Advisory Opinion 04-05

     This Advisory Opinion provides additional guidance regarding the application of the definition of a “contribution.”

I. The term “contribution” is broadly defined and includes anything of value

     A “contribution” includes any gift, deposit of money, or anything of value made by any person for the purpose of influencing an election for a Hawaii elective public or constitutional office (emphasis added).1

     While the term “anything of value” is not defined in the Hawaii Campaign Spending Laws or the Campaign Spending Commission’s (Commission) rules, the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) rules define this term and the Commission has relied upon the FEC’s rules for guidance.2 “Anything of value includes all in-kind contributions. The provision of goods or services at less than the usual and normal charge, i.e., less than the price of the goods in the market from which they ordinarily would have purchased at the time, or less than a commercially reasonable hourly or piecework charge for the services prevailing at the time the services were rendered is a contribution. Examples of such goods and services include securities, facilities, equipment, supplies, personnel, advertising services, membership lists, and mailing lists.”3

     The Commission broadly interprets the term contribution.4 Whether a transaction is a contribution depends on the particular factual circumstances. The Commission has concluded, in prior Advisory Opinions, that a contribution includes the following transactions:

  • A candidate collects monies through a “charity fundraiser;”5
  • A political party makes expenditures “in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate’s political committee, or their agent”;6
  • A candidate uses free broadcast time to influence a nomination or election even if the broadcaster did not have that intention;7
  • A candidate receives artwork or paintings;8
  • A candidate gives another candidate t-shirts and copies of polls and surveys; and allows the other candidate to use campaign signs;9
  • A candidate receives monies from the sale of food or sundry items; or service projects;10
  • A candidate’s loans are not repaid within one year;11 and
  • A noncandidate committee pays for consultants, rent, and food to sponsor a candidates’ training session.12

     Contributions, as well as expenditures, must be reported to the Commission. Moreover, there are limits on the source13 and amount of contributions.14

     This Advisory Opinion responds to questions regarding the application of the definition of a contribution and provides additional examples for guidance.

Example 1: A speaker regularly speaks to third parties for a fee plus expenses. The speaker provides services to Candidate A’s campaign committee at a reduced cost or at no cost other than reimbursement for any of the speaker’s out-of-pocket expenses. The committee will offer the speaker’s services to other parties and charge fees or receive donations from the other parties. This discounted fee or the value of the donated services is a contribution from the speaker to A.

Example 2: An accounting firm and law office provides their services to Candidate B’s campaign committee at a reduced cost that is not available to other customers. These discounted fees are contributions from the accounting firm and law office to B.

Example 3: A supplier sells shirts to Candidate C at a reduced cost that is not available to other customers. This discounted price is a contribution from the supplier to C.

Example 4: D leases office space and pays monthly rent and a common area maintenance (CAM) fee to the property manager. Subsequently, D becomes a candidate for office and uses part of the office space for the campaign. A portion of the rent and CAM fee is considered a nonmonetary contribution from D to D’s campaign.

Example 5: E owns a printing company. Subsequently, E becomes a candidate for office and E’s company prints signs, shirts, and banners for the campaign. The materials and printing services are contributions from E to E’s campaign.

Example 6: A union receives brochures from Candidate F and includes the brochures in the mailings to its members. The cost of the mailings is a contribution from the union to F.

Example 7: A company makes its phones available to Candidate G. The cost of phones and other related costs are a contribution from the company to Candidate G.

II. No contribution in certain instances

     The Commission has determined in prior Advisory Opinions that there is no contribution in the following instances:

  • An Internet provider hosts web-sites for a candidate, other candidates, and individuals without charge;15
  • A radio, television or other media outlet employs a candidate and the media outlet does not publicize or promote the candidate or solicit donations;16
  • A newspaper promotes the newspaper’s marketing potential by printing an advertisement that includes a headline and story about a candidate;17
  • A person hosting or sponsoring candidates’ forums meets the requirements of Advisory Opinion No. 02-08, including a requirement to provide a similar opportunity to appear for all candidates for that office;18
  • A person donates food paid for with non-campaign funds to a community event that has no campaign activities;19 and
  • A theatre sells discounted tickets to a candidate that resells the tickets.20

     The Commission provides this Advisory Opinion as a means of stating its current interpretation of the Hawaii Campaign Spending laws (HRS section 11-191, et seq.) and the administrative rules of the Commission (chapter 2-14, Hawaii Administrative Rules). The Commission may adopt, revise, or revoke this Advisory Opinion upon the enactment of amendments to the Hawaii Revised Statutes or the adoption of administrative rules by the Commission.

Dated: Honolulu, Hawaii, December 29, 2004.


A. Duane Black

Gino L. Gabrio

Paul Kuramoto

Dean Robb


1 “Contribution” means:
(1) A gift, subscription, deposit of money or anything of value, or cancellation of a debt or legal obligation and includes the purchase of tickets to fundraisers for the purpose of:
(A) Influencing the nomination for election, or election, of any person to office:
(B) Influencing the outcome of any question or issue that appears or is reasonably certain to appear on the ballot at the next applicable election described in subparagraph (A); or
(C) Use by any party or committee for the purposes set out in subparagraph (A) or (B);
(2) The payment, by any person political party, or any other entity other than a candidate or committee, of compensation for the personal services or services of another person that are rendered to the candidate or committee without charge or at an unreasonably low charge for the purposes set out in paragraph (1)(A), (1)(B), or (1)(C);
(3) A contract, promise, or agreement to make a contribution; provided that notwithstanding this paragraph and paragraphs (1) and (2), the term “contributions” shall not include services or portions thereof voluntarily provided without reasonable compensation by individuals to or in behalf of a candidate or committee; or
(4) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1), (2), and (3), a candidate’s expenditure of the candidate’s own funds or the making of a loan or advance in the pursuit of the candidate’s campaign shall not be a contribution for the purpose of this subpart but shall nevertheless be reportable as a campaign receipt. See section 11-191, HRS.

2 Advisory Opinion No. 98-15.

3 11 Code of Federal Regulations 100.7(a)(1)(iii)(B).

4 Advisory Opinion No. 02-08.

5 Advisory Opinion No. 95-02.

6 Advisory Opinion No. 99-05.

7 Advisory Opinion No. 00-04.

8 Advisory Opinion No. 00-08.

9 Advisory Opinion No. 00-12.

10 Advisory Opinion No. 02-03.

11 Advisory Opinion No. 02-05. See, section 2-14.1-13, HAR.

12 Advisory Opinion No. 04-02.

13 A candidate, among other things, may not receive anonymous contributions (section 11-201, HRS); false name contributions (section 11-202, HRS); and contributions from a foreign national or foreign corporation (section 11-204(j), HRS).

14 A candidate is limited to $50,000 in contributions from the immediate family. Other persons or entities may contribute per election period not more than: $2,000 to a candidate for a two-year office; $4,000 for a four-year office; and $6,000 for a statewide office. Sections 11-204(a) and (c), HRS.

15 Advisory Opinion No. 00-06.

16 Advisory Opinion No. 00-07.

17 Advisory Opinion No. 01-07.

18 The requirements discussed in Advisory Opinion No. 02-08 are:

  1. That the candidate, candidate’s representative or party representative shall not accept contributions before, during or after the appearance while at the meeting, convention or other function, but may leave campaign materials or envelopes for members of the audience or attendees;
  2. Any person or entity sponsoring or hosting the event shall not, either orally or in writing, solicit or direct or control contributions by members of the audience to any candidate or party in conjunction with any appearance by any candidate or party representative, and shall not facilitate the making of contributions to any such candidate or party;
  3. Any person or entity sponsoring or hosting the event shall not, in conjunction with any candidate, or candidate’s representative appearance, expressly advocate the election or defeat of any clearly identified candidate(s) or candidates of a clearly identified political party and shall not promote or encourage express advocacy by the members of the audience or attendees;
  4. No candidate, candidate’s representative or party representative shall be provided with more time or a substantially better location than other candidates, candidates’ representatives or party representatives who appear, unless the sponsor or host is able to demonstrate that it is clearly impractical to provide all candidates, candidates’ representatives and party representatives with similar times or locations;
  5. Any coordination with each candidate, candidate’s agent, and candidate’s authorized committee(s) may include discussions of the structure, format and timing of the candidate appearance and the candidate’s positions on issues, but shall not include discussions of the candidate’s plans, projects, or needs relating to the campaign;
  6. Representatives of the news media may be present during the appearance of the candidate, candidate’s representative or the party representative; and
  7. The sponsor or host may not reproduce or distribute candidate campaign material.

19 Advisory Opinion No. 03-03.

20 Advisory Opinion No. 03-04.