BY ANNE SHERWOOD — The Hawaii State Legislature is in full swing, and lawmakers are considering proposed new laws daily. Although a final vote often gets the media attention, the real action occurs in legislative committee proceedings, where political donors and lobbyists do most of their work to influence legislation.

The Legislative Committee Analysis Tool (L-CAT) on FollowTheMoney.org displays legislative committee rosters alongside campaign donor data. This data mash-up provided by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and Project Vote Smart allows citizens to see which special interests have (or don’t have) political-donation relationships with lawmakers who sit on influential committees; committees that have the power to pass laws that directly affect these interests.

“Major legislative victories are won in the committees,” said Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, whose Web site is FollowTheMoney.org. “Powerful political players know that legislative committees are where they can affect legislation, good or bad, often with little public input. We are arming citizens with powerful information that can be used to counter the well-heeled special-interest lobbyists.”

For example, a quick glance at who contributed to the election campaigns of members of the Hawaii State Senate’s Judiciary and Labor Committee illuminates some noteworthy facts. Those committee members received $27,450 from lawyers and lobbyists; just one committee member, Senator Mike Gabbard, garnered more than half ($14,750) of those contributions.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state-level candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees. The state data for Hawaii is nearly complete and committee rosters are already in place.

We encourage you to explore our free, searchable database of contributions online at FollowTheMoney.org. Watch for more information on your state as the legislative session continues!

Anne Sherwood is a Communications Specialist for the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

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