Judge lifts donation
limits for Harris

The ruling relaxes the restraints
for previous campaign supporters

By Rick Daysog

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris scored his second legal victory in a week when a federal judge permanently barred the state Campaign Spending Commission from restricting political contributions from supporters of his 2000 mayoral campaign.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor issued a permanent injunction yesterday against the commission, saying its application of campaign limits against people who supported Harris in 2000 was unconstitutional.

Under the ruling, donors who contributed the $4,000 legal limit to Harris' mayoral campaign in 2000 can give another $6,000 to Harris' gubernatorial campaign this year.

The order comes six days after the commission withdrew a formal complaint alleging the Harris campaign improperly raised $100,000 in 2000 on behalf of the Democratic National Committee.

"A lot of the cloud has been lifted," said Rick Tsujimura, co-chairman of the Harris 2002 Campaign. "We always knew their application of the law was wrong."

Gillmor's ruling -- which was issued after the judge granted a preliminary injunction last month against the commission -- came on a lawsuit filed by attorney Lex Smith, who alleged that the commission was violating his free-speech rights.

Smith, who was appointed to the city Ethics Commission by Harris, said the Campaign Spending Commission unfairly restricted the amount he could give to Harris in this year's gubernatorial race to $3,000 because he gave $3,000 in Harris' re-election campaign two years ago.

Under state law, contributors can give up to $6,000 to a gubernatorial candidate and $4,000 to a mayoral candidate in an election cycle. But since the four-year period involving the Honolulu mayor's race and this year's gubernatorial race overlap, the commission has ruled that contributions made to the same candidates two years ago should apply to this year's election.

Bob Watada, the commission's executive director, said state attorneys are looking into appealing Gillmor's ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He said he also may go to the state Legislature to tighten the campaign laws regarding limits for overlapping elections.

In a related matter, Tsujimura said that Harris may restart his political campaign as early as May 1 pending the outcome of a Supreme Court decision.

Harris suspended the campaign last month after Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna ruled that Harris should have resigned as mayor 10 months ago under the state's resign-to-run law.

The Supreme Court, which agreed to hear Harris' appeal on an expedited basis, could rule on the matter as early as April 29.

Campaign Spending Commission

E-mail to City Desk


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