Limiting Special Interest Influence at the Capitol
Government for the people is undermined when special interests get special access to the political process by writing huge campaign checks to elected officials that the average citizen could never afford. History shows this is especially true when private companies bid on lucrative state contracts – they have often been caught courting state officials around the country to get the inside track. In Hawaii, it is illegal for companies with state contracts to make political contributions to state officials.
When several amendments were quietly made to House Bill 2003 to make it legal for companies with state contracts to make campaign donations to elected officials, something had to be done to stop it.
This “pay to play” amendment suggests that to compete for a government contract, companies must make campaign donations to particular elected officials. “Pay to play was an unseemly and immoral process that soiled the image of this House and politics in general,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R – Kailua, Kaneohe).
In the 11th hour, I introduced an amendment that stripped the controversial “pay to play” provision from this otherwise good campaign spending reform bill. It is rare for a bill with so much momentum behind it to be amended so late in the process, and rarer still to successfully challenge the position of senior Legislators. However, the move was a success and the bill updating Hawaii’s patchwork of old campaign spending laws passed without this controversial provision attached.
Such a rare victory goes to show just how important it is to keep an eye on the relationships between special interests and our government, but more importantly, how even one person can stand up and make a difference every once in a while.