The cases available for viewing are not representative of the entire area of campaign finance, but represent cases of significance to Hawaii. Moreover, the Commission’s descriptions of the cases are for the convenience of the viewer to the website only and are not to be relied upon or cited as legal precedent.
Hawaii Court Decisions
2012 – YAMADA v. WEAVER
On March 21, 2012, the Federal District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled that (1) the $1,000 per election contribution limit applicable to noncandidate committees under HRS § 11-358 cannot be constitutionally applied to noncandidate committees that solely make independent expenditures, (2) the definitions of “noncandidate committee” and “expenditure” in HRS §11-302 are not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad, and are constitutional disclosure rules under the First Amendment, (3) the Plaintiff A-1 A-lectrician was properly subject to noncandidate committee status, (4) A-1 A-lectrician did not have standing to challenge the electioneering communications registration requirements because by administrative rule, the contractor, as a noncandidate committee, reported its electioneering communications in its regular noncandidate committee reports, and was not required to file separate statements of information about its electioneering communications, (5) the definition of advertisement and the disclaimer required for advertisements (indicating whether the ad was coordinated with any candidate) are not unconstitutionally vague, and are constitutional disclosure rules, (6) the ban on government contractors making contributions to candidates for offices (contained in HRS § 11-355, so-called “pay to play”) is a constitutional means of preventing corruption and the appearance of corruption.
The final order has been appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
2009 – TAVARES v. WONG
The Intermediate Court of Appeals held that contributions from corporations to candidates are governed by the limits provided in HRS § 11-357.
United States Supreme Court Decisions
Government’s provision of matching funds to publicly funded candidates violates the First Amendment rights of opposing nonparticipating candidates and independent expenditure groups that support the nonparticipating candidates.
Under the First Amendment, government cannot limit the amount of a corporation’s independent expenditures from its corporate treasury for political expression.
2006 – RANDALL v. SORRELL
Although government has some leeway in crafting contribution limits, if the limits are too low, the contribution limits may violate the First Amendment.
1976 – BUCKLEY v. VALEO
Government may limit contributions to candidates under the First Amendment but not expenditures made by candidates. The case also discussed independent expenditures and public financing, among other issues.
United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
In Yamada and A-1 A-Lectrician, Inc. v. William Snipes, et al., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, by rejecting a comprehensive challenge to Hawaii’s campaign finance law. In the decision published on May 20, 2015, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Commission and upheld Hawaii’s laws.
Government violates the First Amendment if it restricts the fundraising and spending of independent political committees that have no direct relationship with candidates. The anti-corruption interest of the government is unavailing in such a case because of the more attenuated relationship between the independent committees and candidates.
The court held that government may regulate political speech (for example, independent expenditures) through disclaimer and disclosure requirements.