HARTFORD – Connecticut House and Senate Republicans slammed Democrats for their failure to lead on the important issue of campaign finance reform. Democrats are pushing forward a campaign finance bill that fails to close clean election loopholes and address the flaws exposed during the last election cycle.
The proposed legislation, SB 1126 An Act Concerning Revisions to Campaign Finance Laws, drafted by Democrats in the Government Affairs and Elections (GAE) Committee, also excludes all of the Republicans’ campaign finance proposals made this year in an effort to strengthen the Citizen’s Election Program.
“Connecticut’s Citizen’s Election Program is broken, and so is Connecticut’s promise to taxpayers,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “Nearly a decade ago, Connecticut made a deal with taxpayers: fund state campaigns with taxpayer money in exchange for clean elections untouched by the influence of special interest groups. But after years of attacks on this program, Connecticut is unable to uphold its end of the bargain. We have an obligation to right this wrong. Unfortunately, the legislation now under consideration by the GAE Committee does not go far enough to plug the holes in this quickly sinking ship.”
“Republicans have offered five sensible fixes to Connecticut’s broken campaign finance system to close loopholes and once again eliminate pay-to-play for state contractors. They were ignored. And the bill up for consideration makes things worse,” House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby) said. “This bill does nothing to regain the public’s expectation of clean elections in Connecticut,” Klarides added.
Senate and House Republicans proposed a package of reforms to election laws this year, including the following changes:
1) Cap organizational expenditures by state parties (SB 612)
2) Reduce individual donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000 (HB 6084)
3) Stop state contractor funds from being used in state races (SB 385)
4) Eliminate grants to unopposed candidates (SB 224)
5) Reduce all Citizens’ Election Program grants by 25% (SB 225)
None of the above proposals were included in the overarching committee bill.
Republicans also took issue with two sections of the Democrats’ proposal that would further weaken clean election laws. One section would change regulations to limit the time the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) can conduct an audit to three months and would prohibit audits on candidates who were audited in the previous election cycle, which could foster system abuse. Another section would eliminate an SEEC regulation which would open the door to allow candidates to funnel their unused campaign funds to another candidate through coordinated campaign expenditures, thereby circumventing the intention of public financing.
“Those who want more transparency in Connecticut political campaigns will be sadly disappointed if this legislation passes in its current form,” said Sen. Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury), Ranking Member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee. “If this bill becomes law, money will continue to trump sunlight, and Connecticut will continue down the wrong path. Our campaign laws already have gaping loopholes, but those loopholes will grow even larger with this legislation.”