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.