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Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Legislature 2000

Charities may receive
campaign funds

Garcia vows independence on prison

By Richard Borreca


Politicians who make regular donations to charities and say the contributions come only if the politicians stay in office are coming "dangerously close to buying votes," according to Campaign Spending Commission officials.

In reaction, the Senate yesterday approved a bill to change state law to clearly allow lawmakers to use money raised for a political campaign for charitable contributions.

The bill was changed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to Sen. Matt Matsunaga, committee co-chairman, senators say they should be able to use campaign expenses in the same way they use the $5,000 they get yearly for office expenses.

"If it is good enough to use taxpayer money for ordinary and necessary expenses of office, it is good enough to use privately raised money," Matsunaga said.

But Bob Watada, Campaign Spending Commission executive director, said the commission ruled in February that politicians couldn't use campaign donations to make charitable contributions "just to keep their name alive."

Money donated to a politician could be given to a charity if it was surplus after a campaign was finished and all bills were paid, Watada said.

But Matsunaga argued: What would happen if a politician had a deficit but was able to raise more funds? Could that money be given to a charity?

Watada said no, so the Senate voted yesterday to change the law.

Matsunaga said legislators want more flexibility on how they can spend political money, while the Campaign Spending Commission is becoming increasingly strict in using political money for uses not strictly connected with winning an election.

"We found that 25 percent of the money spent by incumbents is in the year before the election. We call that seeding the electorate," Watada said.

"Some of it comes very close to buying votes," he added.

"They give to organizations and say as long as they are in office they can give this much money, so everyone in the organization is for that candidate."

He added that contributors have complained to the commission that they give money to a candidate and then see the politician give the money to an organization that the donor doesn't agree with.

"It makes everyone more cynical," Watada said.

Matsunaga, however, argued that legislators are asked to contribute to many charities and nonprofit organizations.

Legislature Directory
Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

Garcia vows
legislative independence
on new prison

By Crystal Kua


The chairman of the House Public Safety Committee said the governor won't tell him what to do when it comes to crafting legislation for a new prison.

"My real concern is whether or not I change lives. That is my bottom line. I don't know what the guy on the fifth floor is trying to say about this," Rep. Nestor Garcia (D, Waipahu) said yesterday, referring to Gov. Ben Cayetano's office at the state Capitol.

Cayetano wanted a new prison to be built on the mainland, but has apparently given up on that plan in the face of increasing legislative resistance.

The governor has said, however, that any new prison must be privately operated.

"My bottom line, Mr. Speaker, is that I'm trying to change lives, I'm trying to turn lives around, I'm trying to rehabilitate those who are willing to be rehabilitated, reduce recidivism, protect public safety," Garcia said in speech on the House floor.

"I don't care who runs this facility, whether it's a public, private entity."

House Majority Leader Ed Case said the intent of the House was for a privately constructed and operated prison but the bill approved by the House yesterday didn't include language that the facility be run by a private operator.

"Through inadvertence, the bill before us incorporated the private construction provisions ... but not the operations provisions," Case said. "Mistakes happen."

Case said that he looks forward to the measure going into conference committee and being reflective of both the House and Senate positions on having a privately built and run facility.

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