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.”

Study Finds that Public Financing Reduces Incumbent Advantage, Increases Competitiveness but also Polarization

Washington Post: “That is the conclusion of political scientist Andrew Hall. He focuses on state legislative elections and compares trends in the five states that implemented robust public funding programs — Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin — to trends in other states. Here is what he finds:

  • As intended, public funding reduces the financial advantage of incumbents.
  • As intended, public funding reduces the incumbents’ margin of victory. That is, it makes elections more competitive.
  • Not intended: public financing makes polarization in the state legislature worse.”

“In a more elaborate statistical analysis, Hall examines the gap between Republican and Democratic legislators representing similar districts. In a polarized legislature, a Republican and a Democrat will tend to vote in very different ways even though they represent essentially the same constituents. Hall finds that public financing increases this gap between the parties by 30 percent.”

Proposed ME Clean Money Initiative to Address Weaknesses in System

Fosters: “Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is expected on Jan. 21 to submit a petition for a citizens’ initiative with well over the 61,123 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot this fall. The initiative covers those running for the State House, the Senate and the Blaine House, and builds on Maine’s first-in-the-nation Clean Elections Act passed in 1996.

“Key is a mechanism to overcome a recent Supreme Court ruling that disallows state matching funds to be used in clean elections — a key component to any clean elections system. By requiring candidates to garner a series of $5 donations in order to trigger rounds of matching funds, MCCE legal experts believe the initiative will pass constitutional muster because it will show a candidate has continuing support. But that’s not the only provision in the initiative.

“The measure would force the Maine State Legislature to find the $3 million annually to adequately fund clean elections by closing corporate tax loopholes; require governors-elect to report money spent on inaugural and transition activities; and raise the penalties for violations.”

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.”

Report: NYC Public Financing Widely Used, Created Competition

New York City Campaign Finance Board report: “Candidate participation in the Program has remained extremely high, indicating most candidates feel that matching funds provide an effective way to fund their campaign.

  • “The general election for mayor featured Program participants from both major parties for the first time since 1997. The CFB paid $14 million to mayoral candidates, the most in Program history.
  • “The 2013 elections were the most competitive since 2001. In the Democratic primary for City Council, 38 of 51 districts had contested or competitive races. (Just 30 percent of state Assembly and Senate districts in New York City will have a contested Democratic primary on September 9.)
  • “Two Program candidates for citywide office defeated high-spending, self-funded candidates in the primary elections (Republican mayoral, Democratic comptroller).”