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.”

Outside Spending Used to Criticize CT’s Public Financing Program

Courant: “Connecticut’s candidates for governor spent close to $13 million in public campaign financing in this past election. Outside ‘independent’ special interests spent an estimated $17 million on the same race, a fact critics say is proof the system is broken beyond repair.”

At least a dozen bills already have been filed by Republicans in the 2015 General Assembly to repeal or reform Connecticut’s once-heralded Citizen’s Election Program. But the fate of the bills proposed by the Republicans is uncertain in a Democrat-controlled legislature.”

“The State Elections Enforcement Commission, the agency that runs the public financing system, is planning to meet Tuesday to discuss its own reform proposals.”

“‘It’s safe to say we will oppose any proposals to eliminate or weaken the program,’ said Joshua Foley, an SEEC attorney. Foley said reforms the commission will consider are likely to include those that strengthen controls over the outside ‘dark’ money that flooded into Connecticut’s 2014 governor’s race.”

NM State Senator Introduces Bill to Strengthen Public Financing, Disclosure Laws

Albuquerque Business First (12/23): “Wirth’s bill, SB58, is 20 pages long and would make a litany of changes to New Mexico’s public-financing and spending-disclosure regulations. It would prohibit unopposed candidates from collecting funds, bar the use of campaign funds to compensate candidates or their families and give matching funds on small contributions to publicly-financed candidates who are outspent by privately-financed candidates.

“The bill also provides a definition for ‘coordination,’ something currently lacking in state law. Nonprofits are currently required to disclose the source of funds spent in coordination with electoral campaigns, but the law provides no guidance as to what constitutes coordination. Wirth’s bill provides a simple fix, defining ‘coordinated expenduture’ as ‘a campaign expenditure by a person other than a candidate’s campaign that is made at the direction or request of, or in cooperation, consultation or concert with, that candidate’s campaign or any agent or representative of that candidate’s campaign.'”

Use of Public Financing in AZ Down Dramatically Following Court Decisions

Greenfield Reporter (12/19): “Just under a third of the candidates for statewide and legislative offices ran with public funding this year, the Arizona Capitol Times (http://goo.gl/UhD02T) reported.

That’s the lowest percentage since the program’s first year when just over a quarter of the candidates in 2000 used public funding.”

“The 2014 level of candidates’ participation in the public system is in contrast to 2008, the program’s participation peak, when over 60 percent of candidates used public funding. Participation then dropped in 2010 and 2012.

“Only 16 percent of the winning candidates in 2014 ran with public campaign funding — again the lowest percentage since 2000, when 13 percent of successful candidates ran publicly funded campaigns.

“In contrast, most winners in 2008 ran with public funding.

“Campaign consultants said a big factor behind the decrease in candidates’ participation was a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eliminated additional public funding to participating candidates being outspent by privately funded opponents.”

SF Considers How to Take Prevent Outside Spending from Swamping Public Financing System

SF Reporter: “It’s been nine months since city voters elected a new mayor and new councilors to office. The election saw all three mayoral candidates, including winner Javier Gonzales, opt into public financing to presumably limit special interest money in the election. Instead, multiple political action committees backed by organized labor spent nearly $60,000—the same total amount the mayoral candidates got from public financing—supporting Gonzales and giving him what some criticized as a lopsided edge to winning the race.

“Now, the city’s Ethics and Campaign Review Board is reviving that discussion.

“Things are still pretty preliminary. In a meeting Wednesday afternoon, the board appointed a subcommittee—a move that shouldn’t surprise people familiar with how the ECRB does business—to brainstorm ideas to reform the city’s public campaign model.”

NM to Reduce Public Funding During Uncontested Races after Candidate Paid $10K to Lobbyist as Consultant During Such Race

Follow the link for other stories of spending by uncontested publicly financed candidates

Candidate for New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission Democrat Lynda “Lovejoy won a three-way race in the primary election but was unopposed in the general. She received $28,290 in public financing for the primary election and $27,574 for the general.”

“Also, after winning the primary election and before her uncontested election in the general, she paid more than $10,000 to campaign consultant and lobbyist Mark Fleisher of Albuquerque.”

“Fleisher’s lobbying clients this year include a telecommunications company regulated by the PRC. He has also represented a power company before the commission.”

State Sen. Peter Wirth, a major player in the Legislature on issues of campaign finance, says providing public financing to unopposed candidates doesn’t make sense to him.”

“Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, says lawmakers can take a look at the issue as part of a larger overhaul of public financing of campaigns he plans to propose when the Legislature meets in January.”

“In a bid to reduce the influence of money in politics, the state has provided optional public financing to candidates for the PRC since 2006 and for candidates seeking election to the state Appeals and Supreme courts since 2008. Efforts in the Legislature to expand public financing to candidates for other statewide offices have failed.”