you have a system where government contractors give contributions, only bad can come of it," Watada said.

Campaign Spending Commission


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