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Political financing bill is shelved


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POSTED: Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good-government groups applauded a move by the state House yesterday to shelve a measure that would have allowed corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to their noncandidate political action committees.

After meeting in caucus for about 30 minutes, the Democratic leadership moved to recommit the proposal, House Bill 539, to the Judiciary Committee.

“;I'm delighted that the House and the House leadership saw that this was a bad bill and recommitted it,”; said Barbara Polk, spokeswoman for Americans for Democratic Action, Hawaii. “;I hope that this kills it.”;

Nikki Love, spokeswoman for Common Cause Hawaii, added, “;Our coalition was extremely concerned about the idea of more corporate money in campaigns. ... We think that campaigns should get their support from the grass roots, not from corporate treasuries.”;

Although no measure is truly dead until the end of session, Judiciary Chairman Jon Riki Karamatsu (D, Waipahu-Waikele) said he did not expect to bring this one back.

The move to recommit the bill was indicative of a lack of support from a majority of House Democrats.

“;Some of them - just a small group of them - feel that corporations shouldn't give as much as individuals,”; Karamatsu said.

House Bill 539 would permit companies to make contributions to candidates or candidates' committees while also allowing companies to contribute an unlimited amount to their own noncandidate political action committees.

Some who opposed the measure said it would be premature to pass such a law while an appeal is still pending on a 2007 Circuit Court ruling regarding corporate donations to Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

In 2006 the Campaign Spending Commission ruled that campaign contributions from a corporation or union were limited to $1,000 during an election period. That meant corporations and unions could give just $1,000 during a two-year campaign period. Meanwhile, individuals could contribute from $2,000 to $6,000 in a two- or four-year campaign period.

Maui Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza struck down the ruling the following year, after the commission said Tavares' campaign was improperly accepting contributions of more than $1,000. Cardoza's ruling is being appealed by the Campaign Spending Commission.