A Leader Against Corruption
In 1995, Gov. Ben Cayetano, along with Sens. Rey Graulty and Les Ihara, led the charge to stop campaign finance corruption by signing into law Act 10 (Special Session SLH 1995), a far-reaching, 62-page bill that empowered an independent, nonpartisan commission to end many of the system’s rampant problems.
Cleaning up a big mess
The campaign spending law, at that time, was largely unenforceable. There was no transparency for the public and no accountability for politicians or donors. Political corruption and “quid pro quo” was the norm with businesses bidding on government contracts, especially at the county level, and donating to politicians to secure contracts and permits.
Exposing hidden records
These were the “pen and paper” days of the state Campaign Spending Commission, when politicians frequently submitted illegible handwritten reports that were stuffed into cabinets or stored in dark, mice-ridden rooms, never to see the light of day. Previously, political action committees, donors and other organizations were bound by almost no detailed reporting requirements.
Act 10 required politicians for major offices to file their reports electronically. All noncandidate committees were required to submit detailed reports. Government contractors were also required to report campaign donations. Overall, campaign spending reports became transparent and accessible to the public.
A Pioneer of Electronic Filing Systems
Cayetano also made good government and transparency priorities by funding the commission to invest in networked computers and begin development of the nation’s first electronic filing system so the public and media could easily review reports and file complaints. Today, campaign spending reports are filed on-line and are immediately available for review.
Empowered his people to take tough action against law-breakers
Cayetano’s additional funding allocations empowered the commission to investigate complaints with the hiring of an attorney and investigators who were authorized to subpoena records, conduct audits and field investigations, and levy administrative fines.
Because of Act 10, signed by then-Gov. Cayetano, numerous politicians went to prison and more than 100 contractors were fined for making excessive contributions. Today, state contractors are prohibited from giving donations to any candidate committees.
Today’s attacks coming from secretive organizations
Ironically, current misleading attack ads harken back to the days before reforms signed by Cayetano. Donor lists are again secret, and the public is again at a disadvantage of knowing who the donors are behind some of these groups.
The Man Who Started Cleaning Up Government
Ben Cayetano is one of the most honest persons I know. He was a steadfast proponent for good government. He passed groundbreaking legislation that helped recruit qualified, independent commissioners and staff, gave them the tools to make long-overdue changes, allowed the commission to operate without political interference, and ended politically corrupt practices in place for decades.
Article also posted in Star Bulletin
Cayetano as governor took lead in curbing campaign finance corruption