In the wake of the resignation of former governor John Rowland, Connecticut adopted key campaign finance reforms, including (1) banning state contractors from contributing to political campaigns; and (2) creating the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP). The CEP provided public financing to candidates who agreed to abide by strict contribution and expenditure limits and mandatory financial disclosures.
The goals of the CEP are clear:
- Allow candidates to compete without reliance on special interest money
- Allow statewide officers and legislators the ability to make decisions free of the influence of, or the appearance that they have been influenced by, donations from special interests
- Restore public confidence in the electoral and legislative processes
- Increase meaningful citizen participation
- Provide the public with useful and timely disclosure of campaign finances.
Governor Malloy’s election in 2010 was a success story for the CEP. He accepted public financing and defeated Tom Foley, his wealthy, largely self-funded opponent.
Unfortunately, only three years after Governor Malloy took office the General Assembly passed Public Act 13-180. Section 28 of the act removed the existing $10,000 cap on how much of any particular campaign’s costs—so-called “organization expenditures”—can be picked up by state party organizations. Legislators also raised the limit on what individuals could give to the state party, to $10,000 from $5,000. P.A. 13-180, sec. 7(a).
These changes make it possible for a candidate who is participating in the CEP to: (1) accept unlimited funds from state parties for operational expenditures; and (2) donate up to $10,000 to the state party, which money can then be funneled back into the candidate’s campaign. (State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. was much criticized for taking advantage of this loophole during his 2014 election campaign.)
The General Assembly should repeal the provisions of Public Act 13-180 that created these loopholes and thereby undermined the laudable objectives of the CEP. Repeal would help restore public confidence in the electoral and legislative process.