What is Citizen Funded Elections (a.k.a. Public Financing, Clean Elections, Small Donor Matching)?
Citizen Funded Elections is a voluntary program, where candidates running for elective office are awarded a competitive amount of money by the state to run a competitive campaign. Candidates must qualify for this program by meeting state requirements and agreeing to follow certain restrictions and spending limits. In order to qualify for this program, the candidate must raise small amounts of money, which the state will then match. Candidates who qualify and are awarded matching funds can’t accept large sums of contributions from special interests. By taking part in the program, candidates can spend less time fundraising and more time on policy.
Who manages the Citizen Funded Elections Program in Hawaii?
The Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission, the state agency responsible for monitoring and enforcing state campaign finance regulations.
Where does the money for the program come from?
The Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (HECF) which was created during the 1978 Constitutional Convention as Article II, Section 5 of the Hawaii State Constitution to “establish a campaign fund to be used for partial public financing of campaigns of the State and its political subdivisions.” In recent years, the State Legislature altered the purpose of HECF so that the Campaign Spending Commission’s general operating expenses are also taken from this fund.
The HECF is funded by Hawaii tax payers who select the “yes” option on their state tax return. This does not affect one’s income tax refund, but instead allocates $3 from the general fund to the HECF.
Who can qualify?
State candidates for the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the state Legislature, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs “may apply for public funds provided they first raise enough individual donations of $100 or less. Gubernatorial candidates must raise $100,000 in qualifying donations. Candidates for lieutenant governor must raise $50,000, those for state senate must raise $2,500, and those for state house must raise $1,500. Those that apply for public funds must agree to the state expenditure limits specific to each office, and may then be granted a percentage of public funds. The governor and lieutenant governor candidates may receive up to 10% of their expenditure limits in public funds, and candidates for state legislature may receive up to 15% of their expenditure limits in public funds.”
Does it work?
In 2014, David Ige used the program to defeat incumbent, Neil Abercrombie to become Governor of Hawaii. However, the program has not been updated in a number of years. In order to be effective we need to modernize Hawaii’s program.
Where can I learn more about Hawaii’s Small Donor Matching Program?
Please visit the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission’s website for more information: http://ags.hawaii.gov/campaign/
 “PUBLIC FINANCING OF CAMPAIGNS: AN OVERVIEW.” National Conference of State Legislatures. January 23, 2013. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/public-financing-of-campaigns-overview.aspx.
 “Public Financing of Campaigns.” Ballotpedia. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ballotpedia.org/Public_financing_of_campaigns.