Apparently, the campaign finance reform working group is looking for ways to put the money back in to politics.
A legislative task force is considering requiring candidates who want public campaign funds to raise set amounts of money from regular people in their districts first.
The group reached a tentative consensus Thursday on requiring a $5,000 threshold for House races and a $10,000 threshold for Senate races. The lawmakers said they want to require at least some of that money to be raised from inside a candidate's district, from people who are not lobbyists or state contractors.
"You're encouraging people to connect back with their core constituents," said Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, adding that the goal is to encourage more grass-roots campaigning. (AP)
Sure it is. Notice how "campaigning" and "fundraising" are exactly the same thing, here.
Let's assume that this proposal is enacted. Would it help to create a more level playing field for challengers? Not surprisingly, the answer is no. According to the Institute on Money in State Politics, challengers in Connecticut House races in 2004 raised an average of only $6,416, while challengers in Senate races raised an average of $24,509. This means that challengers in House races would still have to spend a huge amount of time fundraising just to qualify for state funds. This does very little to remove money's influence from state politics. Senate races would be a bit better, but $10,000 is still an awful lot of money to raise just to qualify for funds from the state.
Incumbents, on the other hand, raised an average of $21,985 in 2004 House races, and an average of $76,994 in Senate races. Raising the threshold amount would be much, much easier for an incumbent, especially if the amount required to come from the incumbent's district was relatively small.
The working group's proposal would help to tilt the advantage back towards incumbents, even if the state finances elections. It would also help to reinstate the influence of lobbyists and contractors over state races.
If we're going to have public finance state campaigns, let's actually do that. Scrap any monetary threshold requirements. If the state is worried about funding candidates who will only poll 1% or less, then raise the amount of verifiable signatures needed to get on the ballot, or create a separate, higher signatures requirement in order to qualify for public funds. Let's not fool ourselves that the creation of a monetary threshold will work to the advantage of anyone but incumbents and lobbyists.
"Lawmakers continue debate on campaign finance." Associated Press 12 August, 2005.