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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Hawaii law that prohibits government contractors from giving political donations to state and county candidates, finding that the ban eliminates both actual and perceived corruption.
Local electrical construction firm, A-1-A Lectrician, first challenged the law in 2010, saying the state’s campaign finance laws violated its First Amendment rights because it barred contractors from donating to candidates and lawmakers not directly overseeing contract awards and decisions.
Flickr: James Cridland
A-1-A Lectrician’s lawsuit was filed shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that equated corporate and union campaign contributions to free speech. That ruling effectively allowed corporations and unions the ability to dump unlimited amounts of cash into local, state and national elections.
But the 9th Circuit found that Hawaii’s law is an important tool for government that’s used to combat “quid pro quo corruption,” which is often referred to as pay-to-play politics in which top campaign contributors are awarded contracts in exchange for their donations.
The court also upheld the state’s law requiring political action committees to register with the state after spending more than $1,000 to influence an election, something officials said is necessary to follow the money during campaign season.
“Without these laws, it would be impossible for the public to determine what interests are funding political action committees, including the big-money SuperPACs,” Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao said in a press release. “This ruling underscores the importance of encouraging transparency in political campaigns and guarding against corruption.”