Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry's, and Makana joined activists at the state Capitol on Friday afternoon in calling for public financing of elections.
The activists want the state House and Senate to revive a bill that would provide public financing for state House candidates. The bill stalled in conference committee last session.
Kory Payne, of Voter Owned Hawaii, said the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could bring more public attention to the influence of money in politics. The ruling lifted the cap on the amount donors can contribute in aggregate to federal candidates and political party committees.
Cohen is a liberal activist who launched the Stamp Stampede campaign against Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on politics as long as the spending is not coordinated with candidates.
Cohen is also a wealthy philanthropist who sold Ben & Jerry's in 2000 to Unilever, a multinational corporation.
Cohen's method of persuasion to Hawaii lawmakers? He called them corrupt.
"I tell you what drives me crazy about what's going on in Hawaii is that the people of Hawaii have spoken loudly. And they've said, `We want this system changed. We want to pass HB 1481,'" he said without citing a source for his contention that there is widespread public support for the bill. "And both houses of the Legislature have voted in favor of it. And then they go and spike it in conference committee behind closed doors.
"That's corruption. That's not democracy. That's the old crony, smoke filled room way of doing things that's got to stop."