Advisory Opinion 98-06, Amendment
An attorney has requested an advisory opinion as to the application of section 11-204(b), Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”), to his client, a non-profit trade association.
Section 11-204(b), HRS reads as follows:
(b) No person or other entity shall make contributions to a noncandidate committee, in an aggregate amount greater than $1,000 in an election.
The question raised in the inquiry is1:
Does the $1,000 “in an election” limitation permit contributions to a noncandidate committee in an aggregate amount greater than $1,000 to be made when an election is not occurring?
The time period applicable to contribution limits to noncandidate committees differs from the time period applicable to contribution limits to parties or candidates. Contributions to candidates are limited within “an election period” (HRS 11-204(a). Contributions to noncandidate committees are limited “in an election” (HRS 11-204(b)). Contributions to political parties are limited “in any two-year election period” (HRS 11-204(j)).
Section 11-191, HRS defines “election period” to encompass the period between general election days for the office sought. References to the time period “in an election period” and “in any two-year election period” are self explanatory. Each term is distinct as the legislature intended different effects in utilizing the different terms. Consequently the time periods identified above are not coextensive.
The term “in an election” utilized to identify the noncandidate committee limitation period is more ambiguous. “Election” refers to a specific date when each primary or general election is held. It would be absurd to limit contributions only on the day of the election. So some discreet period that is applicable to any specific election must be identified. The discreet period with respect to each election is the period between elections. We conclude that the term, as used in HRS section 11-204(b), limits contributions to noncandidate committees to $1,000 for each period between each election.
An individual or entity may therefore contribute $1,000 to a noncandidate committee in the period between a general election and subsequent primary; another $1,000 may then be contributed during the period between the primary and subsequent general election. Contributions may not be consolidated or designated since such practices may frustrate the purposes of both disclosure and limits, and the law makes no provision to do so.
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 The attorney originally had two questions, however the second question, whether the terms “corporation” and “company” are broadly defined to include tax-exempt organizations and trade association such as I.R.C. 501(c) (6) trade associations, became moot when the 2005 Legislature in Act 203, amended HRS section 11-204 (b) by repealing the reference to corporations and companies.