Panel On Clean Elections Nov. 20 at UH-Hilo

A panel will discuss Clean Elections and Transparency in a forum on Thursday November 20 at 6:30 p.m.  in UCB 100 on the University of Hawaii Hilo (UHH) campus.  The featured speaker will be Carmille Lim the Director of Hawai’i Common Cause.  Also speaking will be Susan Dursin from The League of Women Voters and Chris Yuen, attorney, former board member of The Hawaii Elections Project.

In 2008, UHH students played a leading role in the Legislature to pass the  Big Island Clean Elections Pilot Program passed, which allowed Council candidates who qualified to campaign with public funding instead of depending on campaign contributions from special interest donors.  The Pilot ran successfully in the 2010 and 2012 County Council races but has since ended.  (The public program was funded by the $3 voluntary check off on our tax forms, which does not reduce an individual’s filed personal income tax.)

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, big, special-interest money has been flooding into political campaigns. According to the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, in 2012, over $4 million was spent on Hawaii campaigns by independent groups. In the 2014 election , a single “independent” group, funded almost entirely by Monsanto and Dow Chemical spent $8 million on a ballot initiative campaign.

Nationwide, many Americans believe that the influx of special interest money in elections threatens the integrity of our democracy.  As an antidote to big money funding their bid for office, with Clean Elections, candidates have the option of running on public funding so that they will be more likely to be answerable to their constituents rather than to their rich campaign donors. The 2014 Legislature failed to continue the funding of the Big Island Clean Elections Pilot Program and ultimately killed a bill which promoted a statewide Clean Elections program.  However, in 2013, the Legislature passed a bill which would require stronger disclosures for independent groups seeking to influence our elections. The forum will discuss how the 2015 legislature can continue to combat the corrosive effects of outside money in Hawaii’s elections.

The event is sponsored by Common Cause Hawaii, Global HOPE, and the nationwide student group, Democracy Matters.

The panel discussion is free and the public is encouraged to attend.
Parking on the UHH campus is free in the evening.