December 10, 2013 •

Hawaii Ethics Commission Issues New Advisory

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued an advisory last week urging public school employees to refrain from promoting charitable fundraisers at school. The advisory was issued after Department of Education teachers and administrators were asked to support and encourage students […]

HawaiiThe Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued an advisory last week urging public school employees to refrain from promoting charitable fundraisers at school.

The advisory was issued after Department of Education teachers and administrators were asked to support and encourage students to participate in a popular holiday fundraising campaign for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The state ethics code prohibits state employees from using work time and state resources for non-state related business purposes, which generally include supporting or promoting private charities.

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December 10, 2013 •

Honolulu Administrative Department Claims Authority to Issue Ethics Advice

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration is currently at odds with the City Ethics Commission. Earlier in the year the Commission inquired as to whether the Department of the Corporation Counsel has the power and duty to advise city employees on […]

Flag_of_Honolulu,Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration is currently at odds with the City Ethics Commission. Earlier in the year the Commission inquired as to whether the Department of the Corporation Counsel has the power and duty to advise city employees on matters of ethics.

In a memorandum to all municipal agencies, the Department announced it does have said authority; the Ethics Commission disagrees.

The administrative decision may potentially result in city attorneys and Ethics Commission attorneys offering conflicting advice. Also problematic, the Ethics Commission is insulated from retaliation as an autonomous agency, whereas city attorneys are afforded no such protection.

If nothing else, the memo is likely to cause public confusion as the relationship between administration and Commission deteriorates. Subpoenas may be on the horizon for Mayor Caldwell’s top executives as the Ethics Commission investigates possible corruption in city hall.

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November 14, 2013 •

Hawaii Special Session Adjourns Sine Die

On November 12, the Legislature adjourned its second special session sine die. The legislative body convened in October to address marriage equality. Effective December 2, the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex, […]

HawaiiOn November 12, the Legislature adjourned its second special session sine die. The legislative body convened in October to address marriage equality.

Effective December 2, the Hawaii Marriage Equality Act of 2013 recognizes marriages between individuals of the same sex, and extends to same-sex couples all rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage.

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November 13, 2013 •

Officialʹs Receipt of Complimentary Tickets Reviewed by Hawaii State Ethics Commission

The Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued four Informal Advisory Opinions pertaining to a state official’s receipt of complimentary event tickets. A state agency may have a legitimate state interest in giving an agency board member a ticket to an agency […]

Seal of the State of Hawaii.svgThe Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued four Informal Advisory Opinions pertaining to a state official’s receipt of complimentary event tickets. A state agency may have a legitimate state interest in giving an agency board member a ticket to an agency event. In that scenario the tickets are not considered “gifts” under Hawaii gift law. Rather, they are “state assets” and distribution must be evaluated in accordance with the fair treatment law under the State Ethics Code.

Agency board officials may accept two complimentary tickets per agency event – one for the official and the other for the official’s spouse or significant other. An official’s use of complimentary tickets for additional personal guests constitutes unfair compensation and is, therefore, prohibited. Moreover, transferring complimentary tickets to family members to attend events in the official’s place is also a likely violation of the fair treatment law.

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October 29, 2013 •

Hawaii State Ethics Commission Issues Ethics Advisory

Grassroots Activities May be Reportable as Lobbying Expenses

Seal of the State of HawaiiThe Hawaii State Ethics Commission issued an ethics advisory in response to inquiries received regarding grassroots lobbying activity during the Legislature’s second special session. The Legislature convened on October 28 to discuss same-sex marriage, and many organizations involved in supporting or opposing the bill may be required to report activities to the commission under Hawaii lobbying law.

Grassroots lobbying activities such as preparing or distributing flyers and other mailers encouraging members of the public to contact their legislators in support of or in opposition to the bill; producing or paying for broadcast, print, or internet media announcements advocating for or against the issue; and organizing sign-waving or rallies to demonstrate support for or against same-sex marriage may all constitute reportable lobbying expenses under Hawaii law.

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October 21, 2013 •

Honolulu Ethics Commission Seeks to Avoid Future Pay-to-Play Concerns

New Gift Law Provisions Created

Honolulu01Honolulu Mayor Caldwell and his transitional team came under the review of the city Ethics Commission recently for potential violations of gift law. The Commission found no violations due to a lack of established ethical guidelines but placed restrictions on future donations for inaugural or transitional purposes.

Safeguards put in place to avoid pay-to-play concerns include mandatory public disclosure of all donations, including the amount of and use for each, prohibition against asking current or prospective city officers or employees to solicit or make contributions, and requiring each donor/contributor to confirm he or she is not a registered lobbyist and has no future business with the city in which the administration is likely to be involved.

The Commission further held donations used to support legitimate government purposes, such as the transition between administrations and the official inaugural ceremony, are gifts to the city.

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October 14, 2013 •

Three-Judge Federal Appeals Panel Heard Challenge to Hawaii Campaign Finance Law

No Rulings Confirmed

Seal of the State of HawaiiOn Wednesday, October 9, a three-judge federal appeals panel heard a challenge to Hawaii’s campaign finance law, paying specific attention to the ban on political contributions by state and county contractors and the spending threshold for triggering disclosure requirements.

Although no rulings have been made, the judges did appear skeptical regarding the constitutionality of the contribution ban on contractors passed by the Legislature in 2005.

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August 1, 2013 •

Campaign Finance Updates

Hawaii and Iowa

You Should KnowHawaii and Iowa will be seeing some changes in their campaign finance laws as a result of passed bills and court decisions.

In Iowa, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s law requiring groups making independent expenditures to disclose information about their spending, but struck down the part of the law requiring those same groups to file supplemental reports. Under the old law, if a group spent more than $750 on independent expenditures it would be required to file a report within 48 hours, and if the group spent more than $1,000 in expenditures it would be required to file a supplemental report on the 19th of January, May, July, and October. However, in Iowa Right to Life Committee, Inc. v. Tooker, the court held the supplemental reports to be “additional, redundant, and more burdensome.” Therefore, groups making independent expenditures are no longer required to file supplemental reports.

In Hawaii, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed two bills into law. Senate Bill 31 changes the way noncandidate committees, corporations, and other associations active in elections disclose their political spending. In the past, those groups were required to file supplemental reports on January 31 and July 31 only in years following an election. Under the new law, which took effect immediately upon Abercrombie’s signature, the January 31 supplemental report must be filed every year. The bill also requires those groups, when filing the reports, to make a distinction between contributions made and contributions received.

Abercrombie also signed House Bill 1147 into law. This bill, which takes effect November 5, 2014, requires noncandidate committees making only independent expenditures to include, in a prominent location, the names of the top three contributors making the highest aggregate contributions to the noncandidate committee for the purpose of the advertisement. This requirement only applies to advertisements which are broadcasted, televised, circulated, or published, and are of a duration so as not to create a hardship to the committee. The bill also requires a noncandidate committee making an independent expenditure in the last two weeks before an election exceeding $500 to file a late expenditure report.

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July 10, 2013 •

Hawaii Bill Becomes Law Without Governor’s Signature

Bill changes the way the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees are elected

Hawaii State Capitol
Hawaii State Capitol

Candidates for positions on the Board of Trustees in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will now be required to run in the primary and general election. Senate Bill 3 took effect Tuesday after Gov. Neil Abercrombie failed to take any action on the bill.

The bill requires members of the Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to be nominated at a primary election and be elected during the regular general election. Currently, those positions are filled during a special election taking place at the same time as the regular general election.

Abercrombie issued a notice of intent to veto the bill on June 24, but decided against vetoing the bill. By not signing the bill, Abercrombie is allowing it to become law, but is not giving it his stamp of approval. The governor encouraged the Legislature to further review the measure and to consider alternatives during the next session.

The Board of Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a nine-member board with five trustees serving individual districts and four serving the island at large. Every voter in the state casts a vote for all nine positions, though the five representing districts must reside in his or her respective district.

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June 25, 2013 •

Hawaii Governor Issues Notice of Intent to Veto Nine Bills

Senate Bill 3 concerning the election of members of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs among the nine

Neil Abercrombie
Governor Neil Abercrombie

The Hawaii State Legislature passed 293 bills during its session and Governor Neil Abercrombie has officially announced his intent to veto only nine of them. On Monday, Abercrombie gave notice of his intent to veto nine bills, including Senate Bill 3, which requires candidates for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to go through a primary and general election. Under current law, those candidate are elected during a special election coinciding with the normal general election.

Abercrombie has until July 9 to veto any bills, but under the State Constitution, he must provide at least 10 working days notice for any bill he plans to veto. The governor is under no requirement to actually veto the bills just because he gave his notice of intent to veto. He still has until July 9 to sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or pocket veto the bill by taking no action on it.

As a statement from Abercrombie’s office said, “The purpose of the notice is to allow sufficient time for the governor to give additional consideration, have further discussions and inquiries, and conduct deeper analysis before he makes his final decision.”

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June 17, 2013 •

Hawaii Governor Signs Campaign Finance Reporting Bill

Corporations and non-candidate committees will now file the January supplemental report annually

Neil Abercrombie

On Friday night, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie changed the way non-candidate committees, corporations, and all other associations active in elections report their political spending by signing Senate Bill 31 into law. The bill, which will go into effect immediately, requires the aforementioned groups to file a supplemental report on January 31 of every year. Currently, those groups are only required to file a January 31 supplemental report in years following an election.

The bill also requires the reports to make a distinction between the aggregate amount of contributions received and contributions made. Currently, the law just requires the groups to include the amount of contributions, with no distinction made between those received and made.

Abercrombie has been busy signing and vetoing bills since the Legislature adjourned on May 2 and he has until July 8 to act on the remaining ones.

Photo of Gov. Neil Abercrombie courtesy of  the governor on Wikipedia.

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May 6, 2013 •

Hawaii State Legislature Adjourns

Campaign finance bill passes and awaits governor’s signature

Hawaii State Capitol
Hawaii State Capitol

The Hawaii State Legislature bid aloha Thursday as it adjourned for the year. In total, the Legislature introduced 2,872 bills and passed 293 of them. Those 293 passed bills will now head to Governor Neil Abercrombie’s desk for his signature.

Among the most important bills passed, was a campaign finance bill aimed at increasing transparency in the campaigning process. House Bill 1147 was passed Thursday night and is now headed to Governor Abercrombie’s desk. Under the bill, non-candidate committees only making independent expenditures will be required to list the names of the top three contributors on all advertisements broadcasted, televised, circulated, or published, which includes posting on the Internet. Originally, the bill required the top five contributors to be disclosed, but it was amended to only include the top three.

Still, Hawaii lawmakers were very pleased with the passage of this particular bill. Representative Chris Lee, the author of the bill, said, “All the political ads they see on TV that are sponsored by these loose organizations with no real background – these folks will have to disclose who the funders actually are so that people can actually go to the ballot box informed about what they’re about to vote on.”

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim added, “We should have transparency that people are free to go ahead and have their First Amendment, if it’s by way of donation and contributing, but we should be able to know who’s doing it.”

Governor Abercrombie has 45 days, excluding weekends and holidays, to sign the bill and if he does, the bill will become effective on November 5, 2014.

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August 21, 2012 •

Tuesday Campaign Finance News Summary

A bill for greater disclosure in California, politicians owing fines in Louisiana, and more in today’s campaign finance news:

campaign finance newsCalifornia: “Bill would let voters impose greater disclosure requirements on political campaign spending” by The Associated Press in The Republic.

Hawaii: “Cashing In: Hawaii’s Top Ten Campaign Donors” by Lindsey Txakeeyang in the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Louisiana: “Lee Zurik Investigation: Politicians owe the state thousands in fines” by Lee Zurik on WVUE Fox 8 News.

Nebraska: “Campaign finance donation removed from state tax return” in the Lincoln Journal Star.

Romney’s campaign coffers have $60 million more than Obama’s” by T.W. Farnam in the Washington Post.

Ask Kim Barker Anything About Campaign Finance (a Reddit Chat)” by Amanda Zamora in ProPublica.

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July 10, 2012 •

Hawaii Passes Law to Increase Government Participation

Revolving door provisions relaxed

Governor Neil Abercrombie
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed House Bill 2175 into law, exempting certain people from the state’s revolving door provisions.

In an effort to increase participation amongst the state’s experts and those with special knowledge, the law exempts members of a state task force from the revolving door provisions. A task force is a group which is created to study a specific problem for a specified period of time.

The law will take effect immediately.

Photo of Governor Abercrombie courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

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