Well, their proposal is pretty damn close to that…
Earlier this week, the Democratic leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly proposed suspending Connecticut’s public financing system, thereby allowing legislators to transfer about $11 million toward the $254 million budget deficit in this year’s state budget.
Their plan would roll back the campaign finance system that Connecticut adopted after former Governor John Rowland resigned in disgrace and was sent to prison.
Instead of keeping Connecticut’s Clean Election Program in place, Democratic leaders would return the state to the “Wild West” campaign fundraising system that favored incumbents and ensured that campaigns for the legislature were primarily financed by political action committees, lobbyists and those who benefit financially from state contracts.
Without consulting the members of the Senate or House Democratic Caucuses, the plan to suspend Connecticut’s campaign finance system was announced by Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey and Democratic House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz.
The 2006 campaign cycle was the last time Connecticut incumbents enjoyed the full pay-to-play campaign finance game that ensured that most campaign donations went to incumbents and that those funds came from state contractors, lobbyists and political action committees.
In fact, the old “incumbent protection” system was working so well that neither Senator Martin Looney nor Representative Brendan Sharkey even had opponents, while Senator Bob Duff and Representative Joe Aresimowicz were able to easily raise far more campaign money than their challengers.
Although Senator Looney didn’t even have an opponent that year, he raised more than $43,000 for his campaign, nearly 60 percent coming from PACs and a large percentage of his individual contributions from lobbyists and state contractors.
Senator Duff raised over $100,000 in 2006, with well over 60 percent coming from PACS, Lobbyists and state contractors, while Representative Aresimowicz collected over $40,000 with more than 70 percent coming from PACS, lobbyists and state contractors.
The leadership proposal designed to return Connecticut campaign finance system and elections to the dark ages drew immediate condemnation from organizations dedicated to more open and transparent elections and government including,the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG), Common Cause and the national democracy advocacy group, DEMOS.
As the CT Mirror reported,
Tom Swan, executive director of CCAG, said it was especially galling to see Democratic leaders willing to end a program that has provided political newcomers a level playing field for raising money, while they also are proposing cutting business taxes.
“For them to try to stack the deck by eliminating clean elections to fund corporate loopholes is one of the worst public policy proposals from a political perspective I can think of,” said Swan
Common Cause added,
After years of Connecticut being a beacon for the nation for open, transparent elections where money is identified and visible, our successful public financing program for state elections is under attack from Democratic leadership in the Connecticut General Assembly. They are poised to cut $11.7 million from the Citizens’ Election Fund, which will essentially end public financing in Connecticut.
State budget shortfall is a serious issue. However, the answer is not to cut a program which successfully removed the moniker “Corrupticut” from our state – a program overwhelmingly supported by the public that allows people to run who are not wealthy or connected to power and has been used by over 74% of candidates running for state office.
And Demos, a national advocate for Clean Elections stated;
While Seattle and Maine make progress in getting big money out of elections, Connecticut is poised to undo a signature accomplishment—the Citizens Election Program. Facing budget cuts, some legislators in Connecticut have proposed allowing wealthy donors to, once again, dominate the state’s elections.
Connecticut has had state-wide public financing since 2008. Through financing from the Citizens’ Election Fund, candidates who obtain the required number of small donations can receive a lump sum to fund their campaign.
The program has increased participation, diversified the donor pool, helped more candidates of color run for office, and led to policy outcomes more responsive to the needs of the general public rather than the elite donor class.
While the negative response from advocacy groups and newer legislators sends a powerful signal that allowing PACS, lobbyists and state contractors to control Connecticut politics will not be tolerated, this latest Democratic leadership proposal is actually a continuation of the strategy Governor Malloy and the Democrats and the Connecticut General Assembly have used to significantly undermine Connecticut’s once prominent Clean Elections Program.
In recent years, Malloy and Democrats have adopted a series of loopholes in the campaign finance reform law that resulted in Malloy taking $6.5 million in public funds to pay for his 2014 gubernatorial campaign and then collecting millions of dollars for his campaign activities from political action committees and state contractors, funding entities whose donations are supposed to be completely banned under Connecticut’s Public Financing System.
You can read more about the Democratic proposal to drop the “Clean Elections” program at CT Newsjunkie: Dems Would Scrap Clean Election Program To Balance Budget
You can read more on how the existing program has been undermined via the following Wait, What? posts or by going to Wait, What? and searching under “Campaign Finance”.