Defending Citizens Election Program

May 9, 2017

Representative Matthew Lesser speaking in support of Citizens Election Program.

Representative Matthew Lesser, many of his legislative colleagues and leaders of good government advocacy groups called on members of the General Assembly today to defend the state’s Citizens Election Program from GOP efforts to dismantle it.

“We sometimes have amnesia in this building as not too long ago Connecticut had a deplorable reputation across the country for politicians – mayors, state officials and even a governor – going to prison for corrupt practices involving money and election campaigns,” Lesser told a press conference at the Legislative Office Building.

As a result, legislators on both sides of the aisle decided that money and politics could not be mixed anymore and legislation creating the Citizens Election Program was passed.

“Since its enactment, the program has become one of the most successful experiments in public campaign finance in the United States,” Lesser said.

Representative Andy Fleischmann of West Hartford, who served before the program was created, said he and others pushing for election campaign reform were told at the time that they were naïve and things would not change. “And then we had a state treasurer go to prison, a governor go to prison and eyes finally opened,” he said.

“The dynamics and of the way the legislature operates will revert to the Rowland years, if the Citizens Election Program is eliminated,” Fleischmann warned. “We will go back to the system of undue influence by big money on election campaigns, if the program ends,” he said.

Funding for the program and its grants to candidates come not from taxpayer dollars but from the sale of abandoned property and unclaimed bottle deposits.