Advisory Opinion 00-12

     A number of candidates have requested advice on the parameters of endorsements by one candidate for another candidate under the Hawaii Revised Statutes. The applicable statute clearly provides that the use of contributions or any other receipts by a candidate for any campaign other than the campaign of the candidate is prohibited. Furthermore, such contributions cannot be used against any candidate other than the candidate directly opposing the candidate.

     Section 11-200, Hawaii Revised Statutes reads as follows:

     (a) A candidate, campaign treasurer, or candidate’s committee shall not receive any contributions or receive or make any transfer of money or anything of value (emphasis added):
          (1) For any purpose other than that directly related:

(A) In the case of the candidate, to the candidate’s own campaign; or
(B) In the case of a campaign treasurer or candidate’s committee, to the campaign of the candidate, question, or issue with which they are directly associated; or

          (2) To support the campaign of candidates other than the candidate for whom the funds were collected or with whom the campaign treasurer or candidate’s committee is directly associated; or
          (3) To campaign against any other candidate not directly opposing the candidate for whom the funds were collected or with whom the campaign treasurer or candidate’s committee is directly associated.

     Section 11-200 explicitly allows for an exception to the prohibition. A candidate may purchase from its campaign fund not more than two tickets for each fundraiser held by another candidate. The statute also provides an exception for political parties to assist multiple candidates. The Commission acknowledges that a candidate may use personal funds to make contributions or make expenditures on behalf of another candidate, subject to statutory limitations.

     The Commission, in interpreting this statute, relies on the notion that donors give contributions to a candidate to be used by the candidate solely for that candidate’s own campaign. In addition, a candidate that is able to raise large amounts of funds is prohibited from using those funds to assist another candidate. A plain reading of the statute provides that there can be no transfer of “anything of value”. Therefore, if a candidate has an official campaign photo taken and paid for with campaign funds, the use of a copy of that photo to support another candidate would in fact constitute a transfer of something of value. Purchasing t-shirts with campaign funds and giving them to another candidate is a transfer of something of value. A candidate loaning campaign signs purchased with campaign funds to another candidate is a transfer of something of value. Similarly, candidate phone banks, polls and surveys by one candidate and shared with another candidate could be a transfer of something of value. Loaning campaign funds to another candidate, however temporary, is prohibited.

     In other instances, a candidate will ask voters to support a fellow candidate, such as a House candidate asking for support of a Senate candidate running in the same district, in a brochure or newspaper advertisement. Clearly, if a candidate pays for an advertisement and asks voters to support a fellow candidate in the same advertisement, section 11-200, HRS, is violated. In some instances, candidates have paid for advertisements and supported a fellow candidate in more subtle ways through photos and content. While endorsement of a fellow candidate in and of itself is not a violation, the transfer of anything of value from campaign A to campaign B or candidate A expressly supporting candidate B in an advertisement paid for by candidate A will be considered a violation. In summary, a violation occurs when there is a clear and unambiguous endorsement by candidate A for the candidacy of candidate B that involves the transfer or expenditure of any resources from the campaigns of either candidate for the benefit of the other.

     Contributions and expenditures as used in this advisory opinion are consistent with the meaning of contributions defined in section 11-191 Hawaii Revised Statutes.

     This is provided by the Commission as a means of stating its current interpretation of the Hawaii Election Campaign Contributions and Expenditure laws provided under 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 its own initiative or upon the enactment of amendments to the Hawaii Revised Statutes or the adoption of administrative rules by the Commission.

Dated: Honolulu, Hawaii, February 13, 2001.


A. Duane Black

Della Au

Clifford Muraoka

Mona Chock