HAWAII: “Transparency for SuperPACs’ bill (HB1147) to be heard in the House Finance Committee

HAWAII: "Transparency for SuperPACs' bill (HB1147) to be heard in the House Finance Committee

IN HAWAII: the House Finance Committee has scheduled HB1147 HD1 — which encourages transparency for PACs and SuperPACs — for a Wednesday, February 27 hearing.

This important measure would significantly improve campaign finance disclosure at the state level, and boost transparency in the post-Citizens United era.

HB1147 improves reporting for noncandidate committees (PACs and SuperPACs) and electioneering communications, and requires disclosure of top contributors in political advertisements by SuperPACs. HB1147 HD1 includes a number of important elements to improve transparency and disclosure for campaign finance, with particular respect to independent expenditures and SuperPACs. Specifically, this bill requires noncandidate committees to identify certain top contributors for advertisements.

Transparency for independent expenditures is a particularly timely issue, as Citizens United v. FEC and other court decisions paved the way for unlimited spending by corporations and unions to influence elections. New Super PACs and other entities are popping up at the federal and state levels to take advantage of these new pathways for campaign money.

The public’s understanding of this issue has grown over the past three years, and the concern about campaign finance is becoming more widespread. This is even leading to a growing movement nationwide for a U.S. Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United and rein in campaign spending by corporations.

The experience of the most recent elections shows the clear need for action by elected officials; 2012 was the year of the SuperPAC at the federal, state, and local levels. Here in Hawaii, new SuperPACs were formed and enormous quantities were expended on campaign advertising aiming to influence the voters.

In this context, other states are beefing up their disclosure requirements, and Hawaii is falling behind. Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut already have similar legislation in place. According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Hawaii has ranked in the bottom half of the nation with respect to disclosure for independent expenditures. With the recent growth of SuperPACs and independent expenditures, more disclosure is urgently needed. This bill includes important elements to improve this situation.


There are several important elements included in the bill:

Disclosures on Advertisements — Advertisements are currently required to include a message disclosing who has paid for the ad, but the names of SuperPACs may not give any real information to the viewers, listeners, or readers. This bill improves the disclosures on advertisements by requiring a listing of a SuperPAC’s three top contributors. Similar provisions have been included in various pending legislation in other states.

Noncandidate Committee Reporting — This bill requires noncandidate committees to report additional information including the name of any candidate supported, opposed, or identified in any advertisements. Also, for independent-expenditure-only committees (“SuperPACs”), the bill requires certification that independent expenditures are not coordinated with the candidate.

Late Expenditures — The current law already requires reporting of late contributions — donations given just before an election. Now that independent expenditures are gaining prominence, this bill would require noncandidate committees and other entities to report late expenditures as well.

Electioneering Communications — This bill requires more details to be reported in electioneering communication reports, and directs the Campaign Spending Commission to create rules to require all persons to file electioneering communication reports (currently, noncandidate committees are not required to file these reports).

If you live in Hawaii, help us limit “big money” influence in politics. Please submit testimony in support. You can find out how to submit your testimony, through our Common Cause Hawaii chapter Facebook.

We must do all we can to improve the way campaign contributions and expenditures are reported to help renew the public’s confidence in our elections process, and public officials.