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
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.
Federal Court Decisions
On May 20, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii’s decision, which had mostly rejected a comprehensive challenge to Hawaii’s campaign finance law. The lower court had ruled that (1) the definitions of “noncandidate committee,” “expenditure,” and “advertisement” are not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad, (2) the noncandidate committee disclosure requirements are constitutional under the First Amendment, (3) the noncandidate committee disclosure requirements may be applied to organizations that do not have political activity as their primary or only purpose, (4) the disclaimer requirement for advertisements is constitutional, (5) the electrical contractor plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the electioneering communication’s registration requirements because by administrative rule, the contractor, as a noncandidate committee, was not required to comply with the requirements, and (6) the ban on government contractors’ contribution contained in HRS §11-355 is constitutionally permissible. The state also prevailed on the attorneys’ fee award issue on appeal.
Plaintiffs then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. On December 1, 2015, the Court denied certiorari on Plaintiffs’ appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. The Court, in effect, affirmed the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the merits of the case. The issue of the attorneys’ fees award remains pending.
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.
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.
Under the First Amendment, government cannot limit the amount of a corporation’s independent expenditures from its corporate treasury for political expression.
The court held that government may regulate political speech (for example, independent expenditures) through disclaimer and disclosure requirements.
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.