Wednesday, January 25, 2006

GOP: Fix Campaign Finance Loopholes

CT News Junkie reports that Legislative Republicans have begun a push to remedy some of the problems with the landmark campaign finance reform bill passed last month (there's also an AP article here):

Republican state senators convened a press conference today and demanded legislation to close a loophole in Connecticut’s new campaign finance reform law. The loophole allows leadership PAC’s to make unlimited in-kind contributions to so-called clean candidates.
“We’re here today because when the bill was debated, there was widespread acknowledgment that it had serious flaws that would need to be addressed, and we’re calling on all the members of the General Assembly to keep the promise to make this reform real,” said state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen). “Let’s make it real.” (Levine)

Republicans, of course, opposed the bill en masse in December, despite the fact that their party's leader, Gov. Jodi Rell, supported it. The Democrats were quick to point out their change of mind:

Senate Democrats issued a statement criticizing the Republicans for suggesting changes to a bill they had opposed last December.
Had Republicans supplied their votes last fall, perhaps the campaign finance bill would have had enough support last fall to pass without the leadership PAC loophole, said state Rep. Chris Caruso (D-Bridgeport), co-chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. (Levine)

It is pretty interesting that the Republicans seem to have quickly come around, but perhaps they are just being realists. They have two choices: defy the governor and the Democrats and try to repeal the bill (good luck), or try to shame the Democrats into making the bill more fair to everyone. The second option is infinitely preferable, because the Republicans can, in the process, look like reformers while the Democrats are stuck trying to explain how the PAC loophole got in there in the first place.

Hopefully this will mean that the Republicans are actually willing to work with Democrats to make this bill better, and that both parties will buy into real campaign finance reform. The bill does need fixing. If the Republicans want to help fix it, so much the better.


Levine, Dan. "Republicans Press Campaign Finance Issue." CT News Junkie 25 January, 2006. URL:


the wandererr said...

Amann promised when he was elected majority leader to use the committe process before bringing bills to the floor. the CFR was done in a back room with the Donkey leadership and a couple of lobbyists who got paid for pushing public finacing at all costs.

If you check around you'll fond that at least one Democrat said he wanted to fix the law to get rid of the PAC's; he stopped short of saying the bill was a sham and that he voted wih hos boss, Amann

ned said...

I want to correct what The Wandererr said. There were no lobbyists with the Donkey leadership (I like the term) behind closed doors. It was union leadership that partnered with the Donkey leadership behind closed doors to draft the Campaign Finance Reform Bill.

Here is one of the most precious and illogical statements I have ever heard come from Senator Donald Williams in response to the GOP Press Conference yesterday:

"It's ironic that they now want to fix something most of them opposed"

You have got to be kidding me. If legislation was passed that I opposed, why wouldn’t I want to try to fix it? What on earth is so ironic about that? Seems to me that trying to fix something you don’t like is a perfectly logical and natural thing to do.

the wandererrrr said...

Unions are lobbyists in my book but I'll stand corrected. I thought one of those 'good govt;' lobbyists had a copy before the GOP did too but who knows.

ned said...

I don't think wandererr is wrong. Unions are lobbyists and special interest groups in my book too.

However, the dems seem to feel there is a distinction. They prohibit state contractors (many of which employ union labor), 'registered' lobbyists and their spouses from contributing to leadership PAC's in any form, yet specify that unions may make unlimited in-kind contributions to those same PAC's.

So it would appear that the dems do not consider unions to be lobbyists or special interest groups.

ned said...

I tried to post this once, but it doesn’t show up. So, I'll try again:

I completely agree with wanderer. Unions are lobbyists and special interest groups in my book too.

Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership seems to feel there is a distinction. The Campaign Finance Reform bill specifically prohibits state contractors (many of which employ union labor), ‘registered’ lobbyists and their spouses from making contributions of any kind to the leadership PAC’s. However, this same bill permits unions to make unlimited in-kind contributions to these very same leadership PAC’s.

So, I think the Democratic leadership has made it very clear with this bill that they don’t consider unions to be lobbyist entities. It would seem that the Democratic leadership believes that union influence on the legislative process needn’t be a concern to anyone; but that state contractors, lobbyists and their spouses, and other special interest groups should be a concern to everyone.

the wandererrrr said...

ned: did you notice the people who supported the attrocity of CFR had nothing to say. It will be intersting to see if the Donkeys let the Elephants fix this historic legislation that Auntie Rell touts one way and the Donkeys tout another.

sanity said...

I honestly believe most of the legislature (donkeys and elephants alike) were opposed to the CFR as submitted for vote and subsequently passed, but that they felt it was a necessary evil to pass it in order to satisfy The Hartford Courant and the CSEU. Remember that less than 2% of people polled in the state actually cared about CFR. This was a bill that was pushed by the unions and popularized by The Hartford Courant.

One theory, which I give some credence to, is that the House leadership allowed the bill to be so poorly written by the primary sponsers of the bill because they thought it would never be passed or, at the very least, would be modified during the next legislative session (read: House Leadership = Jim Amman; Bill Sponsors = Senator Don Williams and the CSEU minus Gov. Rell who initiated the special session but wasn't involved in the draft negotiations).

I think the top two issues in the upcoming session will be job/economic growth and fixing CFR, in that order I hope. I intend to write more on the problems of CFR because I think it is such a deeply flawed bill. In fact, a year from now when the bill goes into effect I will be an aggrieved party (I am married to a wonderful person who happens to be a lobbyist) and looking to join myself to a lawsuit against CFR.

The courts have ruled that lawsuits may not be brought until the complainant has actually been aggrieved, which in this case won't be until after the 2006 elections. This gives the Connecticut General Assembly less than a year to correct the CFR fiasco before it starts to cost this state some real money and further embarrassment. I think CFR could be a great thing but only if it is implemented logically, rationally, fairly, effectively and constitutionally.

A side note - my spouse's lobbying firm has received as many fundraising solicitations from state legislators in the two months since CFR was passed as they do on average in an entire year!