Common Cause Hawaii focused on three critical goals in 2013. Our activities and accomplishments are listed below each corresponding goal:
#1 Reduce corruption and undue influence by special interests by addressing the problem of money-in-politics
- Introduced two bills that were passed into law during the 2013 legislative session:
- Act 112, requiring super PACs to disclose their top three contributors in political ads so that voters can decide for themselves whether to heed the messages; and
- Act 125, requiring legislators to file financial disclosure reports in January before legislative session to show potential conflicts of interest.
- Supported efforts to pass Act 263, which makes electronic data sets available to the public, and requires the Chief Information Officer to develop policies and procedures to implement the open data initiative. The passage of this bill sets the foundation for future transparency initiatives focused on making campaign spending data more accessible to the public.
- Held community roundtable events geared toward young professionals and young advocates (ages 21-40), including one that focused on key U.S. federal Campaign Finance laws from the past 100 years. The event highlighted the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave special interests first amendment protections (thus allowing corporations and unions to spend an unlimited amount of money in elections), and also had a briefing on the McCutcheon v. FEC decision currently before the U.S. Supreme Court – which has the potential to remove the cap on aggregate contributions to federal elections within a 2-year cycle.
- Hosted a screening and moderated discussion of “ALEC,” a film that exposes America’s most influential corporate-funded political force - American Legislative Exchange Council.
- Secured a grant of $52,000 from Voqal USA to hold a campaign which will encourage interested members of the public develop mobile apps that will enable individuals to learn about candidates, see ways money is tied to influence, and make informed voting decisions. We are partnering with Hawaii Open Data on this project to promote access and usage of campaign finance data, which is available online but not broadly used by the general public, especially young people.
- Collaborated with Campaign Spending Commission to solicit and provide community feedback that helped to re-design their website, searchable database, and new application which presents candidate committee campaign spending data in “visual-data” format.
- Coached 45 high school students on money-in-politics issues, which culminated in the students designing a money-in-politics info-graphic and presenting their design. By learning the abstract money-in-politics issue at an early age, students are able to understand and communicate to their peers how money alters the dynamics in political campaigning and law-making.
#2 Reduce barriers to political participation by modernizing voter registration and opening up other avenues for citizen involvement.
- Advocated for two voter reform bills that moved to Conference Committee, the furthest any similar measure has moved (Publicly Funded Elections and Same Day Voter Registration).
- Advocated for successful enactment of the Online Voter Registration bill, which we helped pass in 2012. We have continued to meet with the Office of Elections to ensure that progress is being made on developing the new system, which must be in place by 2016.
- Collaborated with the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Office of Elections to address concerns about the lack of public education on ballot measure issues. As a result of these meetings, Common Cause Hawaii will be supporting efforts to raise public awareness for how citizens can access such information.
- Focused several community presentations on voting modernization and same day voter registration.
- Held advocacy training workshops for college students who are not political science majors. For example: Common Cause Hawaii hosted an advocacy training for 51 senior nursing students. The training included “How A Bill Becomes A Law”, “Advocacy 101 Tips” and featured the Senate Health Committee Chair as guest speaker. With this different approach, we helped tie democracy issues and advocacy with an issue relevant to the students and their desired career-path– healthcare.
#3 Fight back against attacks on our ethics and transparency laws.
- Took the lead in addressing ways to improve ethics, transparency, and public access in the legislative process via the legislative rules that govern our Legislature, and continue to hold our legislature accountable for their actions.
- Issued a letter, which was co-signed by 13 other nonprofits, and 300+ citizens to the Senate President and House Speaker to address ethics issues and offer solutions.
- Worked with the League of Women Voters of Hawaii to track instances of gut-and-replace, late hearing notice postings, hearing notice waivers and requests for rulings on Conflicts of Interest.
- Brought to light to a Senate attempt to include unrelated language in a bill, without giving public notice. We mobilized the public and the media to hold the Senate accountable. In this process, we educated the public about the deceiving “gut and replace” and “Frankenstein” practices (by which legislators severely alter the contents of the bill without public knowledge). In response to our efforts, the Senate allowed for more time for public input on this bill.
- A combination of community organizing and successful media campaign resulted in Common Cause Hawaii’s successfully addressing deceitful legislative practices, resulting in at least 11 of the 18 “bad bills” dying in the final days of legislative session.
- Convened a coalition of organizations who support good government initiatives over a series of roundtable peer-learning discussions. The goal of this coalition was to bridge organizations who otherwise would not have worked together – over the common goal: to improve legislative transparency, access, and ethics, and tie these democracy and process issues to the social and economic issues that their organization focuses on. Among the coalition were AARP, Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, and representatives from organizations that focused on anti-gambling, land use, homelessness, health insurance, and journalism. The group was among those who supported Common Cause’s efforts to hold legislators accountable for the above mentioned “gut and replace” and “Frankenstein” practices
- Common Cause Hawaii became a resource during special session: we helped answer questions from community members related to how special session works. In response to several concerns about access, ethics, and transparency during special session, we developed and placed an OpEd in the state newspaper which addressed access issues and dispelled any false claims about how “unconstitutional” some of the legislative actions were.
- Held several workshops and events primarily focused on how ethics and transparency in government affect the ability for public input in the legislative process, and ways we can improve this.
- Co-sponsored a workshop with the Hawaii Ethics Commission, Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, League of Women Voters of Hawaii, and Kanu Hawaii which focused on recruiting new Commissioners for the respective Commissions. The workshop resulted in 7 applications to the Ethics Commission and 2 applications to Campaign Spending Commission.
We continued mentoring interns and young professional volunteers into 2013. Our interns wrote policy briefs and blog posts, press releases, produced white papers, and held a “wheel-of-fortune” like game at YELP Hawaii’s “Good Karma Ball” Halloween party which had over 1,000 young professionals in attendance. Two interns created a new student club at the college that promotes political awareness and participation. Several interns moved on to hold session jobs at the state legislature. In addition to policy and outreach work, Common Cause staff provided nonprofit management training for interns.
CCHI welcomed three new board members in 2013:
- Nikki Love, Public Policy Director for the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations. She previously served as Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii and helped lead the chapter's rebuilding process, which began in 2007. Nikki has worked for the Hawaii State Legislature, City & County of Honolulu, and other nonprofit organizations.
- Burt Lum, Executive Director of Hawaii Open Data, a non-profit dedicated to advancing the principles of open data. Burt has more than 30 years in Hawaii's technology and communications sector. Note: Burt has since taken a leave of absence so that Common Cause Hawaii can pursue the Voqal grant.
- Jared Kuriowa, Senior Programmer for Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s Interactive TV. His background includes management of a small programming department, extensive broadcast technology experience, and as the application development lead for a leading payroll outsourcing company.
Common Cause Hawaii brought on five new young professionals as active volunteers to work on campaigns and activities that raise awareness for money-in-politics and ethics and transparency at the legislature.
Common Cause Hawaii….
- Has reached 100% board participation in annual giving.
- Has been granted a $5,000 grant award from Hawaii People’s Fund to support our organization’s work on systemic democracy issues.
- Has been granted a $52,000 grant award from Voqal to hold a campaign which will encourage interested members of the public develop mobile apps that will enable individuals to learn about candidates, see ways money is tied to influence, and make informed voting decisions.
- Re-engaged six donors who have not been active in 5, 10, and 20 years.
Look back at all our 2013 media highlights.