Advisory Opinion 98-05, Amendment
An elected official has requested an advisory opinion on the parameters of Hawaii Administrative Rules (“HAR”) section 2-14.1-16 (a) (4). The rule permits expenditures of campaign funds for “personal gifts of not more than an aggregate value of $500 for a two year office term, $1,000 for a four year non-statewide office term or $1,500 for a four year statewide office term in any election period for one or more campaign employees or volunteers, or for one or more employees assigned to the office which the candidate was elected.”
HAR section 2-14.1-16 identifies those expenditures that are “authorized” and therefore permitted under the campaign spending laws.1 Subsection (a) sets out the general rule that expenditures be “for necessary expenses that are predominantly and directly related to a candidate’s campaign to influence the nomination or election of the candidate.” This general rule is followed by enumerated items (1) through (5) that identify expenditures that fall within the general rule. Such expenditures by a candidate or committee are presumed to be authorized.
Item (4), which is the subject of this Advisory Opinion, authorizes limited gifts based upon the type and term of the office. The gifts may be used to acknowledge the unique and extraordinary efforts by employees or volunteers, including the staff of an elected official who volunteers to work on the campaign. These persons may have provided many volunteer hours, and opportunities or income may have been lost in their efforts to assist in the nomination or election of the candidate. Such gifts are directly related to the campaign and do not violate any provision within Chapter 11, Subpart B
The purpose of item (4), however, is not, and cannot be, simply to provide a candidate with “blank checks” for gifts from campaign coffers. All gifts paid for with contributed funds remain subject to the prohibitions against the transfer of such funds for purposes other than those directly related to the campaign, section 11-200, Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”); against using such funds for personal expenses, section 11-206(b), HRS and section 2-14.1-15, HAR; against the rewarding of government employees for official action, section 84-11,HRS; and against vote buying, section 19-3, HRS as well as any other applicable restriction. Moreover, there must be a direct relationship between the gift and the campaign; for example, if no significant campaign duties were performed, the gifts would not be permitted under this rule.
The Commission provides this Advisory Opinion as a means of stating its current interpretation of the Hawaii Campaign Spending laws provided under Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) section 11-191, et seq. and the administrative rules of the Commission provided in chapter 2-14, Hawaii Administrative Rules. The Commission may adopt, revise, or revoke this Advisory Opinion upon the enactment of amendments to the statue or the adoption of rules by the Commission.
Dated: Honolulu, Hawaii, November 9, 2006.
CAMPAIGN SPENDING COMMISSION
Steven E. Olbrich
Michael E. Weaver
1 HAR 2-14.1-16 also identifies campaign expenditures that are not authorized.