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.”

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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.”

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.

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.”

WA Op-Ed Calls for Increased Disclosure at State, Local Level

Spokesman-Review: “Sen. Andy Billig’s bid to illuminate secret political contributions died in the last Legislature. But subsequent campaign shenanigans that threatened the Republicans’ hold on the Senate have drawn more bipartisan support for the idea.”

“In the meantime, the Legislature can do its part by passing SB 5153, which would force disclosure when campaign-related spending exceeds $25,000 in statewide races or $5,000 in local contests. This would expose groups trying to influence elections from the shadows, without discouraging the activity of small nonprofits formed as legitimate social welfare organizations.

“The Public Records Act and the Public Disclosure Commission are products of a 1972 ballot measure. Voters have made it very clear they support transparency and accountability.”

VT House Creates First-Ever Ethics Panel

Seven Days; “The panel will be charged with investigating complaints of ethical violations committed by House members and will be empowered to recommend disciplinary actions to the body as a whole. The five-member committee will also oversee the creation of a new, online database disclosing members’ employment and board service.”

“Ethical issues loomed large last year after retired Wall Street banker Bruce Lisman and the advocacy group he founded, Campaign for Vermont, proposed a far-reaching set of recommendations for increased disclosure within state government. In response, Smith appointed Sweaney, who chairs the House Committee on Government Operations, to lead a group studying the House’s policies.”