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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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.”

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.”

The IRS or SEC Could Help Reduce Dark Money

This piece ties the two trends of relaxing campaign finance limits and disclosure laws and tightening voter id laws and explores potential solutions from the IRS and SEC

Salon: “What if Washington, D.C., adopted a comprehensive disclosure law? In 2010, Congress came within one vote of overcoming a party-line filibuster to pass the DISCLOSE Act. Since then, the need for improved transparency has only grown more urgent and it’d be nice if the Republican Congress would adopt a donor ID law. (Don’t hold your breath, said Demos’Liz Kennedy.)

“Better to lay your bet on the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to protect shareholders and the “integrity of the markets.” It could issue a rule requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose political spending to shareholders.”

“Or maybe the taxman could help. The Internal Revenue Code does not require nonprofits organized under section 501(c)4 or 501(c)(6) to disclose their donors to the public. Yet, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act calls for exactly those groups to disclose their donors when they run “issue ads” that mention a candidate. Confusing? You bet! The law and the code don’t match up and things get even muddier when you factor in other federal agencies. As this chart demonstrates, the tangled web of campaign finance is enough to give even an offshore banker a migraine.

Anti-Reformer Argues Outside Spending Necessary to Balance Incumbents, Media and Is Small Part of Economy

The Denver Post: “Legislated campaign-finance reforms limiting contributions to candidates and political parties have proven to be ineffectual, merely diverting spending to outside individuals and groups, which the Supreme Court has rightly ruled is political speech protected by the First Amendment. This is essential to balance the power to influence public opinion wielded by incumbents and the media, also protected by the First Amendment.

‘The Center for Responsive Politics estimates that close to $4 billion was spent on campaigns for federal offices during the midterm election. That sounds like a lot until you compare it to our $18 trillion economy. Americans spent $6 billion on Halloween this year. Proctor & Gamble spent $5 billion advertising soap and other stuff. Government spending, regulations and intrusions on business and personal freedoms have grown ever larger. So, it’s inevitable, rational and justified that political spending would grow along with it from those on the receiving end of government payments and favors, and those subject to government restrictions and taxes.”