May 8, 2012
ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN ELECTIONS
Reform expands reporting and disclosure requirements for large donors
House Chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee (GAE) Russell Morin said House passage of campaign finance reforms will lead to increased accountability and transparency in Connecticut elections.
HB 5556, An Act Concerning Changes to the Public Financing Act and Other Election Laws modifies state election laws affecting campaign finance and the Citizens' Election Program. The reforms proved necessary after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that, in essence, paved the way for unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations.
“It’s about making sure the candidate backed by the voters wins the election, not the candidate backed by the most corporate dollars,” Rep. Morin said.
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations. The decision has lead to the proliferation of corporate donations and of so-called Super PACs – who dispense millions of dollars to influence voters without disclosing the names of their donors.
In 2005, the General Assembly created the Citizens' Election Program. A voluntary program which provides full public financing to qualified candidates for statewide offices and the General Assembly.
“We need to maintain the integrity of our public finance system. In a time where rich special interests can have too much influence in our elections we need to make sure corporate money does not flood the upcoming campaign season,” Rep. Morin said.
The bill requires any entity making an independent campaign-related expenditure or independent political ad to list the names of their top donors.
“With the Citizens' Election Program we effectively removed special interest money from Connecticut state elections,” Rep. Morin said. “The Supreme Court was pushing us back to the bad old days. This legislation’s greater disclosure empowers small donors and levels the playing field.”
The legislation now goes to the state Senate for consideration.