Monday, September 12, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform: What We're Not Getting

The bipartisan campaign finance reform working group is set to present its recommendations to the governor this Thursday. We'll see what proposals the group actually comes up with, and if the deadlock over campaign finance reform will be broken any time soon.

In the meantime, here are a few things we're definitely not getting:

Public Financing for 2006

It's too late for this, so we can all stop bugging candidates about whether they'll return campaign donations next year. The earliest implementation date I've heard is 2008--and I'm not convinced they'll even be able to do that. Rell may have to content herself with 2010.

Enthusiastic Support from Democrats

Nobody in the legislature really wants to see this bill happen, but no Democrat wants to be on the record against it, either. Look for lukewarm support from a lot of incumbent Democrats who are perfectly happy with the current gravy train, thank you.


Republicans are in for a surprise: this bill probably won't help them. The GOP has been using lack of funds as an excuse for not running or actively supporting a candidate in many districts: if this bill is implemented they'll just have to face up to the fact that they are a sad rump of a party with no message, focus or broad appeal. We should see more Democratic primaries, however.

Lots of Fresh Faces in the Legislature

The boundaries of the districts (especially the House districts) are so drawn that almost all incumbents have a big advantage over challengers from the party opposite. Until the state changes the way it draws legislative districts, this won't change.

Sad, Out-Of-Work Lobbyists

I wish. They'll find ways to be just as influential, despite new rules.

So why have campaign finance reform at all? What will we be getting? How will it improve our democracy?

More on that on Thursday, when the committee makes its report.


Anonymous said...


Interesting analysis..I agree with some parts, and disagree with others.

1) First, I agree that at the end of the day campaign finance will not hurt that many incumbents because of the gerrymandered districts. My guess is that close to 3/4 of the house seats are safe R or D, no matter how much money is spent. Same is true for about half the Senate seats. Real reform is going to be to do what Iowa has done...take the power of redistricting away from the politicians and give it to a computer! That's Iowa a computer draws districts based on an algorythm (i.e., keep towns in the same district, draw straight lines as much as possible, try to balance R's and D's in a district). The legislature then gets and up or down vote...and if it goes down, the computer tries again.

2) I think that this bill will matter a lot more for the Senate than the House, for two reasons: first, $150k is a lot harder to raise than $30k; second, the distri cts are generally more competitive

3) The Republicans will gain from this, but only slightly. It should help them with candidate recruitment, which they have had a tough time of in the past 4-6 years. Again, they have a better shot at picking up Senate seats than House seats.

4) I agree that the Republicans need a message, but the Democrats do too! I am constantly amazed that no one since John Rowland in 1990 has had a vision for CT. Rowland did a good job lowering taxes, spending money on UConn, and improving cities. But by the time he ran for a third term, I'm not sure what he stood for. BTW-- this is why I think he stood out as the most successful politician in CT up to the scandals (which obviously no longer quality him as a success).

5) Campaign finance reform will NOT pass this year, for the exact reason that Genghis states-- no one wants it (not even the Gov!) Everyone is playing politics with this, trying to seem like the "reformer". My guess is that they figure out a way to sink it or water it down.

Genghis Conn said...

Most of the legislative Democrats don't have a vision, it's true, but they don't need one. They've more or less run the GA for nearly forty-five years (with a few notable, but never lasting, interregna), ever since the constitution was changed to eliminate malapportionment in 1961. They've grown a bit complacent since, and the Republicans' steady decline has helped.

Republicans in Connecticut are in a bind. They could be acting as the antidote to the entrenched Democrats if their leadership weren't inept and, until last year, corrupt. Also, the national arm of their party is not particularly well-liked in Connecticut. They fare poorly when associated with it, as their devestating losses in 2004 showed. This wasn't true in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan, who was popular here, helped them pick up seats in Congress and in the General Assembly.

The GOP will probably pick up 10 seats in the House and 2 in the Senate next year, just as a correction for the presidential year of 2004.

A panel of retired judges is my choice for redistricting.

Anonymous said...


Add to the Rowland list of accomplishments, the highest per capita state debt in the nation, UConn 2000 mismanagement, CRRA/Enron loss ...

Anonymous said...

Wait, did I read that right? The threshold for public financing is $30,000 for a House race and $150,000 for a Senate race? So if John Q. Challenger raises $29,000 she gets nada?

Anonymous said...

No, my apologies. $150k is what you will GET if you qualify for Senate funding (and $30k for the house race).

Genghis-- I generally agree with your critique of the Republicans. They need a vision to overcome the inherent advantage Democrats have-- when neither has a vision, the Dems will win big time (as they have for the last ten years in the legislature...each time picking up more seats).

I also agree with your assessment for 2004. Focusing on the Senate, I think there are 7 races up for grabs (5 Democrats, 2 Republicans):

Vunerable Senate Dems include:

-Bill Meyer, a freshman who beat Repub highflyer Aniskovich by less than 2,000 votes in a Republican-leaning district. Aniskovich was a huge Rowland defender and paid the price.

-Gayle Schlossberg, another freshman from Milford who unexpected beat longtime Republican Win Smith. Milford has been trending Republican lately, so this is a strong pickup if the Republicans can get a good candidate. (Don't know if Smith is interested in running again or not).

-Jonathan Harris, who represents West Hartford. Republican Kevin Connors had a strong showing last year, despite Kerry creaming Bush in the district. If Connors runs again, this will be competitive.

-Bill Finch, who wins because of large turnout in Bridgeport during presidential years. Other two towns (Trumbull and Monroe) are heavily Republican and went that way in 2004. His opponent, Rob Russo, will likely run again and give him a run for his money.

-Tom Colapietro, who also won by less than 2,000 votes. Bristol is a swing town (and the largest one in his district). I would favor him to hang on, but he could face a strong challenge if the Republicans find someone good.

Senate Republicans that could be vunerable include:

-John Kissel, who represented Enflied and its rural surroundings. A Demcoratic-leaning district, he will always have a tough race there.

-Cathy Cook, who represents Groton and Mystic. She won pretty handily in 2004 (even in a bad year for Republicans), and with the Groton sub base being saved, I think it will be a good year for incumbents in Southeast CT. But she does have a Democratic-leaning district, so could have a race.

So, while Republicans aren't like to retake the Senate (they would need to win ALL these races for it to be 19-17 in favor of the Democrats), they will probably pick up two seats (as Genghis said!)

My early guess-- Finch and Meyer go down.

MikeCT said...

I think there is power in incumbency and entrenched political campaign structures. Also think the concentration of media in corporate hands limits political debate and journalistic inquiry. But public financing is a necessary first step to opening up the political process, and the recommendations of this committee - however imperfect - will likely be a positive step toward reform. And yes, I think something will pass -- there is too much momentum, too much pressure, and too much face to lose to not take any action.

Things you can do to have an impact:

* Sign the petition of the Clean Up Connecticut campaign.
* Call your legislator, particularly if he/she is a member of the working group.
* Call Rell (800-406-1527)- particularly once the recommendations are out - and ask her to call a special session to pass public financing.
* Write a letter to the editor
* Attend the final two Campaign Finance Reform Working Group meetings this week (Tuesday, 9/13, 1:30; Thursday, 9/15, 3:00). Both meetings will be held in room 2B of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford (next to the State Capitol).
* Hold a house party with your friends and neighbors to discuss the issue. Contact Michelle or Rich at the Clean Up Connecticut Campaign (860) 947-2202 947-2203 for help and ideas.

MikeCT said...

That's Sen. Ed Meyer (campaign site & legislative site) and Sen. Gayle Slossberg (campaign site and legislative site). They had fairly slim victories, but I think Aniskovich was mortally wounded - if Republicans want to back him again, good luck.

West Hartford has moved to the Democratic camp over the last decade, and I don't believe Jonathan Harris (the former Mayor) is in any trouble. He won by about 8,000 votes last time. I don't think most Democrats were very worried in 2004 and they will be less worried next year.

I would be delighted to see a strong challenge to Cathy Cook, the Senator from Pfizer.

Anonymous said...

What about the 16th District, Sen. Chris Murphy is giving up his seat to run for Congress? Does that seat look to have any takers?

ctkeith said...

Hey Mikect,

Aniskovich was so mortaly wounded that The Dem nominating committee for his district would have adjourned without a candidate if I didn't raise my hand an offer to Be a "placeholder".

Yeah,that was me.I was the candidate against Aniskovich for 4 weeks until Ed Meyer,The best man in our legislature,called me and promised his help if I had decided to hold the nomination or if not to withdraw and he would run.

The pols in Hartford are so blind they never even saw Aniskovich as vulnerable and it's my opinion that a deal was struck with some of them NOT to run anyone against him.

Sorry we messed up their plans.NOT

Anonymous said...

Zeke Zalaski 81st (Southington) and Corky Mazurek 80th (Wolcott) both have a shot at Murphy's seat if Murphy ends up the nominee. That would be an interesting primary. Mazurek is a union guy and would do well in Waterbury. Zalaski has more hometown folks because Murphy's seat is really Southington, primarily. Murphy always regarded the Cheshire piece of his district pretty lightly, because only a small part of the town is in his district.

There is a chance however that Murphy may stay put. He's working hard to build momentum and stop Paul Vance from continuing his advance, but without much success. So far, he's got some of his Hartford friends and some people down in Washington DC interested in him, but he isn't really from the district, and so has a lot of ground to cover in order to get the delegates he needs.

It would be pretty stupid for him to risk his current, safe, seat if he isn't assured of a strong showing against Johnson in '06, much less losing the nomination to Vance, which some say is becoming a greater and greater chance as time goes on.