Breaking The Cycle Of Money And Politics

Flickr: Tracy O

The Hawaii Constitution calls for the public financing of campaigns for state office.

The Hawaii Legislature is even required to set limits on the spending of candidates.

Yet, since the 1978 Constitutional Convention — the last time Hawaii held a "Con Con" — few local candidates have taken advantage of public financing, and the number has dwindled over the decades.

In the meantime, local elections are increasingly flooded with hefty contributions from special interest groups. More than $3.5 million was contributed for elections in 2012.

The candidates that raise the most money — almost invariably, veteran incumbents — are usually the ones who win office.

Now, a bill moving through the Hawaii House of Representatives might change that equation.

House Bill 1481 would set up a comprehensive public funding program of candidates for state senator and state representative. Money would be appropriated to fund the program beginning in the 2016 elections.

"I think public financing of campaigns is one way to address the influence of special interest money, the overbearing influence," said Rep. Della Au Belatti, a Democrat and chief sponsor of HB 1481. "It is one way to address the negative effects of Citizens United."

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