The Hawaii State Teachers Association terminated its campaign to discourage voters from approving a constitutional amendment dealing with preschools last week after realizing it risked breaking the law by spending money on a ballot measure through its political action committee.
Upon realizing it faced a major problem, the HSTA quickly formed a “ballot issue committee” — “For the Future of Our Keiki” — and registered it with the Campaign Spending Commission last Wednesday. Such groups can only advocate for or against ballot measures like “Question No. 4,” which in this case is a highly controversial ballot initiative that would allow the state to spend public money on private preschool programs.
“We assumed it (the campaign) could be paid for with our PAC,” Al Nagasako, the HSTA’s executive director, told Civil Beat on Friday. “When we started looking at how different ballot issues were conducted in the past, we realized, ‘Oh, we screwed up.’”
It’s still unclear what will happen to the roughly $142,000 the union’s PAC has reported spending on the ballot initiative, including nearly $141,000 paid to a production company to air the ad on local TV stations through November.
Nagasako said on Monday that the union is “still having the discussions” with the producer to determine what, if any, refunds it can get for the ad spots it purchased but will not use.
The commercial — which did air for two days on TV the week of Sept. 22, the day of the campaign’s high-profile promotional launch — cannot run without getting the union into potential legal trouble.
Photo Credit: Alia Wong/Civil Beat