Saturday, March 2, 2024 |
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Money, elections and politics — a Faustian dilemma and an untenable reality facing every elected official.
According to the Christian Bible, money is the root of all evil, yet we force our politicians to dance with that very same devil every two or four years.
We ask our elected leaders to regulate business, profits and money, yet we require them to bow down in supplication to these same entities in order to win their election to office.
And they do. State legislators regularly solicit campaign funds from businesses and individuals that have legislation pending before them. Gov. Josh Green has proven to be a virtual money making machine, raising millions from entities and industry that he is responsible for regulating. Similarly, at the county level, money drives elections, which put candidates into positions of influence and power.
Call it what you want, but our current electoral system has at its core a pay-to-play reality.
It does not have to be this way.
Publicly funded elections provide a path for candidates to win election without selling out to big money interests. Clean, publicly funded elections are already being conducted in Connecticut, Maine, and a handful of other areas.
Hawai‘i must join them.
The concept is simple. In “clean election states” that offer full public funding, candidates first qualify by raising a threshold quantity (from $50 for a small district to $6,250 for the governor’s race) of $5 individual donations to prove credibility. Once the candidate qualifies, their campaign is provided funding from the state sufficient to purchase the signs, brochures and basic advertising needed to run a viable campaign. In return, the candidate agrees to accept no other private funding at all.
Over 70 percent of Maine Democratic candidates have rejected the acceptance of private money and use clean elections funding only to run their campaigns — totally severing the relationship between private donors and elected officials.
Seventy-four percent of voters say they prefer candidates who support publicly funded campaign election systems.
Clean elections will allow candidates to fund campaigns without the need for private donors. The barrier of entry for new candidates will be lower and campaigns will become more competitive, resulting in greater diversity.
Regular local residents will have more influence, since they’re the reason candidates are funded, not special interests.
With legislators no longer beholden to private donors they will be free to pass bills that big money opposes without fear of campaign funds drying up.
With full public funding, Hawai‘i can transform its elections to be accessible for all and remove to a great extent the monied influence that’s been embedded in campaigns throughout its history.
The investment needed to implement a full public funding program for all state and county elections in Hawai‘i, similar to Maine and Connecticut would be less than $25 million per year — a tiny sliver of the waste, fraud and abuse now occurring. Whether paid for by a tax on Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS), or a cannabis tax, or via myriad of other means, an investment in clean elections is well worth the money.
The cost to do nothing and retain the status quo means more cash stuffed into envelopes, more pay-to-play, more over-budget rail systems to nowhere, more stadium entertainment districts and less affordable housing, more corporate water theft, and more people living under bridges while the fat cats get even fatter.
Please be part of the solution. Call or email your legislator today and encourage, urge and demand their support of a clean elections bill for Hawai‘i.
While no specific bill will be introduced until after opening day at the Legislature on Jan. 18, it’s important to let all members of the House and Senate know now that clean, publicly funded elections is your priority and must be theirs as well.
Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
The LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
As usual , Gary is spouting his progressive nonsense. While he may think that 25 million is peanuts, to the taxpayers of Hawaii, a lot of better things could be done with that money. Of course, he is advocating taxing businesses even more, which is all liberal progressive Democrats can think of doing. No worry about the impact upon the businesses that will suffer because of it, just push his idiotic progressive ideas. I fail to understand why we are subjected to his nonsense weekly ! The best thing he could do for the public discussion is shut up ! To the Garden Isle Newspaper, please stop this ! I see very few letter to the editor published now, be we have to see Gary’s foolish rantings every week.
Yes. And the paradox: he trashes & advocates for punishing businesses, while he is completely ignorant of the hard reality it is these very businesses that provide jobs. Jobs that actually produce goods and services people are willing to pay for. Unlike government employees that produce little to nothing that people WILLINGLY pay for…the fact being that people must pay for them by having a part their hard earned income confiscated by the state under threat of FORCE and VIOLENCE.
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