Hawaii Democrats Believe In Public Financing For Elections - Honolulu Civil Beat

Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


Power local, independent journalism with a gift today and help us reach our goal of $250,000 by December 31.

Thanks to 738 donors, we've raised $108,000 so far!


About the Author

Dennis Jung

Dennis W. Jung is chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and a former deputy public defender for the state.

The present campaign finance system creates a strong connection between private donors and elected officials.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii believes in a fully publicly financed election system. Through this system, candidates who meet the criteria for public funding will receive enough funds from the state to carry out their election campaigns without depending on private contributions.

This system will help diminish the sway of special interests and foster diversity among candidates, and strengthen the public’s faith in our democratic system.

This system won’t fix all that is wrong with our campaign finance laws, but it is nonetheless impressive as it stands as a strong and necessary first step to help us to promote integrity in our electoral process. It is a way by which we can begin to restore faith in our democracy.

Public financing of elections is a key principle of the Democratic Party and our platform. Over the last several years we have passed numerous resolutions, urging the Legislature to establish this program statewide.

The present campaign finance system has a significant problem in that it creates a strong connection between private donors and elected officials. Candidates who depend on private donations could feel compelled to consider the interests of their donors over the needs of their constituents. This can lead to undemocratic outcomes in which policies are influenced by money rather than merit.

To decrease the sway of special interests, Hawaii’s Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct has recommended that Hawaii increase the amount of public funds available for candidates seeking office.

Commission members have expressed support for Senate Bill 1543, which aims to establish a fully publicly financed election system that would break the bond between big donors and office seekers by providing candidates with enough public money to run competitive campaigns.

To qualify for public funds, candidates would need to get a certain number of $5 donations from voters in their district, ensuring that candidates have significant support from their constituents before receiving any public money. Candidates who choose this system would be prohibited from accepting contributions from any additional private donors.

The current campaign finance system often results in candidates who lack the resources to mount competitive campaigns, compromising the quality and integrity of our elected officials and political system.

This would increase competition and diversity among candidates.

In contrast, a fully publicly financed election system would provide equal funding to all candidates, enabling people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to run for office without worrying about raising funds. This would increase competition and diversity among candidates and give voters a broader range of options and voices in our democracy.

Maine and Connecticut have successfully implemented public funding systems for over a decade, leading to greater competition, increased voter turnout, and more women and people of color running for office.

‘Remarkably Low Cost’

The success of a fully publicly financed election system has already been demonstrated in Hawaii. The Hawaii County Council races in 2010 and 2012 implemented this program and achieved considerable success, with several first-time candidates winning elections by relying on public funding.

The implementation of this program comes at a remarkably low cost. It is estimated that the annual expense is less than $10 million, which amounts to just $1 for every tourist visiting our state. Given Hawaii’s budget of more than $15 billion and a surplus of over $2 billion, the state has the necessary resources to turn this fantastic plan into reality.

The entire Senate chamber and House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs committee have already passed this bill, leaving the Finance Committee’s approval and both chambers’ consensus on a final version as the only remaining steps before it can be sent to the governor’s office.

Please support and encourage Finance Chair Kyle Yamashita and the entire legislature to make this initiative a reality. Together, we can bring about real change in Hawaii’s campaign finance system and strengthen our democracy for the future.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

Read this next:

Catherine Toth Fox: We Need More Resource Cops To Protect Hawaii's Unique Environment

Local reporting when you need it most

Support timely, accurate, independent journalism.

Honolulu Civil Beat is a nonprofit organization, and your donation helps us produce local reporting that serves all of Hawaii.


About the Author

Dennis Jung

Dennis W. Jung is chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and a former deputy public defender for the state.

Latest Comments (0)

The problem of undemocratic Hawaii is not campaign contributions or 'public funding' of a few legislator-wannabe's. The problem is our lack of what used to be called home rule. With fewer than 300 elected officials for 1.4 million people, we have only 1.7 elected leaders per 10,000 citizens/residents. Average in the democracy that is the United States is 20.6 elected per 10,000 people. Compare Maine, 53.4, or Connecticut 23.5 per 10,000. Local magistrates, town councils, mayors, sheriffs, tax assessors, school boards - in a democracy all these are elected. If we had 3,000+ elected officials it would be a lot harder for the oligopolists (insurance, law, media, transportation, healthcare, banking, unions, and, especially, government-employee unions) to control. As it is the few who are considered 'electable' are beholden to the 'Overton window' of what is acceptable to say in the controlled public space. Any lawyer or media that bucks the oligopoly will have no future. Public financing would reinforce and permanently establish this undemocratic 'government plantation.' It is not money: the key undemocratic factor is the paucity of elected, accountable, public officials.

Haleiwa_Dad · 8 months ago

Great Job...Agreed! Lets take big money out of politics.

TheMotherShip · 8 months ago

I'll believe when it actually happens.

WhatMeWorry · 8 months ago

Join the conversation


IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.


You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.