Skys the limit
Each side says the otherBy Mike Yuen
is sure to capitalize
on the state's decision
You can be an isle voter or someone who has never been in Hawaii. But if you feel strongly about the proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would allow the Legislature to ban same-sex marriage, you can now give as much as you want to support or oppose the measure.
The state Campaign Spending Commission yesterday disclosed that the attorney general's office has issued an opinion that the state's law limiting contributions to $1,000 to influence ballot questions such as the one on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
The four-page opinion, written by Deputy Attorney General Jon Itomura, cited two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
In one, the high court ruled in 1981 that such a limit on political activity is contrary to the First Amendment.
Officials of organizations opposed to and in support of same-sex marriage said they don't expect to be beneficiaries of the commission's decision. But they insisted that their adversaries will.
"While we, of course, hope the change will increase our ability to fund-raise, given Hawaii's tough economy, we do not anticipate that effect," said Jennifer Diesman, a spokeswoman for the political action committee Save Traditional Marriage-'98.
Diesman said the attorney general's opinion will make it easier for Protect Our Constitution to raise funds "through their big mainland donors."
Protect Our Constitution is affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C., the nation's largest gay-rights organization.
Jackie Young, campaign director of Protect Our Constitution, countered: "It will probably bring a tsunami of right-wing money from the Christian Coalition and James Dobson's Focus on the Family. We don't have that kind of network. We just want a level playing field."
Last month, the Christian Coalition's national and Hawaii offices went on the Internet to launch a $1.5 million fund-raising drive for an advertising and grass-roots campaign urging "yes" votes for the ballot measure.
Four national organizations that support legalized gay marriage have also gone on the Internet, hoping to raise $1 million to quash the proposed constitutional amendment.
Attorney Dan Foley, who represents three gay couples that sued the state for the right to marry, questioned whether the Campaign Spending Commission on its own can decide not to enforce a law it believes is unconstitutional.
"The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that an administrative agency cannot pass on the constitutionality of a statute. That's apparently what they did," said Foley, who was representing Protect Our Constitution yesterday.
But there was a positive element to the attorney general's opinion, Foley added. It helps Protect Our Constitution because disclosure requirements would still be retained in the law. That's the essence of the group's complaint against Hawaii Family Forum.
"All we're trying to do is not to limit speech, but let the public know who's paying for it. That's all we're asking," Foley said.
Kelly Rosati, an attorney who is also executive director of the Hawaii Family Forum, said disclosure is not required by Hawaii Family Forum because its radio spots are "educational" and not "advocacy."
"Foley's argument is nothing more than a red herring," Rosati said.
Complaints against PACBy Mike Yuen
and coalition are dismissed
The state Campaign Spending Commission has dismissed complaints by gay activist Bill Woods, who claimed that Save Traditional Marriage-'98, a leading political action committee opposed to same-sex marriage, had broken state law.
The panel yesterday also quashed a complaint against the recently reorganized Hawaii affiliate of the conservative Christian Coalition because it has since registered with the commission.
But it kept open its inquiry into whether the coalition's national office in Virginia must register and whether the Hawaii Family Forum is running "advocacy" radio spots that would force it to disclose its contributors.
The complaints against the Christian Coalition's offices and Hawaii Family Forum were filed by Protect Our Constitution and its affiliate PAC that is linked to the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C., the nation's largest gay-rights organization.
Woods' complaints stemmed from a $100-a-person fund-raiser in November that Save Traditional Marriage hosted at which Stephen Covey, the best-selling self-help author, was featured.
The commission concluded that Covey provided voluntary personal services and was not required to register with the panel.
And since the PAC took "corrective action" by returning $250 of the $1,250 it had received from Hawaii's Future Today, which opposes same-sex marriage, there's no need to proceed against Hawaii's Future Today, the commission stated.
At issue was an apparent violation of the $1,000 contribution limit to noncandidate committees, which the attorney general's office has since determined is unconstitutional.
In addition to urging a "yes" vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that could ban same-sex marriage, the Hawaii Christian Coalition is now also urging isle voters to approve the convening of a constitutional convention.
The move puts the coalition even more at odds with its adversary, the political action committee Protect Our Constitution, which was organized to oppose both measures. Isle voters will vote on both ballot issues Nov. 3.
"In short, we are going on offense," Hawaii Christian Coalition President Daniel McGivern said today. "We won't be punting. And when we're way ahead, we'll run up the score. We're through pussyfooting around."
McGivern said he is also urging clergy "to stand up in their pulpits and denounce the evils of homosexuality. Pastors need to show some guts and tell people how they are personally voting without telling their flocks how to vote, since that's illegal."