HARTFORD–The State House of Representatives convened in special session today to address sections of sweeping campaign finance reform laws enacted in 2005 that were struck down recently by the U.S. Court of Appeals and the District Court. Democrats are seizing on the opportunity to expand the already expensive public financing of campaigns by $6 million.
The campaign finance reform law established the Citizens Election Fund (CEP) which provides taxpayer money for qualifying candidates for use in their political campaigns. A previous court ruling declared the prohibition of lobbyist money to be unconstitutional.
A federal appeals court found that supplemental grants triggered by an opponent’s spending are also unconstitutional. As a result, Democrats in the legislature are looking to increase the amount of taxpayer money candidates for governor can receive for use in the general election. They have proposed increasing the expenditures for each major party candidate from $3 million to $6 million each.
“We understand that the courts are changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero, Jr. “But we also have to recognize that the state is bleeding red ink. How can we seriously propose spending $6 million more in taxpayer dollars for political television ads, bumper stickers and lawn signs while at the same time we are asking everyone else to cut back?”
Cafero noted that since the courts had ruled lobbyist money cannot be prohibited, donations in $2,500 increments from individuals, including lobbyists, to gubernatorial campaigns up to the $3 million mark for each campaign would level the playing field without using more taxpayer dollars. House Republicans will offer an amendment to do just that.
Democrats are also proposing that lobbyist contributions should count toward the financial goal of campaigns qualifying for state grants. House Republicans oppose that effort.
“Proponents of taxpayer-financed campaigns have said all along their purpose was to take the influence of lobbyist money out of politics,” said Cafero. “Yet, by allowing lobbyist money to count toward helping a candidate qualify for money from the CEP program, it can be argued that they might now have more influence than they did before.”