LIHUE — Some Hawaii candidates were taken by surprise recently when they received fines for not reporting the cost of advertisements to the Campaign Spending Commission within 24 hours of the contracted purchase.
The law was passed during the 2013 legislative session and implemented during the 2016 election, but fines weren’t imposed until this year’s election cycle because the commission didn’t have a fine schedule adopted until now, said Tony Baldomero, associate director for the Campaign Spending Commission.
“Once we got that in place, we had to change our rules and then we had to adopt an administrative fine guide and once we had that in place, we had a mechanism for fining,” Baldomero said.
A report is due within 24 hours of executing a contract for an ad that will be either broadcast, published or sent by bulk rate mail either 30 days prior to the primary election, or 60 days prior to the general election, he said.
“For the general election, we are in that 60-day window now, so those statements are coming now.”
In August, 24 candidates throughout the state received fines and in September, 31 candidates were fined, he said.
At the Aug. 8 meeting, fines were reduced for Rep. Dee Morikawa from $250, to $83.33 and Friends of Lenny Rapozo, mayoral candidate, from $500, to $166.67 and at September’s meeting, mayoral candidate JoAnn Yukimura’s fine was reduced from $1,750 to $583.33.
Morikawa said this was her first time receiving a fine and she’s a little embarrassed by it because she’s a stickler for following the laws and rules.
“This one really caught me off guard,” Morikawa said.
The intent of the law is to make sure those who pay large amounts of money to advertise on behalf of a candidate report it, she said.
“We’re used to reporting fundraisers, but we’re not used to reporting advertisements or brochures, but it’s the same idea, so everyone knows we’re going to be printing a brochure or an ad way in advance,” she said.
It’s about transparency, but there’s something wrong with the law and they’ll have to tweak it so candidates who have little money aren’t penalized, she said.
“Unfortunately many of us who got that notice didn’t understand the law, so we got in trouble, but the Campaign Spending Commission made a lot of money from this,” she said.
Morikawa said she hopes all of the candidates understand that if they don’t report their advertising contract, they’ll get fined.
Rapozo and Yukimura could not be reached for comment.
Bethany Freudenthal, Crime, courts and county reporter, 652-7891, firstname.lastname@example.org