Tuesday, May 24, 2005

House Dems Propose Public Financing of Statewide Campaigns

Compromise Bill Would Limit Lobbyist Contributions

House Democrats are proposing a "compromise" campaign finance reform bill that seeks to address many of the continuing ethics violations plaguing our state. Here are some of the details from the Hartford Courant:

The Democrats' legislation would create one of the nation's few systems of publicly financing campaigns for governor and other statewide constitutional offices, beginning with the 2010 elections.
Under the plan, gubernatorial candidates who raised $250,000 through small donations - 90 percent of which came from Connecticut residents who were not lobbyists or state contractors - would be eligible for $1.25 million in public money for a primary campaign and $3 million for a general campaign.
Lobbyists would be limited to contributing no more than $100 to any campaign.
The bill also would offer a limited form of public financing for the General Assembly, a system based on a Nebraska law. Legislative candidates who accepted spending caps of $150,000 for a Senate general election campaign and $30,000 for a House race would get public funds only if an opponent exceeded the cap.

The full public financing for statewide races and limited public money for legislative campaigns would come from a $10-to-$20 surcharge on fines and a $30 fee for filing civil lawsuits for claims over $2,500. The new fees would raise $5.3 million annually, the Democrats said. (Pazniokas)

This is a step in the right direction. Full public financing of all campaigns was tried in Massachusetts, but failed because the state didn't have the money for all state campaigns (including the legislature) and the Republican governor worked against it. But limited public funding of campaigns has a strong chance of survival here.

Governor Rell, who opposes public funding, has dismissed the bill. She shouldn't. While this bill won't ban lobbyist contributions completely (that may not be legal), it will limit their input and influence and guarantee financial equity in most campaigns.

Of course the bill isn't perfect, but a bill that had everything either the governor or the Democrats wanted wouldn't pass. Full public funding is very unlikely, and incumbent Democrats appear too wedded to lobbyists and other special interests to cut them off completely.

Campaign finance reform is something people want, if the success of John McCain's campaign in Connecticut in 2000 was any indication. The governor should grit her teeth and, in the spirit of compromise, accept this bill, which goes a long way towards fixing most of the ethical problems she has been so concerned about.

Rell did make one salient point, however:

Rell, who is opposed to public financing of campaigns, has said she would consider such a measure only if legislators cut off the flow of special interest money into their own campaigns. (Pazniokas)

Now that would be refreshing.

Pazniokas, Mark. "Surprise `Compromise'." Hartford Courant 24 May, 2005.


Indian2Nighthawk said...

Public financing is the key to fair elections. It creates the opportunity for challengers to have the capability of being able to present their own case as loud as the incumbant. But this proposal fall short of that goal.

$4.25 million dollars for a gubernatorial campaign is a joke. Creating a ceiling only works to hurt the challenger. If the incumbant choses to opt out of public financing and raises 6 million for the campaign then the voice can't be heard.

1.25 million for the primary MUST be re-examined. There isn't a declared democrat in the primary who hasn't raised over a milion and we are 15 months out. By the primary DeStefano (or others) could have as much as $4 million. Now I believe DeStefano is raising this kind of money because of his message and his capability; but if public financing provided someone else with only 1.25 then it wouldn't even be a contest.

Rolland raised over 6 million in his final run for the governor and it was over. Public financing must create incentives to reduce the money in politics. If matching funds between the two candidates existed then the money in the game would deminish and we'd see a lot more discussion between candidates and a lot less time fundraising!

FrankS said...

Time is money, if you want to limit the infulence of money in politics then restrict the time for campaigns. It would limit an Incumbent Office Holder's use of public office for fundraising long before an election. Do you really need to raise money now for elections in 2006? Giving incumbants years or months to amass funds gives them the advantage. Set a start date for campaign filing and everyone has an equal start.

MikeCT said...

Full public financing of all campaigns was tried in Massachusetts, but failed because the state didn't have the money for all state campaigns

Mass. legislators did not repeal the Clean Elections law because they meant well but just couldn't afford it. The legislative leadership - particularly former House Speaker/dictator Tom Finneran, the Darth Vader of the Bay State - dragged their feet on implementation and fought it tooth and nail because they did not want to lose their cash cow and their entrenched incumbency. The original public financing measure had the support of voters, who voted it in by a 2/3rds margin by referendum. Mass Voters for Fair Elections continues the fight and has introduced new legislation for clean elections this year. A June 11 conference in Worcester will discuss this and other electoral reform issues.

In CT, you can support clean elections by helping with evening phone banks this week at the CT Citizen Action Group - 860-951-2200. You should also contact your state legislators now!

In related news, SB 55, the CT bill that would ensure voter verified paper ballots on electronic voting machines, passed the Senate unanimously and needs your support to get through the House and the Governor. The True Vote CT coalition has been working on this issue.