Corporations, unions, political parties and other organizations form committees, also known as political action committees (PACs), to generate money to help the candidates of their choice.
In Hawaii, those committees are free to make direct campaign contributions and other expenditures – such as those on advertisements and mailings — to support or oppose candidates as long as they report their spending. They can receive and spend unlimited amounts of money, although there are limits on how much they can give to a particular candidate — $2,000 to $6,000 depending on the office. “Noncandidate” committees also can’t accept more than $1,000 from a single donor.
Civil Beat is following the money in a variety of ways. We’re tracking campaign contributions, government expenditures, political ad spending and the like — all to unveil the big-money groups and individual donors fueling this year’s races.
Civil Beat reviewed campaign organization paperwork filed with the Campaign Spending Commission since January 2011 — the start of the 2012 election cycle — and found 82 committees that are either independent expenditure committees or political action committees. It’s impossible to know for sure which candidates or issues some groups are supporting or opposing because state law doesn’t require them to reveal that.
However, the Campaign Spending Commission maintains a list of the independent expenditure committees that have apparently identified that information on their paperwork. So far, the state has registered five such groups: A Better Hawaii, Hawaii Solutions, Kauai Women’s Caucus, MADPAC Hawaii and Pacific Resource Partnership.
“Organizational Report” filings published on the commission’s website reveal that a slew of other PACs have already jumped on the elections bandwagon this year as well.
Noncandidate committees must file organizational reports within 10 days of receiving contributions or making expenditures that amount to more than $1,000 in a two-year election period, according to the commission’s website.
But the next batch of reports that detail how money is being raised and spent aren’t due until Aug. 1, less than two weeks before the Aug. 11 primary election. Candidates must file their finance reports by July 12.
The list of PACs includes a lot of familiar names: hotels (Outrigger, Turtle Bay), corporate giants (GlaxoSmithKline, Monsanto), unions (Operating Engineers Local Union 3, HGEA). But some names are less obvious, like A Better Hawaii or Change Hawaii.
Here’s the full list of the noncandidate political committees that have registered with the state so far for the 2012 election cycle.