Party, Outside Spending in CT Elections Prompt Calls for Public Financing Reforms

CT Mirror: “State contractors spent freely to support the re-election of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a publicly financed candidate, despite a prohibition enacted in 2005 in response to the bid-rigging scandal that toppled Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.

“The state’s laws on disclosure fell short as Republican Tom Foley, also a publicly financed candidate for governor, benefitted from a $1.17 million contribution from an out-of-state Super PAC, whose financial backers remain unknown.”

“It is unclear who will be the commission’s champion.

“The Malloy administration, which has stripped the commission and other watchdog agencies of staff and other resources, says only that it will watch with interest. And legislators, who are their own special interest group when it comes to election laws, tend to view campaign-finance rules through the narrow prism of self-interest.

“The top leaders of the General Assembly, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, already disagree on whether the legislature should impose a new cap on the expenditures a state party can make in support of a publicly financed legislative candidate.”

WA State Rep Proposes Jail Time for Funneling Contributions

KONP: “Rep. Kevin Van De Wege has proposed legislation that would give the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) the option to recommend felony charges when it deals with egregious violations of campaign finance laws.

“Currently, the PDC is limited to fining donors who purposefully and willfully circumvent laws designed to make contributions transparent. This proposal would require the PDC to refer violations to the state attorney general for criminal prosecution, a dramatic change for those who attempt to circumvent Washington State law and one that will help keep the public informed on who spends money on elections in the state.”

CA City Considers How to Update Rules after Citizens United

The Daily Journal: “Increasing the maximum amount of campaign contributions and whether businesses should be allowed to donate money to candidates are among the considerations the Belmont City Council will explore as it evaluates whether its current policies are both legal and timely.

“The council discussed updating its ordinance Tuesday night along with getting rid of a third campaign contribution report, whether donors must disclose their identity and who should be allowed to contribute to those running for any city office.”

“Seeking consistency with constitutional law

“Currently, those running for a Belmont office are barred from accepting contributions from businesses or organizations and conflicts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.”

Summary of New Campaign Finance, Ethics & Lobbying Laws Nationwide

National Law Review: “The New Year brings with it new laws governing campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics. Below we highlight some of the major state and federal laws that took effect on or around January 1. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most significant changes that are new for 2015. In addition to the new laws outlined below, many state legislative sessions are starting up. Some states prohibit campaign finance activity during the session, so proceed with caution.”

CAP Calls for Administration to Take Action through IRS, SEC, Federal Contractors

Center for American Progress: “”Specifically, CAP is calling on the executive branch to act in the following three areas:

  • IRS rulemaking on political activity by nonprofit organizations: Current regulations enable so-called dark-money groups to masquerade as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations, thereby avoiding campaign finance disclosure laws. The IRS should clarify the rules for 501(c) organizations and should also tackle the problem of undisclosed political spending more directly by amending the regulations for Section 527 of the tax code. Rather than simply regulating dark money groups out of Section 501(c), the IRS should regulate those groups into Section 527 and thereby mandate public disclosure of donors.
  • Political activity by federal contractors: The executive branch should mandate further disclosure of political spending by federal contractors and should furthermore require those contractors take steps to ensure that they are not making impermissible federal political contributions.
  • SEC rulemaking: Currently, there is no rule requiring corporations to disclose political activity expenditures to their shareholders. The SEC should prioritize the development and implementation of a political activity disclosure rule. This corporate transparency would not only help to ensure that corporate spending is in line with shareholder interest, but it would also combat the problem of dark money.”

More information here.

Study Finds that Public Financing Reduces Incumbent Advantage, Increases Competitiveness but also Polarization

Washington Post: “That is the conclusion of political scientist Andrew Hall. He focuses on state legislative elections and compares trends in the five states that implemented robust public funding programs — Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — to trends in other states. Here is what he finds:

  • As intended, public funding reduces the financial advantage of incumbents.
  • As intended, public funding reduces the incumbents’ margin of victory. That is, it makes elections more competitive.
  • Not intended: public financing makes polarization in the state legislature worse.”

“In a more elaborate statistical analysis, Hall examines the gap between Republican and Democratic legislators representing similar districts. In a polarized legislature, a Republican and a Democrat will tend to vote in very different ways even though they represent essentially the same constituents. Hall finds that public financing increases this gap between the parties by 30 percent.”

Activists March Across CA, CT for Change

Concord Monitor: “Kai Newkirk organized a 500-mile march across California to promote political equality regardless of wealth. In part, he learned how to coordinate that movement, an effort of the group 99 Rise that he said was a ‘huge logistical undertaking,’ from his experience last year with the N.H. Rebellion.”

“They arrived in the state capital after 37 days of walking. Newkirk said not every night of the trek was planned, but as they moved along and gained attention, they didn’t have any problems finding places to stay.”

The N.H. Rebellion, with its much shorter timespan and distance, follows a more strict plan as it makes its way from Dixville Notch to Concord – and as simultaneous walks begin out of Portsmouth, Nashua and Keene.

“N.H. Rebellion Director Jeff McLean said this year’s event is much more complicated than the previous one because of the additional routes. He said compared with last year, which had an abundance of organizers with clear roles, the team members have been stretched out.