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Partial public financing for elections could see boost, with substantial benefits for OHA

Kalei Akaka OHA 11 10 2022.jpeg
Jason Ubay
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Oʻahu Trustee Kalei Akaka at a press conference at the OHA offices at Nā Lama Kukui in Honolulu on Nov. 10, 2022.

Hawai‘i lawmakers are considering legislation that would boost the amount of partial public financing available to candidates for the first time since the mid-1990s.

Senate Bill 200 would increase the maximum amount of public financing available to all offices by anywhere from 30% to 50%.

Gary Tam, General Counsel for the Hawai‘i Campaign Spending Commission, said the most significant boost would be for candidates vying for a seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.

Tam said OHA candidates currently have a maximum amount of $1,500 in public financing available per election period, which is very low considering OHA candidates run statewide campaigns.

In comparison, maximum amounts for other public officials can range anywhere between $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the position.

Additionally, the bill includes changes to the minimum qualifying contributions offices must meet to get state funding. Testimony from Kristin Izumi-Nitao, the executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission, stated that certain candidates were having trouble coming up with the minimum amount needed.

SB 200 was approved by the Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee Thursday, and now awaits a hearing before the Senate Committees on the Judiciary and Ways and Means.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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