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.”

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.

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, AR MO, CT, ME Most Likely Places to Seek Reform

Huffington Post:

New Mexico: Outside Spending & Coordination

“New Mexico was one of the worst-prepared states for the altered campaign finance landscape wrought by the Citizens United decision. The state’s laws had no legal definition or standard for either independent expenditures or coordination between an independent group and a candidate or party committee. And, like every other state, New Mexico did not require disclosure of donors to nonprofits active in electoral politics.”

Arkansas: Ethics & Disclosure

“Arkansas voters this year passed a ballot initiative with significant campaign finance and ethics reforms, including a total ban on direct corporate contributions to candidate campaigns. The state-level reform group Regnat Populus hopes to build on this success with an initiative in 2016 to expand these reforms and enact new disclosure rules for independent groups.”

Missouri: Contribution Limits, Gifts & Disclosure

“These outsized contributions [from a Missouri mega-donor] that came after Missouri ended its campaign contribution limits are sparking action.

“Democratic lawyer Brad Ketcher said he will propose a constitutional amendment for the ballot that would re-establish contribution limits for legislative candidates, place limits on lobbyist gifts and impose strong coordination rules on independent spending.”

“The issue is gaining attention from Republicans as well. Republican state Rep. Caleb Rowden (R-Jefferson City) introduced legislation to require disclosure of dark money spent by nonprofit groups on elections, ban lobbyist gifts and increase campaign finance disclosure.”

Maine & Connecticut: Public Financing

“In Maine, this means lawmakers would be allotted public funds in an amount appropriate to counteract the dramatic increase in independent spending since Citizens United. Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is working to get an initiative on the ballot in the next election.

“Connecticut legislators are expected to tackle similar fixes, according to groups involved in reform efforts.”

56% of 513 Publicly Financed Candidates Win 60% of Seats in Three States Where Available

Public Campaign: “In Connecticut, Arizona, and Maine, state programs are in place offering grants to candidates who raise a minimum number of local, small donations. A key component of these systems was eliminated after a Supreme Court decision in 2011 struck down “triggered matching funds,” an important mechanism for publicly funded candidates to compete with high-spending opponents and outside money groups. In addition, post-Citizens United rules made independent expenditures a larger part of politics. Under this duress, how are these systems responding?

“Connecticut’s program remains strong, with high levels of participation. Results in Maine and Arizona were in line with the declines in participation that began after the court decisions discussed above.

“Arizona’s participation rates were particularly low, in part due to a radical increase in contribution
limits. Despite all this, the small donor driven systems in these three states moved nearly 300 candidates forward to victory this cycle. There are also promising stories of candidates—particularly women—whose success was made possible through campaigns focused on voters and small donors.”

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Top CT R Leader Is Leaving Office, Vows to Work on Public Financing, Ethics Reforms

Hartford Business: “State Sen. John McKinney (R-Fairfield) has plans for next year when he leaves the General Assembly.”

“McKinney wants to return the state’s Citizen Election Program to the higher ethical and respectable standard it had when it was first enacted by limiting campaign contributions from state political parties and state contractors.

“‘The Democrats and Republicans in Hartford are not going to just do this,’ he told me in a phone conversation last week, ‘they are going have to be shamed into undoing the changes in the law they enacted to allow this to happen.'”

“He’d also like to see the discriminatory provisions of the law removed that prevent third-party candidates from being treated fairly.”

“McKinney’s new-found advocacy is not limited to just the public financing law. He also wants to see the state’s elections watchdog agency, the State Elections Enforcement Commission, have its powers restored and given the ability to act independently.

“And finally, he’d like to see competition restored to General Assembly races by eliminating the gerrymandering tactics of redistricting every 10 years by turning that process over to a non-legislative independent group.

CT Common Cause Calls for Reforms to Protect Public Financing from Outside Spending

CT News: “The Citizens’ Election Program was passed to stop the pay-to-play culture that dominated our campaign finance system when John G. Rowland served as governor. For several election cycles, the program worked well and candidates had the opportunity to run free of special interest money if they chose to do so.

“This cycle, outside money spent in the gubernatorial race and in one state Senate race, has weakened the law and we must strengthen the program to provide candidates additional resources to get their message out in the face of outside funders. We also have to block candidates from coordinating with outside spenders by raising money for these entities.”

This was released in response to a piece criticizing the public financing system from a conservative nonprofit.

CT News; “Ask the third party candidates how they feel about the public finance system, or the Republicans who couldn’t meet the state’s high barriers to entry in the primary and general election.

“It is full-blown hypocrisy for the Democrats to say they support clean and open elections and then behave the way they did this campaign cycle.

“Look at newly-elected state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., who took money from the taxpayer-funded campaign system, then proceeded to spend hundreds of thousands more thanks to the state party.”