Three minutes before the clock struck midnight Wednesday evening, the House followed the Senate’s lead and passed a campaign finance reform bill with most of the promises they agreed to early Wednesday afternoon. But the House which had been trying since about 6 p.m. to strike a deal with Republicans failed when Rep. David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, insisted language that would force non-profit providers to disclose financial information was added to the bill. Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, said he looks at campaign finance and non-profit disclosure in the same way and feels they should both be public. “If the Republicans would get off this disclosure issue we could pass a bill,” Caruso said around 9 p.m. outside the House. At which time, Republicans accused Caruso of wanting to kill his own bill for the sake of non-profit disclosure. The final language in the bill was never disclosed, “all we have is a draft,” House Minority Leader Robert Ward, R-North Branford, said.
Click here and read what happened earlier in the day. By Wednesday evening, Republicans were furious that Democrats added the non-profit provision, but were still willing to make a deal: Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s state ethics reform language for the non-profit disclosure clause. Caruso front center, O’Brien back right, and Sen. Andrew Roraback back left. (Paul Bass photo)When the deal fell through, the two sides pointed fingers, almost exchanged blows on the floor of the House, and called each other names. Caruso said the Republicans never came back to the table with their offer. But Ward said that’s not true. The man behind the scenes who worked the whole mess out in the end was Rep. Timothy O’Brien, D-New Britain. O’Brien said it looked like the Senate would be able to pass a 70-page bill without the non-profit disclosure provision and get it down to the House about 10-minutes before the midnight. “It’s the tension between doing strong reform and reform that can get passed,” O’Brien said. “If you give up too early you don’t get enough, but if you give up too late you don’t get anything.“The bill forbids in-kind leadership PAC contributions to candidates in party primaries. It also limits their contributions to $3,500 per candidate in House races, $10,000 in Senate races.In addition it includes some state ethics reform such as the revolving door policy that prohibits state officials from employment with state contractors one year out of office (think former Gov. John G. Rowland) and prohibits acceptance of gifts or fees for a speaking engagement(think Rowland’s wife Patty). Most importantly it fixes the severability clause that could undue the entire piece of legislation before it even goes into effect in 2008. Common Cause Executive Director Andrew Sauer said people have already threatened to challenge the loophole in court, which is why he advocated specifically for that to be fixed this year. “The rest could have waited,” he has said. The bill approved by the House 122-23 and the unanimously by the Senate is expected to be signed by Rell, who shook Sauer’s hand before she entered the hall of the House, Thursday morning. Thrilled his battle had been won, Sauer said he was going to celebrate by going home and going to bed.