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 elected 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. 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, Mayor, Prosecuting Attorney, County Council, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  The maximum amount of public funds available to a candidate is the maximum amount of public funds the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission will match the candidate’s qualifying contributions dollar for dollar once the candidate has obtained the minimum amount of qualifying contributions for the office the candidate is seeking election to. These amounts are set by a formula under Hawaii Revised Statutes § 11-425 and differ depending on the office the candidate is seeking election to.  For an explanation of the formula, please contact the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission.

Does it work?

In 2014, David Ige used the program to defeat incumbent, Neil Abercrombie to become Governor of Hawaii.  Information on other candidates who used public funds may be found here. However, the program has not been updated in a number of years. 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.


Common Cause Hawaii supports overturning Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates for unlimited spending by Super PACs. With YOUR support Hawaii is the first state to have all counties and the state legislature affirm their support to overturn Citizens United. These resolutions will hasten the day when corporations stop buying elections in Hawaii, and across America.

But we still need your help. Join us and take action by writing to our U.S. Senators and Representatives to get money out of politics by amending the U.S. Constitution.

You can find your representatives here.

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/

[1] “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.

[2] “Public Financing of Campaigns.” Ballotpedia. Accessed February 12, 2015. http://ballotpedia.org/Public_financing_of_campaigns.

Next Campaign

Overturn Citizens United