By ANITA HOFSCHNEIDER
HONOLULU — The Hawaii state Senate Committee on Ways and Means has approved a measure aimed at increasing the number of candidates who receive public funding for Big Island elections.
The committee voted Thursday to advance the bill to equalize the amount of money each candidate receives under Hawaii County’s public financing pilot program.
Sen. Russell Ruderman from the Big Island says the current formula for calculating public funding led to some rural areas receiving tens of thousands of dollars and others nothing at all. The formula is based on amounts spent by candidates in previous elections, which can vary greatly depending on the level of competition in each race.
He told The Associated Press that the disparity in dollars awarded has been the main criticism of the program.
He hopes that by correcting the discrepancy, the program can attract more participants and become a model for public funding of elections in other counties.
“There should be some accountability for money spent to influence public elections,” Ruderman said. He said that several years ago a Hawaii County Council candidate received $90,000 from off-island sources and successfully unseated a Green Party candidate.
Ruderman’s bill is one of several ongoing efforts this session to address the issue of campaign finance. Several lawmakers are concerned about the effect of private money fueling political campaigns.
The House is considering a bill to create a public funding program for state elections. The House committees on judiciary and finance have approved the measure and it is waiting to be voted on by the full House.
The House Committee on Finance approved a measure Wednesday requiring non-candidate committees to name top contributors in political advertisements.
The bill also strengthens campaign finance reporting requirements and requires the Campaign Spending Commission to make all campaign finance reports available online.