The campaign finance law provides that candidates may use campaign funds for one of eight authorized uses: (1) Directly Related to Candidate’s Campaign; (2) Charitable Donations; (3) Public School or Public Library Donations; (4) Full-Time Student Scholarship Awards; (5) Two (2) Fundraiser Tickets; (6) Political Party Contributions; (7) Ordinary and Necessary Expenses as an Office Holder; and (8) Mixed Benefit Expenses. See, HRS §11-381. In an effort to provide further information on the nuances of these permissible expenses, please be aware of the following:
(1) Directly Related to Candidate’s Campaign – These are expenses for purposes that are predominantly and directly related to your campaign include, but are not limited to these typical expenditures:
o Banners & signs
o Food for volunteer signholders
o Newsletters, reports, surveys, polls
o Office rent & utilities for campaign headquarters
o Legal expenses related to your campaign (including Commission fines)
o Airfare & hotel accommodation (e.g., running in a canoe district requiring you to travel between islands to campaign)
o Attending state & county political conventions (i.e., travel, meals, registration, but not clothing & entertainment expenses)
o Reasonable expenses of a “mahalo party”
o Food, beverage, & entertainment expenses incurred at a fundraising event or other campaign activity
o Durable assets (e.g., computer, software, printer, cell phone)
(2) Charitable Donations – Donations are limited to twice the maximum contribution limit of your office in an election period (i.e., $2,000, $4,000, or $6,000). However, from the date a candidate files nomination papers to the date of the general election, candidate committees are prohibited from making charitable donations with campaign funds unless you are declared duly and legally elected to the office prior to the general election or are unsuccessful in the primary or special primary election.
(3) Public School or Public Library Donations – Donations are limited to twice the maximum contribution limit of your office in an election period (i.e., $2,000, $4,000, or $6,000). There is no prohibited period for making public school or public library donations.
(4) Full-Time Student Scholarship Awards – Awards are limited to up to twice the maximum contribution limit of your office in an election period (i.e., $2,000, $4,000, or $6,000). However, from the nomination paper deadline to the general election, candidate committees are prohibited from using campaign funds to award scholarships to full-time students attending an institution of higher learning or a vocational education school unless you are declared duly and legally elected to the office prior to the general election or are unsuccessful in the primary or special primary election.
(5) Two (2) Fundraiser Tickets – There must actually be a fundraiser and you should receive tickets which we advise that you keep in the event that the Commission asks you to produce them in an inquiry or audit situation.
(6) Political Party Contributions – These are contributions to a political party such as the Democratic or Republican Party which is limited to $25,000 in any two-year election period.
(7) Ordinary and Necessary Expenses as an Office Holder – This expense is applicable only to elected officials who must ensure that these are not personal expenses or expenses that would exist irrespective of their holding office. These expenses must be reasonable, usual, and directly related to the office. Examples of permissible expenses include:
o Expenses incurred for memberships in civic or community groups
o Chair in the office reception area so visitors have a place to sit
o Costs to establish & close down a legislative office
o Travel expenses to conduct State or county business
o Bonafide registration and travel expenses for conferences and workshops directly related to the elected official’s duties and responsibilities
o Expenses to organize and host community meetings to disseminate information and gather public comment regarding issues relevant to the elected official
o Expenses for leis for official events or office events, but not leis for other legislators
o Legislative opening day expenses and inaugural expenses for food and beverages to host constituents
o Food & beverage for meeting constituents or office meetings that include others that are not staff members
(8) Mixed Benefit Expenses – These are expenses that provide a campaign and personal use, but you must reimburse your campaign for any personal use. For example, if you purchase or lease a vehicle in the name of the candidate committee, you may use campaign funds to pay expenses to maintain, repair, or tow the vehicle, but you must reimburse the campaign for any personal use of the vehicle. Therefore, we recommend that you keep a log or record on when you use the vehicle for campaign purposes and for personal purposes.
Prohibited expenditures are subject to Commission fines and reimbursement to the campaign account by the candidate using personal funds.