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BLOG: House Judiciary Chair Takes On Citizens United Ruling

January 28, 2014, 6:54 PM HST
* Updated January 29, 3:59 PM
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State Rep. Karl Rhoads says he wants to make a statement, even if it is trumped by the nation’s highest court.

Rhoads, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is proposing an amendment to the Hawaii Constitution that flies in the face of the controversial Citizens United ruling that says restricting campaign donations by large organizations, including corporations and unions, is a violation of the First Amendment.

Critics of the 2010 US Supreme Court ruling say it has created a financial free-for-all in elections.

Rhoads’ House Bill 1499 would amend the Hawaii Constitution’s Article I, Section 4 which deals with “freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.”

He is asking voters to add a single line: “The freedom of speech shall not include the expenditure of money to influence elections or promote lobbying.”

Rhoads, an attorney, is the first to admit that the move is a symbolic gesture.

The state attorney general agrees, and has submitted testimony that said the change would have no effect as long as Citizens United remains the law of the land.

But that hasn’t swayed the four-term Democrat who represents the 29th House District in Honolulu.

“I just want to send a message that not everyone agrees that unlimited money should be flowing into the political system,” Rhoads told Big Island Now.

His message has the support of groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters.

It also received the approval today of his committee, with 11 members voting aye. Among them were three Big Island representatives, including Rep. Mark Nakashima, who represents Hamakua and Hilo; and newly appointed Rep. Richard Creagan, who represents South Kona and Ka`u. Hilo Rep. Clift Tsuji was among four members who voted yes with reservations.

Rep. Bob McDermott, one of two Republicans on the committee, cast the sole vote against the measure.

***Updated Jan. 29.***

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