Hawaii Won't Fight for Corporate Donor Law
By PURNA NEMANI, Courthouse News Service
(CN) - The domino effect of the landmark Citizens United decision spread to Hawaii on Friday, where state election officials voluntarily withdrew their appeal of a decision that enjoined restrictions on corporate political contributions.
Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission Chair Paul Kuramoto and four other commission members moved to dismiss their appeal on Thursday after the 9th Circuit upheld an injunction that same day against a similar campaign finance law in San Diego.
Relying on the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allows unlimited corporate funding of independent political commercials in candidate elections, the federal appeals court held that San Diego may be violating free speech by restricting the fundraising and spending of independent political committees.
With oral arguments on the Hawaii law scheduled for this Wednesday, June 15, counsel for Kuramoto and the co-defendants requested an urgent dismissal of their appeal.
U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright had granted a preliminary injunction against the Hawaii law in October, ruling that the commission could not limit how much money a corporate contractor could contribute to the Aloha Family Alliance - Political Action Committee.
In their response to the motion to dismiss, the corporate contributors; A-1 A-Lectrician, CEO Jimmy Yamada and officer Russell Stewart; agreed not to fight dismissal but said the election officials should have to bear both parties' litigation costs.
A three-judge panel agreed to dismiss appeal on Friday and ordered each side to bear their own costs.
A-1 A-Lectrician, an electrical construction organization, had filed suit in August 2010, just after the Citizens United decision, complaining that Hawaii's campaign-finance laws wrongfully prevented the executives from contributing a $2,500 each to the PAC of their choice.
The laws place a $1,000 per-election cap on contributions that the PAC could receive, and they require donors who contribute more than $2,000 to make certain disclosures with the state election commission, according to the complaint.
Since Aloha Family does not align itself with any political party, rather coordinates only, the donors claimed that they do not to "buy favors" from elected officials but to "target the relevant electorate" and individual voters. A-1, Yamada and Stewart cited years of truthful disclosure of campaign contributions since their company's inception as a registered noncandidate, nongovernment contractor.
In granting the injunction, Seabright noted that Aloha Family Alliance's website claims that the PAC is "committed to endorsing and financially supporting candidates, no matter what their party affiliation, who will stand up in the public square for Hawaii's families."
"The government has no legitimate interest in suggesting to whom a person should make their personal campaign contributions," Seabright wrote.
Court Decision PDF: hawaiiorder.pdf