Since Common Cause Hawaii’s resurrection in 2008, we have been at the forefront of advocating for a stronger democracy. Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for a current listing of our outreach activities and engagements! Please scroll down (way down) to view our organization’s accomplishments from 2009 to the present!
List of CCHI accomplishments through April 2021
- January 10, 2021 Public Policy Advocacy Training: How has COVID-19 changed the way we interact with elected officials? This webinar was sponsored by Common Cause Hawaii and many coalition partners. [please include this hyperlink]
- January 14, 2021 PBS Insights discussion on the 2021 Legislative Session with Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole and Rep. Gene Ward and Common Cause Hawaii [please include this hyperlink]
- January 23, 2021 Special Membership and Public Meeting Webinar on Common Cause Hawaii’s 2021 Legislative Priorities, Status of the Gut & Replace lawsuit, and how to testify in the current legislative session. To view the recording of this Zoom webinar, please click here. And click here for a PDF file where you can view the slide show on interacting with the Hawaii State Capitol website to enter remotely written and oral testimony on bills.
- January 28, 2021 Honolulu Civil Beat’s Civil Café Event – a webinar moderated by Civil Beat politics and opinion editor, Chad Blair, with panelists House Speaker Scott Saiki, Senate President Ron Kouchi and Sandy Ma, the Executive Director of Common Cause Hawaii. If you missed this event you can watch the recording here.
- April 30, 2021 Common Cause Hawaii Advocacy Successes in the 2021 Hawaii Legislative Session.
- PASSED, due to the advocacy of Common Cause Hawaii and its supporters, several PRIORITY Common Cause Hawaii bills and they have been transmitted to the Governor to sign into law. These include:
- Automatic Voter Registration – SB159
- Vote-By-Mail improvements such as requiring those on probation and parole to be informed of how to register to vote and how to vote, ballots to be mailed 18 days prior to election day, and identification of where to site and number of voter service centers and drop boxes – SB548
- Changes to our Sunshine Law to allow for remote testimony – SB1034
- Pension forfeiture for government employees who are convicted of committing job related felonies – HB670
- 12-month cooling off period for department heads and legislators who leave their positions – HB671
- Recognizing Juneteenth – SB939
- We also supported several other measures that PASSED:
- Act 7, HB199, stating that the county clerk, not the chief election officer, shall issue an election proclamation listing information on voter service centers and places of deposit. This was signed by the Governor already!
- SB400, clarifies that increased fines may apply if a candidate committee or noncandidate committee fails to timely file the preliminary primary or preliminary general report due ten calendar days before a primary or general election.
- SB402, provides that expenditures by candidate committees may be made to reimburse other individuals for expenditures advanced by those individuals, in addition to those advanced by the candidate.
- SB405, provides that excess contributions by nonresident contributors shall escheat to the Hawaii election.
- We also advocated for the defeat of several other measures which were in fact defeated:
- There were several measures to end election day as a state holiday, which were all defeated.
- We were able to stop a resolution calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention.
- PASSED, due to the advocacy of Common Cause Hawaii and its supporters, several PRIORITY Common Cause Hawaii bills and they have been transmitted to the Governor to sign into law. These include:
The AeVote Campaign
Thanks to funders, we ran the successful AeVote campaign to increase voter turnout in Hawaii. The AeVote campaign embodied the importance of voting rooted in Hawaiian values and culture. In hula, when the dancers (the halau) are ready, they will respond “Ae” to the Kumu Hula (hula teacher), meaning “Yes, I am ready.” AeVote, therefore, means, “Yes, I am ready to vote.” The AeVote campaign was based on personal responsibility and accountability – AeVote for my community, for my family, for myself. The AeVote campaign messaged that voting is kākou, meaning that voting has a Hawaiian value of inclusiveness, of us, and of being in this together. Voting is the responsible thing to do, and Hawaii is ready to vote for community, family, and self.
As a result of CCHI activities to educate the public and promote the importance of voting through the AeVote campaign, voter turnout in Hawaii for the 2020 elections greatly increased and surpassed all expectations! These increased voter turnout numbers were the highest in decades. For the primary election, voter turnout was 16.4% over the 2016 presidential primary election and 12.6% over the 2018 midterm primary election. For the general election, voter turnout was 11.2% over the 2016 presidential general election and 16.9% over the 2018 midterm general election
Sunshine Protections During the Pandemic
When Governor Ige suspended the Sunshine Law due to the COVID-19 pandemic starting in March 2020 even though government boards, commissions, and agencies were still meeting, Common Cause Hawaii led a coalition of over 30 groups and individuals calling for a rescission of this measure. In times of peril, more transparency by our government is necessary and not less. Government cannot be allowed to function without public participation and input. With pressure by Common Cause Hawaii and our coalition members and partners, Governor Ige amended his Emergency Proclamation pertaining to Sunshine Law and allowed public notice of meetings, public participation by remote access, and posting of minutes, among other good government requirements.
Common Cause Hawaii also in 2020 started for the first time in Hawaii an Election Protection Protection program! We had nonpartisan volunteers for both the August and November elections conduct roving monitoring of our drop boxes and voter service centers in all counties to ensure that they were open and accessible with proper signage. We also had volunteers text registered voters throughout Hawaii about the new vote by mail process to ensure that people were aware of how to return their mail-in ballots and the deadlines for doing so. We had nearly 50 volunteers total to make our inaugural 2020 vote-by-mail elections a success!
2020 Legislative Wins:
Strengthening our Ethics Laws
- Emoluments – HB361 will prohibit the governor and each county mayor, beginning November 11, 2022, while holding those offices, to maintain any other employment, maintain a controlling interest in a business, or receive any emolument, beginning on the sixty-first calendar day after their election or appointment to office. Common Cause Hawaii has supported this measure on the principle that the highest officials in the executive branch should be fully attentive to the demanding responsibilities of their offices. They should not be distracted by other professional duties or be choosing which job’s priorities come first. Governor signed this bill into law as Act 75, Session Laws of Hawaii 2020!
- Police Officers’ Disciplinary Records – HB285 requires county police departments to disclose to the Legislature the identity of an officer upon an officer’s suspension or discharge and amends the Uniform Information Practices Act to allow for public access to information about suspended officers. Again, Common Cause Hawaii has supported this measure for a number of sessions. The public needs access to prior police disciplinary records for full transparency and accountability. Governor signed this bill into law as Act 45, Session Laws of Hawaii 2020!
- Disclosure of clients assisted – HB2125 requires that candidates for state elective offices, including candidates for election to the constitutional convention, shall only be required to disclose their own financial interests and financial interests include the names of clients assisted or represented before state agencies, except in ministerial matters, for a fee or compensation during the disclosure period and the names of the state agencies involved. Common Cause Hawaii supported this measure to improve transparency. Candidates for elective offices will be required to report any clients assisted or represented before state agencies. Governor signed this bill into law as Act 39, Session Laws of Hawaii 2020!
- Stopping Article V Constitutional Convention – We were able to prevent any resolution in favor of an Article V constitutional convention from even getting a hearing in the 2020 Hawaii State Legislative session!
Community Outreach and Engagement
- On February 05 Common Cause Hawaii participated with other good government advocacy groups and lot of local citizens in a Reject the Cover-Up Rally
- On January 25 Common Cause Hawaii held a meeting to discuss the 2020 Hawaii State Legislature’s 202o Session that started on January 15.
- On January 11 Common Cause participated in a Vote by Mail meeting on the Big Island with the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County.
And following is a pretty comprehensive chronological listing of all the meetings, briefings, webinars, brown bag lunches and such – most of them virtual due to the pandemic – accomplished in 2020.
- January 25, 2020, Community Meeting on 2020 Legislative Session Discussing some of the 90+ bill relating to voting, ethics, elections and more
- March 12, 2020, Common Cause Hawaii-hosted Coalition Meeting to Discuss Automatic Voter Registration
- April 15, 2020, Brown Bag Virtual Meeting to discuss the Suspension of the Sunshine Law, Elections and Vote-by-Mail
- April 21, 2020, Webinar hosted by Common Cause Hawaii and partners on Government Transparency
- May 1, 2020, AeVote Campaign Launch
- June 8-9, 2020, Waimea Community Association – two day Mayoral Forum discussing voting by mail
- July 13, 2020, Take Action Hawaii: How to Keep the Momentum Going Webinar discussing voting in 2020 and voting by mail
- July 23, 2020, Common Cause Hawaii How To Vote By Webinar with partners Pride At Work Hawaii, Community Alliance on Prisons, 350Hawaii.org, Sierra Club Hawaii, Indivisible Hawaii, and AAUW of Hawaii
- August 5, 2020, Common Cause Hawaii webinar on How to Make Your Vote Count in 2020 Elections. Webinar conducted with partners Pride At Work Hawaii, Community Alliance on Prisons, 350Hawaii.org, Sierra Club Hawaii, Indivisible Hawaii, and AAUW of Hawaii
- August 25, 2020, Common Cause Hawaii Digging into the Data from the August 8th The webinar was conducted with partners and did a breakdown of the Primary Election results
- August 26, 2020, Hamakua Resistance presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- August 27, 2020, UH Manoa Struggle with Victory Votes presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- September 15, 2020 Punahou Students presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- September 15, 2020 Chaminade University Tired Of Racial Inequity & Violence? What Can I Do? presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- September 16, 2020 UH AAUW Students Meeting presentation by Common Cause Hawaii to discuss voting by mail
- September 22, 2020 Kapiolani Community College Community Fair presentation by Common Cause Hawaii on voting
- October 8, 2020 Common Cause Hawaii webinar on How To Vote By Mail The webinar was conducted with partners Pride At Work Hawaii, Community Alliance on Prisons, 350Hawaii.org, Sierra Club Hawaii, Indivisible Hawaii, and AAUW of Hawaii
- October 8, 2020 Filipino Junior Chamber of Commerce presentation by Common Cause Hawaii on voting
- October 16, 2020 Punahou Students presentation by Common Cause Hawaii on voting
- October 19, 2020 Hanahau’oli School presentation by Common Cause Hawaii on voting
- October 20, 2020 Judiciary Event on Voting: Looking to Our Past for New Political Visions presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- October 23, 2020 Hawaii Community Foundation presentation by Common Cause Hawaii on voting
- October 23, 2020 Kapi`olani Community College Kaiaulu Webinar Series Her Voice, Her Victory, Her Vote presentation by Common Cause Hawaii
- Thanks to the amazing advocacy of our Common Cause Hawaii Ohana and coalition partners, Governor David Ige signed HB 1248 into law, as Act 136, Session Laws of Hawaii 2019, converting Hawaii elections to a statewide vote-by-mail system beginning with the primary 2020 election. Along with establishing a statewide vote-by-mail system starting with the 2020 primary election, Act 136 will establish a limited number of voter service centers that will remain open from the tenth business day preceding an election through the day of the election to receive personal delivery of mail-in ballots, offer same-day registration and voting, and provide other election services. Statewide vote-by-mail will become reality after nearly a decade of Common Cause advocacy!
- Governor Ige also signed SB 216 into law as Act 135, Session Laws of Hawaii 2019. The Common Cause Hawaii Ohana supported Act 135, which provides for a mandatory recount of election votes and ballot measures when the margin of victory for election contests or tabulation for ballot measures is equal to or less than one hundred or one-quarter of one percent of the votes cast, whichever is greater. This law will promote confidence in the electoral system and potentially save time and resources of the court system by avoiding having to file suit for a recount in close elections.
Community Outreach and Engagement
- On December 17 Common Cause Hawaii participated with other good government advocacy groups and lots of local citizens in an Impeachment Rally
- On November 13 Common Cause Hawaii held an info brief on Vote by Mail
- On September 05 Common Cause Hawaii organized and ran a panel discussion on Ethics in Government
- Common Cause Hawaii held a Pau Hana Meet and Greet on July 25, 2019 at Honolulu Beerworks. It was a lively discussion with ono food and beer! It was a great way to connect and re-energize after the end of a 2019 Legislative Session.
- Common Cause Hawaii has been actively engaged in a multitude of Census events throughout Hawaii, including Complete Count Committee meetings, to ensure that all people in Hawaii are fairly, fully, and accurately counted for the Decennial Census.
- Kauai Vote By Mail Pilot program for 2020 (HB1401 2017). While we were advocating for a statewide VBM program, we are hopeful that this pilot program is just the first step. Mahalo to everyone who called, submitted testimony, and wrote letters to editor. Progress on this issue would not have happened without you.
- On June 25, 2018 Governor Ige released his “Intent to Veto” list. Included was SB2992, which would have weakened campaign finance disclosure laws. If enacted, signs and banners, in support or opposition of a candidate, would no longer be required to have the “paid for by” disclaimer on them. The public would no longer be able to identify the sources of these campaign materials without having to do additional research. We believe that in this post Citizens United world, coupled with the “fake news” phenomenon, it is more important than ever to identify sources of campaign materials, including signs and banners, and are glad this bill was vetoed.
- This year, legislators attempted to redact financial disclosures of powerful boards and commissions such as the Board of Land and Natural Resources and Public Utilities Commission, claiming that this would help fill vacancies. With your support, we strongly opposed, and while it came down to the wire, these bills were defeated (SB2609).
Taking a Stand Against Gut and Replace
We know that democracy works best when everyone participates, and everyone’s voice is heard. But legislators have regularly cut people out of conversations with deceptive practices like “gut and replace.” Gut and replace is when lawmakers wait until the last minute, then strip a bill of its original contents, stuff the bill with something completely different, and then push it through without the required public or legislative review.
Because these terrible practices have been going on for years with no signs of stopping, we took the unprecedented step of suing the State of Hawaii to end the practice of gut and replace, and to ensure that everyone, especially our lawmakers, respect and abide by our State Constitution. Learn more about our complaint here.
Events in the Community
- Civil Café. New for 2018, we held a panel discussion series in partnership with Honolulu Civil Beat throughout the legislative session. The panel included legislators and representatives from Common Cause and Civil Beat—discussing legislation and answering your questions. You can watch the recordings on our website.
- Advocacy Training. Democracy works best when everyone participates and makes their voices heard. To that end we partnered with Hawaii Children’s Action Network, Hawaii Public Health Institute, PHOCUSED, Hawaii Appleseed, Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, and Blue Zones Projects, to train over 100 citizen advocates on getting involved at the State Legislature. Find training materials here.
- Protest to Protect Mueller. When President Trump dismissed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointed Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General, hundreds of people across the state, along with thousands across the country mobilized within 24 hours to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation. Whittaker has frequently criticized the investigation and mused about cutting Mueller’s budget. The people spoke loudly and clearly—that we want and deserve an independent investigation to get the truth and accountability.
Click here for a full list of list of Common Cause Hawaii events and community presentations.
Because Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, and does not have a Voter Guide, the Common Cause Hawaii Team worked to educate voters on 2018 issues.
- Hawaiipowerballot.com. This web-based application allows voters to input their address and then view their sample ballot. Voters can click on candidates to connect to their websites, social media pages, and candidate questionnaires. Voters can also find information on constitutional and charter amendment questions. CCHI volunteers researched and curated candidate information, and coders Jason Axelson, Royce Jones, and Aaron Fujimoto created and managed the application and website. This was the third election season that Hawaiipowerballot.com has been a community resource.
- Youth Voter Registration Project. In an effort to encourage more youth civic engagement, we have partnered with Kanu Hawaii and each school’s Service Learning Center, to pilot peer-to-peer voter registration programs at Kapiolani Community College and University of Hawaii at Manoa. The program trains student “civic ambassadors” how to register people to vote. The ambassadors work on their public speaking and persuasion skills when they “pitch” voter registration at campus events and class visits, and have those interested complete registration forms on the spot. Students surpassed their goal and registered over 250 new voters during the semester and held a Get Out the Vote event at UH prior to the 2018 General Election.
- State Constitutional Convention—Citizen’s Jury. Every 10 years, the question of whether to hold a state constitutional convention appears on the November ballot. To educate the public about this question, CCHI, in partnership with the University of Hawaii Public Policy Center, Accord3.0 Network, William S. Richardson School of Law, and the Collaborative Leaders Network, sponsored a “Citizens Jury.” This was the first project of its kind done in Hawaii. We will continue exploring new avenues to reach voters and share information.
- Election Day Volunteers. A huge THANK YOU to our members across the state who helped staff polling sites across the state and at Oahu’s Control Center!!! Thanks to you, elections in Hawaii ran smoothly, with only minor technical glitches, and voters were able to make their voices heard.
Who could’ve predicted everything that happened in 2017? But no matter the uncertainty, we knew we could count on your support in our fight for good government. Mahalo! Please enjoy this look at OUR victories and successes in 2017.
Campaign Finance. Bills were passed that brought much needed updates to Hawaii’s campaign finance laws. Changes include increased fines and closed reporting loopholes. Additionally, the Campaign Spending Commission’s general expenses are now funded by the general fund, and not the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (HECF). The HECF is the trust fund that provides matching funds for Hawaii’s Publicly Funded (aka Citizen Owned) elections. This ensures the continuation of our program, a viable alternative to big money in politics.
Transparency. Common Cause Hawaii is proud to have had a hand in the passage of the first major update to Hawaii’s Sunshine a.k.a. “Open Meetings” law in 20 years. HB165 (Act 64) updates included electronic notices and public access to board packets, which brings the law into the 21st century.
Voting and Elections. For the past several years, we have been supporting voting modernization reforms like Vote by Mail and Automatic Voter Registration. Both reforms have been shown to increase voter turnout in states across the country. Unfortunately, both measures did not survive. Vote by Mail got the farthest, dying just minutes before the bill cutoff deadline. With increased awareness and your support, we’ll keep working to make it easier to vote. More updates to come soon.
Ethics. Common Cause Hawaii worked with the State Ethics Commission to support necessary updates to clarify Hawaii’s lobbyist laws, and to strengthen the state Ethics Code. These bills close loopholes, increase fines, and are long overdue.
Fair Courts. Together with the State Judiciary and members of the legal community, Common Cause Hawaii members and supporters worked to defeat bills that attacked Hawaii’s fair and impartial courts. Bills defeated included calls to cut retirement benefits for judges (and only judges), and politicizing the position of judges and justices by requiring Senate confirmation when renewing judges’ and justices’ terms of office.
Outreach and Education
Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions Info Briefing.Together with the League of Women Voters Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii hosted an informational briefing for those interested in applying for positions on the State Campaign Spending and Ethics Commissions. Former and current commissioners spoke about their responsibilities and duties and the State Judiciary explained the application process. (photo)
Civil Café: Legislative Session—What Can I Do? We partnered with local newspaper Honolulu Civil Beat to present “Civil Café: Legislative Session—What Can I Do?” Bringing together long-time activists and political “newbies,” the panel discussion reviewed the legislative process, provided tips on how to get involved, and discussed various legislative proposals.
Tax Day March and Rally. Common Cause Hawaii partnered with Hawaii J20 and hundreds of people across Oahu to demand that President Trump release his tax returns. The public deserves to know if there are conflicts and potential conflicts between Trump’s responsibilities as president to serve the public interest and his personal interest in his businesses.
Member Update Webinar. To better connect with our members across the state, Common Cause Hawaii held our first member webinar. Topics covered included a review of legislative successes, future plans, and challenges we foresee coming our way. Members were then able to question the executive director and board chair.
Youth Voter Registration Project. In an effort to encourage more youth civic engagement, we are teaming with Kanu Hawaii to meet with students and pilot peer-to-peer voter registration programs at Kapiolani Community College and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Ethics in Government: Theory or Practice. In today’s unpredictable political climate, ethics in government and the people’s confidence in government are facing unprecedented challenges. We hosted a panel discussion to delve deeper into this important, but often overlooked issue.
Thanks to your support, Common Cause Hawaii was able to successfully advocate for good government reforms and reach more people than ever. Continue reading for a summary of Common Cause Hawaii’s 2016 highlights and accomplishments.
- New protection for citizens’ privacy by requiring only the last four digits of one’s Social Security number, rather than the full number, to be used when registering to vote (HB1055)
- Mobilized our supporters to encourage the legislature to once again urge Congress to overturn Citizens United (HCR29)
We were also successful in stopping bills that would have compromised our democracy. We are proud to have had a hand in stopping bills that:
- protect private interests, instead of the public’s
- aimed to cloud our sunshine laws, creating the potential for lawmakers to deliberate on issues “off the record”
- threatened fair and impartial courts
- would have undermined the Ethics Commission by exempting state employees from portions of the state ethics laws.
Events in the Community
- Public House was a panel discussion series that mingled politics and humor in a “pau hana” atmosphere. Special guest panelists and video clips highlighted issues facing Hawaii. The public was encouraged to join the conversation and share their opinions. Issues discussed include: the State Legislature, education, mental health and the homeless, the new economy, and urban development. Click here for event recaps and photos.
Photo (L to R): Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Carmille Lim, Sara Cobble, Tabatha Chow, and Spencer Toyama at the April 2016 Public House
- Dining for Democracy Fundraiser – Guests enjoyed a four-course menu prepared by the award-winning chefs of The Pig and The Lady while listening to keynote speaker Ian Lind, an investigative blogger and former Common Cause Hawaii director, who spoke to the evolution of ethics, lobbying, and citizen engagement in Hawaii.
Stopping Honolulu Charter Amendment #19. The Honolulu Charter Commission is an appointed board which meets every ten years to study and review City government operations in the City Charter, the “Constitution” of the City and County of Honolulu. After months of meetings and hearings, the Commission approved 20 proposals that were on the general election ballot. If approved, Amendment #19 would have eliminated a provision in the Charter that helps to ensure bi-partisanship when redistricting at the county level. Thanks to an awareness campaign, and members educating their networks about the dangers of approving the amendment, 56% of voters said “No” to Amendment #19. It was one of only 4 amendments rejected by the voters.
Saving our Partial Public Financing Program. Common Cause Hawaii once again partnered with the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission (CSC) to increase public awareness and understanding about the Hawaii Elections Campaign Fund (HECF) and to increase contributions to the fund. Without an increase in contributions, current projections show the HECF in danger of being depleted by 2019. The HECF was established to fund the Partial Public Financing Program in Hawaii. The HECF also is used to support the Campaign Spending Commission and their work monitoring and enforcing campaign finance laws. The HECF is funded by Hawaii taxpayers who select the “yes” option on their state tax return to allocate $3 from the general fund to the HECF. Thanks to your support, contributions to the fund have increased, but the fund is still far from replenished.
Our focus for the 2016 election was to ensure that our elections ran smoothly and that voters had the access to the information they needed when casting their ballots.
- Power Ballot. Back by popular demand, Common Cause Hawaii teamed up with local developers to create a website that allowed voters to easily find information, candidates, and ballot initiatives. The “Power Ballot” was a complete list of candidates and issues that appeared on the general election ballot. It contained links to candidate bios, interviews, campaign data, resources and helpful information on proposed amendments and issues.
- Who Will Fight Big Money? Voters deserve to know where candidates stand on democracy reform issues such as reducing barriers to voting, restoring the Voting Rights Act, etc. The Common Cause Hawaii Team, including volunteers, staff, and interns, reached out to all candidates running to represent Hawaii in Congress during both the Primary and General Elections to get them on record.
- Election Day Volunteers. More than two dozen Common Cause members and supporters volunteered their time and energy to help ensure our elections ran smoothly. We helped the Office of Elections recruit precinct workers and Control Center Operators, assisting hundreds of citizens to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.
Photo (L to R): Randall Imada, Corie Tanida, Liam Tobin, Jamila Coronado, Garrett Thompson, Melinda Wood, and David “Tavita” Bohn at the Office of Elections’ Control Center on Election Day.
Your support helped Common Cause Hawaii have another fruitful year. Read on to learn about Common Cause Hawaii’s 2015 highlights and accomplishments.
Common Cause Hawaii saw three big wins in the 2015 Legislative Session:
- Killed senators’ attempts to repeal Late Voter Registration/Same Day Voter Registration.
- Passage of SB996 (Act 151), which modernizes the State Ethics. Commission’s database so all reports filed with the Commission are more easily accessible to the public.
- Passage of SB508 (Act 079), which creates an additional filing deadline for super PACs, thus making super PAC campaign spending more transparent.
Common Cause Hawaii volunteer Christine Trecker (L) and Executive Director Carmille Lim (R) kicked off the campaign at a Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission meeting.
“Mark Yes” to support the Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (HECF) Awareness Campaign— Common Cause Hawaii partnered with the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission to increase awareness and understanding about the HECF, and to increase allocations to the fund. Without an increase in financial support, current projections show the HECF in danger of being depleted by 2018.
The HECF was established to fund the partial public financing program in Hawaii. The HECF is also used to support the Campaign Spending Commission and their work monitoring and enforcing campaign finance laws. The HECF is funded by Hawaii taxpayers who select the “yes” option on their state tax return, allocating $3 from the general fund to the HECF. These “yes” checkoffs do not affect an individual’s tax returns. There has been a steady decline in the number of people who select “yes” each year. The “Mark Yes” Campaign aims to increase the number of people who select “yes” on their tax returns thereby increasing income to the HECF.
Beth-Ann Kozlovich (left) co-host of The Conversation interviews Christine Trecker, Common Cause Hawaii Volunteer Leader for the “Mark Yes” campaign
The campaign started in early January 2015 and continued through April 15, 2015 (Tax Day). Efforts included reaching out and educating the public as well as tax preparers across the state through traditional and social media, as well as direct contact. As Tax Day approached, Common Cause Hawaii was able to capitalize on the media’s and public’s interest, resulting in an interview on Hawaii Public Radio and Op-Ed piece in the Star Advertiser, Hawaii’s largest newspaper. Mahalo to Christine Trecker’s leadership on this campaign.
Overturn Citizens United– Common Cause Hawaii supports overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that permits unlimited spending by super PACs. In response, the Hawaii State Legislature, Hawaii County Council, and Honolulu County Council each passed resolutions urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution and reverse Citizens United.
Sandy Herndon, lead organizer and Common Cause Hawaii supporter testified in front of the Kauai County Council in support of a resolution to overturn Citizens United.
In 2015, thanks to the efforts of Common Cause Hawaii supporters and volunteers, the Kauai County Council and Maui County Council passed similar resolutions and are now on record supporting the reversal this horrendous Supreme Court decision. These resolutions will hasten the day when corporations stop buying elections in Hawaii, and across America.
These successes on Maui and Kauai could not have been possible without the leadership of neighbor island organizers Sandy Herndon and Arianna Feinberg.
- Are County Board of Ethics Members Funding Their Mayors?
This report analyzed campaign contributions by county board of ethics members to their respective mayors, to determine if there is a correlation between contributions made and appointments to counties’ Board of Ethics. Click here to read the report.
- Public Boards Audit
Common Cause Hawaii conducted an “audit” of Hawaii State boards, commissions, and agencies, in order to determine how they are interpreting and complying with Hawaii’s Sunshine or Open Meetings Law. Click here to read the report.
- Is the Hawaii State Ethics Commission Rewriting the Ethics Code?
An analysis of Hawaii House Speaker Representative Joe Souki’s claims and complaints and recent Hawaii State Ethics Commission policies, to determine if the current commission’s administration is trying to rewrite the Ethics Code. Click here to read the report.
- Top 5 Donors to Hawaii State Legislators
Common Cause Hawaii identifies the “Top 5 Donors” for each 2015 Hawaii State Legislator based on campaign finance data from the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. Click here to read the report.
Unhappy Unbirthday to Citizens United: Screening of Pay 2 Play-Common Cause Hawaii hosted a film screening of the documentary film “Pay 2 Play” on the 5th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. The event’s theme was “Unhappy Unbirthday” inspired by the “Merry Unbirthday” scene from Alice In Wonderland. “Pay 2 Play: follows film maker John Ennis’ quest to find a way out from under the Pay 2 Play System, in which politicians reward their donors with even larger sums from the public treasury‒through contracts, tax cuts, and deregulation.
Hawaii Open Budget: Budget Director Paul Harleman (L) and House Minority Leader Representative Beth Fukumoto (R) answer audience questions.
Hawaii Open Budget Demo-Piggy-backing on Sunshine Week, which is dedicated to promoting transparency and public access in government, Common Cause Hawaii presented a live demonstration of the nonpartisan Hawaii Open Budget website. Guest presenters Paul Harleman, Budget Director; and Tisha Panter, Senior Attorney and Director of Research of Senate Minority Research Office; provided an overview of the budget process and how to utilize the website. The Hawaii Open Budget Initiative is a joint effort of the Hawaii State Senate and House Minority Caucuses. It is a nonpartisan informational tool that makes the state budget information accessible to the public
Rally: Ask Obama to Shine Light on Corporate Corruption-Common Cause Hawaii partnered with Public Citizen to co-host a rally urging
Common Cause Hawaii and Public Citizen volunteers at the rally.
President Obama to issue an Executive Order, requiring federal government contractors to disclose their political contributions to dark money groups. Held on the first anniversary of the McCutcheon U.S. Supreme Court ruling that further put our democracy up for sale, the rally was part of a nationwide effort in support of an executive order. Participants stamped money, distributed flyers, waved signs, and visited the offices of Congressman Mark Takai and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to encourage them to help “get money out of politics”.
Advocacy 201 Workshop: Conference Committees-This workshop aimed to help attendees understand the role of Conference Committees in the legislative process, and how to understand Conference Committee rules. The Conference Committee workshop was done in partnership with the Public Access Room, featuring guest presenter Virginia Beck, Public Access Room Coordinator.
Conference Committees Workshop: Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Carmille Lim explains the role Conference Committees play during the legislative process.
Common Cause Hawaii’s notable accomplishments in 2014:
Nine bills that Common Cause Hawaii was active on became law, including these two priority bills (both concepts have been at the legislature for ~10 years):
- HB2590 (Act 166) – “Late Voter Registration” was signed into law – starting in 2016, eligible voters may register to vote on Election Day at early walk in sites, and starting in 2018, eligible voters may register to vote at polling places. (Bill signing photo, below)
- SB2682 (Act 230) – “Public Financial Disclosures” This would require making public financial disclosure filings from certain boards and commissions that exert a high level of authority. Some of those that would be affected are: University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), Public Utilities Commission (PUC), Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR), Land Use Commission (LUC).
Campaigns and Activities
- Partnered with Hawaii Open Data to host Civic*Celerator – a contest project aimed at developing user friendly digital applications (apps) leveraging the resource of open data made available by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
- Educated voters on how candidates raised/spent their campaign money through Civic*Celerator ̶ applications (specialized websites) developed by volunteers. The apps illustrate Campaign Spending Commission’s data on candidate funding sources and expenditures: civic.celerator.org/apps
- Launched the People’s Pledge and Flag that Ad campaigns during general election season, in order to raise awareness and encourage community engagement around money-in-politics issues. These campaigns led to extensive media coverage of the influx of special interest money and independent expenditures (i.e., Super PAC money) in Hawaii elections.
- Hosted new workshops for citizen engagement including: “How To Livestream”, “The Legislature’s ‘Crossover’ and ‘Conference’ Times”, “Open Knowledge” (transparency + public access to public documents)
- Expanded our network! We cosponsored public events and workshops throughout the year with groups like: Faith Action for Community Equity, Hawaii Appleseed for Law and Economic Justice, Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, Hawaii People’s Fund, Local 5, Grassroot Institute, Hawaii Open Data, Interisland Terminal, Start Up Weekend Honolulu, The BoxJelly Coworking (space), Media Council Hawaii.
- Among the events CCHI hosted was a screening of Inequality for All with an unprecedented group of co-partners (Hawaii Appleseed Law Center for Economic Justice, Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), Unite Here Local 5, Hawaii People’s Fund) whose focus is on economic development, social justice, faith groups, and labor rights. The film connected-the-dots between income inequality and policy decisions made as a result of money’s influence in politics. Part of the event included a discussion on Hawaii’s minimum wage and how money-in-politics affects social, and economic issues. Nearly 300 people attended – the largest attendance of any CCHI event to date.
- Welcomed four new board members:
- Rechung Fujihira: is a Co-Founder of BoxJelly, Hawaii’s first co-working space. He is also a Co-Founder of Blue Startups, Hawaii’s first venture-accelerator and has helped to build various other parts of the Startup Ecosystem.
- Rich Halverson: teaches information technology management courses at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Kapiolani Community College. He is also president of Guide.Net, Inc., an Internet software company developing Internet database applications since 1996.
- Brodie Lockard: is passionate about the environment, campaign finance, and achieving tangible results. He has worked closely with the Sierra club, Public Citizen, MoveOn.org, Organizing For Action, Move to Amend and Voter Owned Hawaii.
- Ben Trevino: is president of Bikeshare Hawaii, and is an experienced entrepreneur and technologist. He was a founder of Interisland Terminal, a Honolulu-based non-profit organization with projects including community spaces, the Kaka’ako Agora, and R&D Bookstore and Cafe.
- Inspired a dozen people to join as active volunteers. Among them were 5 young professionals.
Common Cause Hawaii …
- Reached 100% board participation in annual giving.
- Received a $5,000 grant award from Hawaii People’s Fund to support our organization’s work on systemic democracy issues. CCHI was a recipient of Hawaii People’s Fund grants in 2012 and 2013.
- Received a $20,000 grant from Piper Fund to support our efforts to build broad-based public support for publicly-funded elections.
- Look back at all our 2014 media highlights.
- Facebook “likes”: 545 (compared to 365 in December 2013)
- Twitter followers: 2528 (compared to 2194 in December 2013)
Common Cause Hawaii focused on three critical goals in 2013. Our activities and accomplishments are listed below each goal:
#1 Reduce corruption and undue influence by special interests by addressing the problem of money-in-politics
- Introduced two bills that were passed 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 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 – the American Legislative Exchange Council.
- Secured a grant of $52,000 from Voqal USA to support a campaign to 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, culminating 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 progressed (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 which support good government initiatives for a series of roundtable peer-learning discussions. The goal of this coalition was to unite organizations which otherwise would not have worked together to advance a 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, the League of Women Voters, and representatives from organizations focused on anti-gambling, land use, homelessness, health insurance, and journalism. The group was among those which 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 for the public 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 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 seven applications to the Ethics Commission and two 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 that promotes political awareness and participation at the college. Several interns moved on to 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….
- Reached 100% board participation in annual giving.
- Was granted a $5,000 grant award from Hawaii People’s Fund to support our organization’s work on systemic democracy issues.
- Was 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 had not been active in five, 10, and 20 years.
Our 2013 media highlights:
- Facebook “likes”: 365 (compared to 249 in December 2012)
- Twitter followers: 2194 (compared to 1702 in December 2012)
2009 – 2012 Accomplishments
Common Cause Hawaii’s notable accomplishments between 2009-2012:
- Successfully advocated for a bill to modernize voter registration by establishing an online voter registration system by 2016.
- Successfully advocated for two state legislature resolutions and one county-level resolution to fight back against Citizens United v. FEC. These resolutions requested Congress put forward constitutional amendments to address campaign spending and corporate personhood.
- Launched “Rotunda Roundups,” an informal weekly gathering in the State Capitol rotunda to help citizens navigate the legislative process. Every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. during the 2011 Legislative Session, we welcomed crowds of 15-50 citizens to review the legislative calendar, discuss how citizens can take action, provided updates on important bills, and talked with legislators and activists.
- Was at the forefront of ethics issues in the 2011 Legislative Session. State legislators proposed major loopholes in Hawaii’s ethics law that would have allowed legislators and state employees to accept lavish gifts from special interests. Common Cause Hawaii testified against the proposal, mobilized citizen opposition, and spoke out in the media, and the bill was ultimately blocked in committee.
- Helped stop a bill in the state legislature that would have rolled back the existing “pay to play” restrictions that would have allowed government contractors to donate to political candidates.
- Partnered with local organizations to engage citizens in the electoral process, and recruited more than 200 volunteers to work at the polls. Many of these poll workers were students and young people who participated in the political process for the first time.
- Pulled together 18 diverse organizations to promote transparency at the state legislature. Together, we advocated for increased webcasting of hearings, more public notice for meetings, and improved online access to legislative documents.
- Led a coalition to “stop the tsunami” of special interest money in politics. Common Cause Hawaii blocked a number of bad bills that would have increased corporate campaign donations, allowed political donations from government contractors, and increased campaign funds raised outside the state.