Keeping Dark Money Out Of Elections

May 26, 2017

Representative Andy Fleischmann (D-West Hartford) applauded the House passage of a bill he championed that will reduce the role of special interest “dark money” in state election campaigns.

The legislation, HB 5589, An Act Concerning Campaign Finance Reform, would strengthen the law for disclosure and regulation of the growing use of anonymous bundled campaign money, known as independent expenditures, which are playing an increasingly prominent role in our elections.

“This measure establishes stronger disclosure rules for campaign donations, and builds more transparency and accountability into our system,” Fleischmann said. “Since the creation of ‘super-PAC’s, too much money has poured into our campaign system without transparency or accountability. This legislation will restore our ability to see who is actually funding various ads and campaigns that seem to come out of nowhere.”

Fleischmann, who played a key role in passage of the Citizens Election Program adopted in 2005, recalled how big money previously dominated and influenced elections and the work of lawmakers. “When we first sought reform, we were told that we were naïve, and that the system would not change. And then we had a state treasurer go to prison, and a governor go to prison, and people’s eyes finally opened,” he said.

The new legislation:

  • Codifies “independent expenditure political committees” as a type of political committee (PAC)
  • Requires governing board approval by entities making political disbursements over $10,000
  • Limits contributions of any super PAC making independent expenditures to an aggregate of $70,000 in a calendar year,
  • Prohibits foreign influenced entities from making independent expenditures or covered transfers, closing a loophole created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
  • Provides for expedited review by SEEC of certain campaign complaints
  • Reduces grants for CEP candidates who file late in the election cycle
  • Clarifies exceptions from disclaimer requirements for small-sized internet or social media ads or links to same

The House passed HB 5589 by a 79-70 vote. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.