Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform Should be Supported

No, it isn't perfect.

From early reports, the campaign finance reform compromise bill due to be voted on by the General Assembly this Wednesday has plenty of flaws. It sets high thresholds (the amount required to get public funding), is soft on unions, makes it nearly impossible for third parties to compete and doesn't go into effect until 2008.

It should be passed anyway.

Let's face it: we weren't going to get a perfect bill. Incumbent Democrats are wedded to special interest, contractor and lobbyist money, and they rightly fear that a public funding system will benefit the opposition. There was also a fear that a lot of public money would be spent on "vanity" candidates, or third-party candidates who would gather less than 10% of the vote.

It's a start, though. Let's get a system in place now. Let's put these moderate reforms in place, so that we have something to build on later. Imperfect campaign finance reform is better than no reform at all.

A historical precedent does exist for this situation. In 1959, the state abolished the anachronistic county governments and town courts at the behest of then-Governor Abraham Ribicoff. Democrats were loathe to give up the courts and the county governments because of the plum patronage positions that would be lost (county commissioners were appointed by the legislature, meaning that the majority got to appoint their friends). A compromise allowing sheriffs to remain in place was made. It wasn't a great compromise, but the deal was struck and counties disappeared. If they had waited for the perfect bill, nothing would have been done.

That's the problem facing us today. If we wait for the perfect bill, nothing will be done. In 2008 we will have a system that is far better than what most states operate under, and future legislatures will have the opportunity to improve it further. This is the best the Democrats are going to offer. Let's not miss this historic chance while we have it.

Here are some stories worth reading about campaign finance reform in today's news:

Pazniokas, Mark. "Closing In On Election Reform." Hartford Courant 29 November, 2005.

Hldaky, Gregory. " GOP questions Dems’ finance reform plan." Bristol Press 29 November, 2005.

Levine, Dan. "Once More Unto the Breach." CT News Junkie 29 November, 2005.


Anonymous said...


A big flaw here appears to be that there are few if any restrictions on how candidates can spend public funds on their camapigns. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that someone could hire an immediate family member to work on their campaign or lavishly spend money on dinners, drinks, etc. It just doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

what else is new? right now the Max Restaurant Group has more campaign money spent on it than the Hartford TV stations

My state senator must have thought subsidizing Hot Tomatoes was an economic development project

Dave Mooney said...

I think it's pretty cool that the CGA is once again going to pass landmark, first-in-the-nation legislation on a progressive issue. CT will be the first state to have publicly financed state campaigns coming out of state legislation. Despite the desire to protect incumbency, there is a real element of progressive activism in Hartford. I have a feeling we'll be talking about CT being the first state in the nation with a universal health care system over the next few years.

Anonymous said...

then Mr. Mooney, CT will be the first state to file under Chapter 12 of the Bankrutcy Code as we will be the magnet for all of America's (strike that..the planet's....)ill and infirm

Anonymous said...

How does one stop sham primaries and sham challengers?

Under this plan a state senator in a one party district would get a larger primary grant than a priamry in a competitive district. So let's say John Fonfara wants to promotea bid for higher office. First he would find a warm body to file for a Democrat primary and do nada. Then take his $75,000 check from the election commission to Channel 3. Then, make sure he gets an R to file for the general election. Pick up another $85,000 to promote his campaign.

Meanwhile, two real candidates in a balanced seat like the 4th or the 7th have to a run a campaign on fumes on the primary and a nickle and dime general.

It seems this will be easily gamed to help self-promoting pols in safe seats while voters in competitive races get less information about the candidates due to the penurious spending caps.

Fine, like the voters in swing districts aren't already starved for relevant information in state elections. Don;t think the dinosaur print media is going to fill the void, hell, they may be out of business in a decade

DeanFan84 said...

Got to agree with you, Anon1:25pm

This system will be gamed.

After that, one of two things will happen. Either they fix the system, or they use the abuse as justificiation for getting rid of it.

My money is on the latter, particularly if Rell wins next year. This isn't a left/right issue, it's about INCUMBENCY. Rell for all her posturing represents the status quo. DeStefano is an agent of change.

Proud Moderate Dem said...

deanfan, rell is not accepting PAC money, DeSafano is. please tell me how this falls into your statement of rell representing status quo and DeStafano representing change? i will not be voting for Rell in '06 but I do feel that she has done very good things in the area of Campaign Finance Reform.

Anonymous said...


DeStefano, you mean the guy the Advocate did the "City for Sale" series on?

I heard an appropriate Billy Joel song this morning on 105.9

"it's just a fantasy...it's not the real thing"

FrankS said...

The legal challenges to Vermont's campaign financing now before the U. S. Supreme Court will define how our system will operate, but passing this begins the reform effort.

Frankenstein Roosevelt said...

Destefano is an agent of change... change is all you'll have in your pocket when he's done repaying the unions for putting him in the governor's mansion.

Anonymous said...

Rell's going to raise PAC, lobbiest and state contractor money through the state party.

DeanFan84 said...


Call me cynical, but Rell didn't really support any CFR legislation until she saw Opportuniy-- following the Dems' bungling of the issue.

Anyway, the whole CFR thing is a sham, on both sides of the aisle. No one in Hartford wants to open anything up. It's all about Incumbency, not ideology. Each side is comfortable about cutting deals with each other. The status quo rules. And there is little accountability to the People.

As a Mayor, and not a Hartford pol, I see DeStefano as an outside-the-beltway figure. Rell, a veteran of Statehouse politics, is a true insider. That is what I mean about John being a potential agent for change.

Everyone should know that DeStefano came from a New Haven political system that was dominated by cronyism. However, in the seven years since the "City for Sale" fiascos, John has surrounded himself with a totally different supporting cast. As such, I give him the benefit of the doubt in his Gubernatorial run, one in which he has positioned himself as an open Progressive.

Anonymous said...

"totally different supporting cast"

I'm sure Bubba has different interns now, too. And Ken Lay probably would hire different staff if Enron was still in business

Moderate Republican said...

Here is what will change if this legislation is passed: NOTHING.

Campaign Finance reform is irrelevant. Money will find a way into campaigns, just like it did with 529s on the federal level. The system will be gamed. Does anyone think that public financing will change the election result in Ernie Newton or Judy Freedman's districts?

The only real reform is to fix the gerrymandered districts that exist right now. At least 24 of the 36 districts are safe Republican or Democrat-- no matter how much money is spent.

This bill should be voted down. Rell, the Democrats, everyone is fooling themselves and the public in an attempt to be "reformers".

Gabe said...

Anon 5:34 - When do you anticipate the intern jokes to get old? I mean, its been almost ten years, let it go...

Anonymous said...

Dunno. Gabe, maybe when you let him babysit your teenage daughter

Expecting someone to change is the leading reason for a bad marriage and a future divorce. But this is the best DeStefano's supporters can offer. "Yes, he was a sleazy big city political boss, but now he's changed. really... he has...just trust us..."

Excuse me for thinking it would be a mistake for CT to tie the knot. Our taxpayers will be the ones bound in this "relationship"

Brass Tacks said...

Gee whiz... Amann sez he's only got 60 votes.

He's bluffing. He's got more, thanks to the protections in the bill that still let well-financed incumbents run "the old-fashioned way."

They're very dangerously pinnign the End of Cynicism in Politics on this bill.

What'll they outlaw next when it doesn't work?

Cynicism isn't from the money. It's from pols promising to do one thing and then doing another. The voters get that, you'd think with all the money they spend on polling, the pols would.

Prediction: It will pass after a long and bloody debate. The Senate won't start before 3. The House won't have the bill before 10 pm. The Gov will sign it.

DeanFan84 said...

It says a lot about Rell and her supporters that they have to lurk here as anonymous.

Maybe our troll is this ex-donkey who lives in Bridgeport and links to CTLocalPolitics on his Ann Coulter inspired site.

Ex-Donkey says he grew-up a Democrat, (his Dad was a union plumber), voted for Mondale, Dukakis, Clinton, and Clinton again-- but finally saw the light in George W. Bush.

Hey, Ex-Donkey, if you are lurking out there, register a handle, and come out to play.

Anonymous said...

The only 'progressivism' in this bill is symbolic. One, it provides for voluntary public financing. Two, it sets unreasonable thresholds to receive financing.

Third parties will remain on the "fringe".