Campaign reformers rebuke bill to lift limits on corporate donations
A new coalition of government reform groups is asking lawmakers to kill proposals that would ease corporate donations to politicians.
House Bill 2455 and Senate Bill 2204 would make it easier for corporations to directly give money to political candidates.
"We are concerned that they (legislators) are going in the wrong direction by allowing more corporate money rather than less.
"Twenty-two states have prohibited corporate donations," said Nikki Love, Common Cause spokeswoman. "Also, the federal government prohibits it."
The House bill would allow corporations to make contributions at the same level as individuals.
The Campaign Spending Commission criticized the bill, noting that it would "defeat the purpose of the law with respect to corporate or business contributions."
The commission lost a court challenge to the law when the campaign of Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares sued last year after the commission said she could not accept more than a total of $1,000 from a corporation. The Circuit Court ruled in Tavares' favor, and the Campaign Spending Commission has appealed the ruling.
The House and Senate bills clean up that confusion in the current campaign spending law, and say there would be no limit on money a corporation can put in a campaign treasury.
Barbara Wong, commission executive director, said the House bill would "support the absurd results of the court's ruling that corporations can use unlimited funds from their treasury to make contributions ... overturning 27 years of legislative history that promotes transparency of corporate campaign contributions."
Legislators have agreed with the changes to the bill, saying the Campaign Spending Commission was never allowed to limit a corporate donation to $1,000 per candidate.
The coalition is opposed, saying the bills would lift the existing $1,000 limit and allow corporations to give $2,000 or $6,000, depending on the race, to any candidate.
"Allowing the deep pockets of corporations to fund candidates greatly dilutes the impact of individuals on the political process," said Barbara Polk, spokeswoman for the Americans for Democratic Action.
The coalition is composed of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii, Voter Owned Hawaii, the Sierra Club, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, Kokua Council, Advocates for Consumer Rights, Progressive Democrats of Hawaii and Americans for Democratic Action.