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.”

Republican Pollster Calls for Party to Embrace Campaign Finance Reform

“”Poll after poll shows that the majority of voters of all political stripes are alarmed at the record amounts of money pouring into elections. Voters feel they are being drowned out.

“A bi-partisan poll conducted last year by my firm, Chesapeake Beach Consulting (Republican) and Lake Research Partners (Democratic), found that voters favor a constitutional amendment by a 61-28 percent margin. Presented with arguments for and against an amendment, Republicans strongly favor the amendment – by a 54-36 percent margin. Our poll also found that by a 6-1 margin, voters say that reducing the influence of money in politics is an important issue.

“Until recently, campaign finance reform has been part of the conservative agenda. Bipartisan reform efforts included the 1907 Tillman Act, which banned direct corporate contributions, the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act and the strong amendments to that law that were passed after the Watergate scandal. Let’s not forget the McCain-Feingold Act, introduced by Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and signed into law in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush.”

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.”

MN Prof, Bush Advisor Joins Conservative Reform Group

Minnesota Post: “A University of Minnesota law professor and a political consultant who’s worked on five Republican presidential campaigns – both alumni of the George W. Bush administration – launched a campaign finance reform group Wednesday tilted toward the conservative point of view.

“Richard Painter and Mark McKinnon lead the board of Take Back Our Republic, a fledgling group that does not so much decry the evil of big money as the evil of foreign money in campaigns.”

“A crackdown on accepting foreign money is the stick in the equation, but Take Back also offers a carrot. To encourage small donors, it suggests making contributions to federal campaigns up to $500 exempt from disclosure. Currently, any contribution over $200 must be disclosed.

“The group also supports a tax credit for small political donors, giving contributors a credit for donations up to $200 and a deduction for donations up to $600. Minnesota allows a tax refund — up to $100 — for contributions to state campaigns.”

RI to Consider Preventing Non-Filers of Disclosure Forms from Running

Providence Journal: “Its board is expected to vote — to approve, amend or reject — the staff recommendations for the legislative proposals at a 3 p.m. meeting today.

“Perhaps one of the most significant proposals would put an end to skyrocketing fines racked up by candidates who have failed to file campaign finance reports. But it would also attempt to compel them to pay up by not allowing them to run for office until they’ve settled their bills.

“The proposed change would, “cap total fines at $1,000 and prohibit non-filers and candidates and committees with outstanding fines from declaring for office or accepting contributions or making expenditures until the non-compliance is remedied.'”

Good Overview on Disclosure, Way Forward

Mint Press News: “But it’s not just disclosure exemptions and cleverly promoted television ads that have prompted public concern. Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the unlimited contribution and outside spending amounts have prompted various advocacy groups and legislators to push for remodeling campaign finance and disclosure policies in their states.

“‘Most do not have great disclosure laws or conflict of interest laws,’ Mansur Gidfar, communications director for anti-corruption group Represent.Us, told MintPress. ‘In a lot of cases, every situation around the laws that govern how money interacts with the political process is actually a lot worse at the state level than it is at the federal level.'”

“‘Under current law, regardless of how biased the endless amounts of political ads are in support of or are against a specific candidate, the source of funding for an ad does not have to be disclosed if the ad does not explicitly use the phrases ‘vote for’ or ‘vote against.’

“‘You can spend an unlimited amount of money sending out mail in a legislator’s district saying that Legislator X … has done a terrible job for you,’ [Minnesota state Rep Ryan] Winkler told MintPress.

“But despite any insinuations, the nonprofit organizations can claim their ads are educating voters on an issue, not politicking, as long as they don’t employ those ‘magic’ words.”