FY 2019-2020 Annual Report

Fiscal Year July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020


The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission’s (“Commission”) mission is to maintain the integrity and transparency of the campaign finance process by enforcing the law, educating the public, administering public financing, and training campaign committees in order to encourage compliance.  The Commission is guided by a Strategic Plan to assist the organization in shaping its future, set longer term priorities, and to establish a framework to make decisions and allocate resources.  This report discusses activities as applied to the Strategic Plan that occurred in fiscal year 2020 covering the period July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020 as well as documents other significant events.  It also includes a discussion of future considerations for fiscal year 2021.



  • Review existing laws as well as propose and submit legislation as needed. For the 2020 Legislative Session, the Commission submitted six (6) bills to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House for introduction, of which none were signed into law, but were in fact stalled due to the COVID-19 government shut down.  The Commission will consider reintroduction of all deferred measures for the 2021 legislative session.  The six (6) Commission bills that did not pass were:

H.B. 1708 / S.B. 2149 – This bill was introduced last session (H.B. 164/S.B. 139) but did not pass.  It amends Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) §11-341 by changing “disclosure date” to when the electioneering communication is publicly distributed rather than when the contract for the electioneering communication is executed.  Also, it re-tolls the $2,000 expenditure aggregate amount before the filing of additional statements of information are required and includes advertisements sent by mail at any rate in the definition of electioneering communication by deleting “bulk rate.”  Lastly, it deletes “communications that constitute expenditures by the expending organization” from the exceptions to the definition of “electioneering communications” to make it clear that candidate and noncandidate committees are required to file statements of information.

H.B. 1707 / S.B. 2148 – This bill was introduced last session (H.B. 162/S.B. 137) but did not pass.  It amends HRS §11-410 by raising the amount of fine that can be assessed against a Super PAC (that has received at least one contribution of more than $10,000 or spent more than $10,000 aggregate in an election period) from $1,000 to $5,000 and to permit the fine to be up to three times the amount of the unlawful contribution or expenditure.  Also, it allows the Commission to order that the payment of the fine assessed against a noncandidate committee, or any portion, be paid from the personal funds of an officer of the noncandidate committee.

H.B. 1706 / S.B. 2147 – This bill was introduced last session (S.B. 643) but did not pass.  It amends HRS §11-364 by requiring nonresident contributions exceeding 30% of the total contributions received by a candidate committee for each election period to escheat to the Hawaii election campaign fund if not returned to the contributor within thirty days.

H.B. 1705 /S.B. 2146 – This bill amends HRS §11-340(c) to make clear that the increased fine (not to exceed $300 per day) for the late-filing of preliminary reports only applies to the reports due ten days before a primary, general, or special election.  This measure was deemed necessary due to the additional preliminary reports mandated by the Legislature in the 2019 session.

H.B. 1704 / S.B. 2145 – This bill amends HRS §11-410 by (1) amending subsection (b) to provide that a person waives the right to a contested case hearing if the person fails to request a contested case hearing within twenty days of receipt of the Commission’s preliminary determination, and (2) amending subsection (d) to provide that a final order of the Commission may be filed in the First Circuit Court for confirmation as a civil judgment, enforceable and collectible as any other judgment issued in the circuit courts.

H.B. 1703 / S.B. 2144 – This bill amends HRS §11-333(b) by amending paragraph (3) by adding “committee reimbursements to the candidate or other individuals” to the list of expenditures that need to be itemized.  As currently written, only candidate reimbursements need to be itemized.  In many instances, individuals other than the candidate are being reimbursed for campaign costs advanced by those individuals.  Those reimbursements to other individuals should also be itemized.

There were five (5) House bills and nine (9) Senate bills submitted by other parties which also did not get signed into law concerning reporting, a campaign finance reform study, public funding, concerns over foreign influences, increasing fines and penalties, permitting child care as a lawful campaign expense, and increasing the tax check-off and expenditure limits.

o    Review existing rules and procedures as well as propose administrative rules as needed.  There were no changes to the Commission’s administrative rules and procedures during this fiscal year.


  • Offer and provide training on campaign finance laws and rules. The Commission planned and scheduled onsite training to candidate and noncandidate committees in May and June 2020 in anticipation of the 2020 election, but were prevented from execution due to the government shut down and travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19.  We pivoted and recorded the trainings on Zoom to post on the Commission’s website for remote access.  However, we were able to deliver a training to about 14 Kuleana Academy participants in November 2019 and conduct a remote training to the Hawaii Republican Party in June 2020 to about 30 participants.  In recognition that we have been seeing a larger number of new candidates in the past elections, we offered and delivered a new candidate training on February 24, 2020 which had 30 participants.
  • Provide educational and informational materials on how to comply with campaign finance laws and rules. In preparation for the 2020 election, the Commission reviewed and revised its training modules which are all available on the Commission’s website (i.e., guidebooks, manuals, cyber-learning videos, and powerpoint presentations).  We also developed a color-coded system to illustrate what track a candidate was on to show which disclosure reports they would need to file (i.e., Track 1 is red to identify reports a candidate only in the Primary Election would file, Track 2 is blue to identify reports a candidate only in the General Election would file, Track 3 is yellow to identify reports a candidate in the Primary and General Elections would file, Track 4 is green to identify reports a candidate running in the election(s) who was $1,000 or less would file, and Track 5 is purple to identify reports a candidate not running in the 2020 election would file).  These color codes were helpful in explaining to candidates and their committees which reports were due and when.  We also revamped the Commission’s website and provided a new link to First Time Candidates, commonly asked FAQs, and a payment link to pay fines.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of and explore (and implement as needed) new methods of training, education, and communication of information. Current efforts to communicate with committees have been successful – especially, our website, e-blasts, and tweets.  We have noticed that oftentimes our tweets get retweeted.  The Commission will continue to identify other mechanisms to communicate with multi-generational audiences and employ such tools as needed or if appropriate.

The Commission continues to work with the Office of Elections and county clerks in providing informational packets to give to candidates who file their nomination papers.  When candidates file their nomination papers, Office of Elections has included on their Candidate Profile worksheet a section that the candidate initials acknowledging that he/she understands that they need to register with the Commission and file reports.  This has been very beneficial.  Prior to each election, the Commission meets with Office of Elections and county clerks to address any new concerns/issues as well as to ensure that the process of certifying candidates’ compliance with campaign finance laws is operating properly so that the winning candidates are able to be sworn into office.

  • Direct the committees to the Commission’s website and continue to improve web-based information as well as other social media applications. For purposes of transparency, much of the Commission’s operations, business, and finances are posted on the Commission’s website including Commissioners’ biographies, meeting agendas and minutes, newsletters, advisory opinions, Hawaii Election Campaign Fund (“HECF”) trust fund information, annual reports, campaign finance statistics, and the Strategic Plan.  During this fiscal year, we updated our website and included new links to First Time Candidates, commonly asked FAQs, a payment link to pay fines, and election summaries.  Information of current interest is constantly identified and posted on the Commission’s website including statute and rule changes, legislation, reporting deadlines, enforcement issues, and new informational and technological tools.  There are also links for viewing reports, filing reports, seeking guidance including cyber-learning presentations, forms, guidebooks, and qualifying for public funding.  Based on the results of our annual online survey, we understand that our website continues to be our strongest resource in providing stakeholders and interested parties with campaign finance information.  As such, we continue to fine-tune our website with a focus on building more efficient and user-friendly navigation tools which includes a searchable database of all the campaign finance data filed by committees.  We have also included a section on our home page for our latest tweets and highlighted the candidate and noncandidate committee data visualization apps.  These updates are done at zero cost to the Commission.  During this period, we had 124,083 “hits” to our website.

The Commission regularly uses e-blasts as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts to inform and educate committees on campaign finance topics.  We have found the e-blasts to be especially effective in sending out time sensitive information such as reporting deadline reminders and changes in the law.  It also permits us to notify interested parties about registering for training classes, publication of new educational tools, and other campaign finance information.  Efforts to not overuse the email system and reserve it for distribution of important announcements is always a consideration.  During this period, the CSC email system was employed 66 times and we have 1,079 total subscribers.  Notably, subscribers are separated into three groups – candidates (483 subscribers), noncandidate committees (261 subscribers), and the public (335 subscribers), thereby permitting us to target relevant audiences with the e-blast.

Since July 2011, we have been employing social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to leverage our capabilities to increase, enhance, and supplement our communication efforts to inform the public of important and time sensitive campaign finance information.  During this fiscal year, we issued 413 tweets with a total tally of over 250,500 impressions or times a tweet has been seen.

Furthermore, the Commission has an ongoing partnership with the State of Hawaii’s Office of Enterprise Technology Services (“ETS”) to improve the Commission’s two statutorily required electronic filing systems for candidate committees and noncandidate committees which provides us with the campaign spending data that we use to provide transparency in elections to the public.

The candidate committee dashboard app was launched at the end of fiscal year 2018 which consolidated campaign spending data filed by candidates and provided for better comparative analyses of the data by office, party, and reporting period, continues to be very helpful and was viewed 8,676 times during this period.  Its success helped the Commission to seek funding to build the noncandidate committee dashboard counterpart which we launched on March 18, 2020, and was viewed 2,343 times during this period.  This new dashboard app is a powerful addition to the candidate dashboard app which consolidates campaign spending data filed by noncandidate committees including Super PACs and provides for better analyses of the data. This particular app replaces the Commission’s Noncandidate Committee Data Visualization app which was in use since 2014, and will permit the public to see in a more visually engaging and interactive way how noncandidate committees are stacking up against one another in the area of contributions received, contributions made to candidates, expenditures and independent expenditures made.

  • Encourage the committees to contact the Commission and/or visit the Commission’s office to assist in compliance with campaign finance laws and rules. This position has always been emphasized.  The Commission handles numerous phone calls, walk-ins, and inquiries daily.  A computer is located in our office for committees to file their reports and to seek our assistance.  With the COVID-19 government shut-down, staff members commenced teleworking, but had phones rerouted to cell phones.  Internal and external communications were issued informing committees and the public that although the Commission had to physically close its office in March 2020, Commission staff was working continuously and remotely to service the 700+ committees and that the Commission was committed to maintaining the integrity and transparency of the 2020 election.
  • Issue advisory opinions as requested. On May 5, 2020, the Commission received a request for an advisory opinion from Covington and Burling, LLP.  The Commission issued Advisory Opinion No. 20-01 on July 15, 2020 at the beginning of FY 2021 which concerned the application of HRS §11-355, the state ban on political contributions from government contractors, to pharmaceutical discount agreements.


  • Inform and educate the public about campaign finance laws and rules. The Commission disseminates to the public information concerning campaign finance by posting anything new/interesting on our website under “What’s New,” publishing biannual newsletters, and e-blasting, tweeting, and posting on Facebook.  New laws, legislation, guidance, updates to the guidebooks and manuals, updates to the electronic filing systems, and new forms are examples of what the Commission e-blasts, tweets, and posts.
  • Explore and implement improvements to the Commission’s online presence and other media applications to provide the public with campaign finance committee data and information. The Commission continues to promote its searchable database, data visualization applications, candidate committee dashboard, and noncandidate committee dashboard which are available to anyone on the Commission’s website.  The candidate committee and noncandidate committee data visualization applications permit viewers to see the data reported by over 700 committees in a more visually attractive, userfriendly, and dynamic way for a particular election period.  These applications were conceived to provide greater transparency and accountability in political campaigns to enable the public to follow the money of candidate committees’ and noncandidate committees’ participation in Hawaii elections.  The candidate and noncandidate committee dashboards further help the public (and committees) to see contributions and expenditures from candidates and/or noncandidate committees (including Super PACs) in a comparative format.  For candidates, the format is arranged by office, party, and reporting period.  For noncandidate committees, the format is arranged by noncandidate committee type (standard, ballot issue, independent expenditure, political party) and the area, scope, or jurisdiction of a noncandidate committee.

Further, at the close of each election, election data is compiled, sorted, analyzed, and summarized in charts, top 10 lists, and cost per vote.  These election summaries are all available and posted on the Commission’s website under a designated link.


  • Increase the Commission’s capability to process and analyze reported data.  During this period, the Commission worked with ETS on a rewrite of the Commission’s electronic filing systems using a new code generator software called ScriptCase which is a replacement to CodeCharge currently being used by ETS. This new software allows ETS to rewrite the filing systems in the most current version of the PHP language and enhance some of the system’s features such as creating a single data entry point for entering transactions into our schedules, auto filling names when data is entered, and allowing Commission staff to add reporting deadlines to reporting schedules based on a candidate or noncandidate committee’s reporting track.

The Commission completed final testing of the email system rewrite in June 2020 and implemented this system in July 2020.  The Commission also completed a few rounds of testing of the candidate filing system and plans to work with ETS on rewriting the noncandidate committee system once final testing is completed on the candidate system.  The target date for the rewrite of these two systems to be completed is in the second half of 2021 in preparation for the 2022 election.

Also, during this period, there were changes to the Commission’s electronic filing systems to support the data visualization capabilities of the dashboards and to ensure that the correct reports were being filed by candidate and noncandidate committees by providing the Commission with the capability to assign applicable reports to their reporting schedules.  This change was made as a result of legislative enactments to improve transparency and disclosure by requiring more reports to be filed by candidate and noncandidate committees.  Other changes were also made by adding in reports and creating additional forms to address the Special Election in April 2019.

The Commission continues to rely on its searchable database to run queries on various campaign finance issues.  Providing a searchable database to the public is a statutory mandate so to comply with this, the Commission has posted its candidate and noncandidate committee datasets on the State’s open data platform provided by Socrata since 2012.  However, as a result of the State phasing out the Socrata contract in August 2020 and switching to OpenGov which is the new provider of the State’s open data platform, it became necessary for the Commission to add its candidate and noncandidate committee datasets (searchable database) to this new site which it did with the launch of the OpenGov site on May 13, 2020.

The Commission continues to work with Socrata under our own contract to host our datasets on the Commission’s designated open data site which provides data to our dashboards at least through the 2020 election, and will continue to work on contingencies for the future of our dashboards.

  • Maintain awareness of newer technology, including electronic filing systems and hardware/software or applications, for consideration of integration and/or implementation.  The Commission works closely with ETS and as a result has benefitted from their expertise and assistance in scaling and maximizing our hardware/software applications.

The Commission continues its employment of eSign forms for committees to use as an additional and alternative way to submit forms.  The tool was made available through ETS’ commitment to employ new technology to improve government efficiency, services, and communication.  The success of eSign is tremendous especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.  During the reporting period, we have received and processed 1,019 eSign documents.

Effective January 2018, the Commission extended an alternative payment method for those committees fined to achieve a higher level of compliance and offer better convenience to the committees.  Specifically, committees who were assessed an administrative fine were informed that they would have the option to pay their fine not only by check, money order, or cash, but with a credit card online via PayPal using their PayPal account or a guest account.  The committees were informed that there would be no fee to use this alternative option and that the Commission opted to absorb the fee of 2.9% of the total payment plus $0.30.  The Commission however noted that if at any point in time the Commission was unable to afford these fees or the fees were approaching the state procurement threshold, it would notify the committees that it would have to stop accepting online payments.  During this fiscal year, the Commission received 61 payments via PayPal totaling $10,697.

The annual COGEL conference is another source from which we learn about other campaign finance systems and technology.  During this period, however, there were no plans nor funding to alter our electronic filing systems.

  • Maintain awareness of the implications of technological changes on all aspects of campaign finance.  The annual COGEL conference has been a great venue for the Commission to learn about technological changes or advances employed by other campaign finance offices.  During this fiscal year, there were no technological changes that the Commission deemed viable for employment in Hawaii; however, we remain receptive to all new ideas.


  • Develop escalating penalties for repeat and gross violations, and disseminate information about the penalties. The Commission continues to find that there are some candidate and noncandidate committees who do not file their reports.  As such, the Commission has been invoking administrative fines pursuant to HRS §11-410(a) as a means to take a stronger punitive stance to those committees who completely fail to file reports by the statutory deadline or violate campaign finance laws.  The Commission further finds that there are some candidate and noncandidate committees who do not comply with Commission orders when a campaign finance violation has been determined.  To this extent, the Attorney General’s Office – Civil Recoveries Division has been assisting the Commission to obtain judicial enforcement of Commission orders.  Three (3) matters were referred to this office in this fiscal year for collections and enforcement.

As for complaints in this fiscal year, which was not an election year, there were 17 which resulted in a total of $23,986.97 in assessed administrative fines.

  • 10 complaints yielded a preliminary determination of a campaign finance violation resulting in $22,786.97[1] in assessed administrative fines;
  • 2 complaints were referred for criminal prosecution (and are pending);
  • 1 complaint was withdrawn or dismissed due to compliance resulting in a $200 administrative fine;
  • 2 complaints were dismissed due to insufficient evidence or no violation; and
  • 2 complaints are pending and are anticipated to be resolved in the next fiscal year.

Pursuant to Hawaii Administrative Rules (“HAR”) §3-160-73(d), this annual report is the means in which the Commission reports the amount of fines paid by persons thereby furthering the dissemination of information concerning the penalties.  This rule also requires that the Commission adopt a Schedule of Fines for violations which is posted on the Commission’s website and is referred to in all fine letters to the committees.

Seek enforcement of the campaign finance laws and rules against violators.  During this fiscal year, a total of $40,853.14 was assessed in administrative fines[2] and $11,000 was escheated to the HECF[3] due to campaign finance violations.  There were 15 conciliation agreements resulting in reduced fines totaling $2,683.33.  The majority of the conciliation agreements concerned the late filing of the Supplemental Report (14) and there was an excess non-resident contribution violation (1).

Most of the campaign finance violations were a result of late or unfiled reports.  Specifically, there were 76 late or unfiled reports of which 54 did not involve a conciliation agreement or complaint (i.e., 14 were conciliation agreements and 8 were complaints) for a total of $14,160.28 in assessed administrative fines.  There were a total of 61 candidate committees and 15 noncandidate committees that failed to file or filed late reports.

Other campaign finance violations that occurred during this period include:

  • 11 failures to report contributions resulting in $3,750 in fines;
  • 9 failures to report expenditures resulting in $2,250 in fines;
  • 8 late fundraiser notices resulting in $525 in fines;
  • 4 prohibited expenditures resulting in $702.87 in fines;
  • 1 excess nonresident contributions resulting in $1,000 in fines;
  • 1 failure to file the Statement of Electioneering Communications resulting in $1,250 in fines;
  • 4 insufficient advertisement disclaimers resulting in $100 in fines; and
  • 1 excess contributor resulting in $1,000 in fines.

Lastly, this fiscal year, the Commission handled a contested case hearing in which it procured an administrative hearings officer to address Docket No. 19-13 – In the Matter of Friends of Trinette Furtado and Trinette Furtado.  This complaint was filed against a candidate and her candidate committee for an excess contribution, the filing of two false reports, the prohibited use of campaign funds, the late filing of the 2nd Preliminary Primary Report (July 1-July 27, 2018), and the failure to timely repay a loan.  The complaint was considered by the Commission at its October 17, 2018 meeting.  The candidate did not appear at the meeting.  The Commission preliminarily ordered the escheat of the $1,800 excess contribution, assessed fines of $500 for each false report and ordered the filing of corrected reports, assessed a $950 fine and the personal reimbursement to the campaign account for the prohibited use of campaign funds, assessed a $300 fine for the late filing of the 2nd Preliminary Primary Report, and ordered the candidate to use campaign funds to pay off the loan.  The candidate timely requested a contested case hearing to challenge the Commission’s preliminary determination.  On July 29, 2020, the candidate and the Commission entered into a Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release which finally settled the matter.


  • Monitor funding and develop proposals to stabilize funding as needed. The Commission’s beginning balance at the close of fiscal year 2019 was $1,086,159.96.  In fiscal year 2020, a total of $142,479.85 in revenue was realized (i.e., $90,641 in tax check-offs and $51,838.85 in other revenue) and a total of $2,550 in expenditures/encumbrances was incurred, thereby closing fiscal year 2020 with a balance of $1,226,089.81.

Notably, this was the third fiscal year that the Commission’s operating expenses including salaries and administrative expenses were absorbed general funded.  It is expected that this will permit HECF trust funds to replenish and provide a healthier base to pay for public funding for qualified candidates in the upcoming elections.  That said, it was a challenging year for the Commission when the Governor restricted spending for all departments and agencies.  However, the Commission was able to successfully seek an exemption from the budgetary restrictions thereby permitting it to use most of the funds allocated for this fiscal year.  Moving forward, budgets are likely to be severely restricted and reduced as a result of the impact COVID-19 continues to have on the State of Hawaii.

  • Provide Commissioner and staff development. Commissioners are regularly updated on any new or developing issues and provided information from annual COGEL conferences.  This year’s COGEL conference in December 2019 was held in Chicago, Illinois, and was attended by Commissioners Bryan Luke and Gregory Shoda as well as Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao and Associate Director Tony Baldomero.
  • Develop and implement plans for continuity of operations. On June 30, 2019, the Commission was facing the end of a four-year term for Commissioners Bryan Luke and Kenneth Goodenow.  Governor Ige reappointed Commissioner Bryan Luke to serve another 4-year term which expires on June 30, 2023, and appointed new Commissioner Russell Tsuji who resigned on October 24, 2019.  In January 2020, Governor Ige appointed Commissioner Neal Herbert to serve in this position for the remainder of the term which expires on June 30, 2023.

On June 30, 2020, the Commission was facing yet again the end of a 4-year term for Commissioner Stanley Lum and the end of an 8-year term (or two 4-year terms) for Commissioner Gregory Shoda.  Governor Ige reappointed Commissioner Stanley Lum to serve another 4-year term which expires on June 30, 2024, and has not yet selected a fifth Commissioner to replace the vacancy on June 30, 2020.  The Commission continues its efforts to have Boards and Commissions more timely work with the Governor to fill Commission positions.

The transition from trust fund to general funds operations continue to go smoothly.

  • Monitor compliance with the strategic plan and annually report to the Commission, committees, and the public. Records are organized and kept to satisfy this requirement internally.  The annual report is typically prepared and presented in a public Sunshine meeting in the fall to the Commissioners for their consideration and approval.  Once approved, the annual report is posted on the Commission’s website.


2020 Legislative Session.  This was the first legislative session that abruptly ended in March 2020 due to Governor Ige declaring a state of emergency in the State of Hawaii in response to the public health threat posed by COVID-19.  All of the Commission’s bills stalled.

Sunshine Meetings.  As a result of COVID-19, the Commission conducted Zoom meetings and was able to offer two (2) blended meetings (i.e., Commissioners and staff were in the State Office Tower conference room socially distanced and offered any interested parties access to the conference room or via Zoom video conferencing).  Although Governor Ige suspended Sunshine and FOIA laws, the Commission adhered to the laws.

Teleworking.  Commission staff commenced teleworking when Governor Ige issued emergency orders as a result of the pandemic.  Laptops were acquired, VPN access and Zoom licenses were secured, phones were rerouted, messages and signage were posted, and purchases of hand sanitizer, acrylic sneeze guards, gloves, thermometer, and disposable masks were made.  Because it is an election year and because staff is deemed essential, access to the office was permitted to staff members as needed.  This became important as mail had to be opened, complaints received, documents filed, fines processed, and deposits made into the bank.


COVID-19 has presented us with many unprecedented challenges in operations and fiscal spending.  The Commission is fully committed to maintaining the integrity and transparency of the 2020 election and has informed the candidates, committees, and the public that staff is working continuously and remotely to service the committees.  As the State of Hawaii loosens its restrictions of the emergency order, the Commission will follow guidance from the State Department of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”).  As such, wearing face coverings or masks, hand-washing, and social distancing will remain cornerstones as to how the Commission conducts operations in fiscal year 2021.

We hope there will be a day in the near future where we can resume face-to-face public meetings, have all staff members present in the office, and welcome members from the public with an open door.  But, until that day, we continue to explore new and innovative ways to ensure transparency and accountability as well as maintain a healthy environment for all involved in the campaign finance network.


[1] There was one complaint from FY 2019 (i.e., Docket No. 19-17) that was pending last fiscal year, but was resolved in this fiscal year so the fine assessed is accounted for in this total (i.e., $15,714.99).

[2] Pursuant to HRS §11-410(e), this amount is deposited into the State general fund.

[3] Pursuant to the relevant sections of the HRS, this amount is deposited into the HECF.