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Appeals court backs Tavares on campaign contributions


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POSTED: Saturday, June 27, 2009

A California-based real estate development company did not violate state campaign spending laws when it contributed $2,000 to Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares' election campaign in 2006, according to a published opinion by the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals.

The opinion upholds a lower court ruling that individuals and entities can contribute up to $4,000 to a candidate seeking election to a four-year, non-statewide office.

Leading up to the 2006 Maui mayoral election, the state Campaign Spending Commission, through Executive Director Barbara Wong, sent notices to the developer, a mainland construction company and a hamburger restaurant chain that each of their $2,000 contributions to Tavares' campaign exceeded the $1,000 contribution limit to a non-candidate committee.

Tavares challenged the notices in court and Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza sided with Tavares. Cardoza ruled that the Charmaine Tavares Campaign is a candidate committee and therefore not subject to the lower contribution limit that applies to political action committees.

The commission appealed Cardoza's ruling and the appeals court upheld his ruling this week.

“;I think the opinions of the ICA and the circuit court speak for themselves,”; said Justin Gruenstein, treasurer of the Charmaine Tavares Campaign.

Wong said it is up to the commission to decide whether or not to appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court. The commission's next meeting is July 16.