In 2005 the Connecticut General Assembly passed historic legislation implementing some of the most restrictive campaign financing laws in the nation at that time. Democrat leadership touted this momentous “Citizens Election Program” law as an end to corruption in Connecticut. The papers were filled with Democrats’ “pat on the back” quotes proclaiming clean elections for all.
But sadly, since that time the Democratic majority in Connecticut, backed by an enabling governor, has proposed and passed a series of laws to weaken and nearly eliminate the intent and purpose of the original law.
• Just three days after the 2010 primary, Democrats overrode a Gov. Rell veto so they could double the amount of taxpayer funds for gubernatorial candidates to $6 million, filling Gov. Malloy’s campaign coffers.
• Gov. Malloy tried unsuccessfully in March 2012 to allow publicly financed candidates to raise unlimited funds from special interest groups if they faced a high spending opponent.
• In June 2013 Democrats opened the clean elections program to a flood of special interest money when they voted to allow unlimited organizational expenditures from state central committees, double individual limits to PACs and party committees including federal accounts, and allow organizational expenditures to be used for negative campaigning.
Republicans tried repeatedly to stop the regression of Connecticut’s clean election protections. But Democrats rejected our proposals to strengthen the Citizens Election Program, including a Republican proposal to stop state contractors from donating to federal accounts to fund state races.
The Democrats’ opposition to Republican reforms is not surprising when you consider that Democrats capitalized on the very behavior we were trying to prevent — using federal accounts to get around state law. And now, with a federal investigation underway into this very same behavior in Gov. Malloy’s 2014 re-election campaign, we fully understand why the Democratic majority worked so hard to weaken a system they once championed. The motivation to erode the system is simple: Democrats want to preserve their power at all costs.
When the laws went into effect there was a Republican governor. However, once a Democratic governor was elected, the Democratic leadership began systematically disassembling the state campaign financing laws. With their own governor in place, all set to draw in large donors, it was time to shed the restrictions and allow the “golden goose” to lay the golden egg of political fundraising to keep their own party in power.
There is no interest like self-interest. The Democrat majority didn’t implement campaign finance reforms to win the trust of Connecticut residents. They implemented the reforms for power and politics — the same reasons why they reversed the restrictions once they won the governor’s seat.
Because Republican attempts to amend the law to its original language and impose tougher restrictions were rejected, we have since called for eliminating the law entirely in its present form. Right now, the mangled law completely fails to ensure clean elections and instead provides a false cover for Democrats to continue abusing the system and violating the public’s trust. The federal investigation into the Gov. Malloy re-election campaign solidifies what Republicans have been saying for years: Democrats have ignored the intent of the state’s clean election laws and let dark money in.
When Connecticut lawmakers passed the clean election laws they promised that in exchange for taxpayer funded campaigns the public would get clean elections. That promise has been broken. Today, it’s going to take a lot to fix it, and to restore public trust.
First, Democratic leaders must assert that no money from the State Democratic Party will be used to benefit any Democrat candidate while this federal investigation is underway. Second, the Democratic majority in the legislature should go into special session immediately to reinstate the original campaign finance legislation.
Of course, the Democrats won’t do either because both would upset their power. They will also say that the $11,000 cost of a special session is too high. This begs the question: what price tag do the Democrats put on trust?
Len Fasano, R-North Haven, is the state Senate minority leader.