Opponents of Connecticut’s public campaign financing law are rallying around this week’s U.S. Supreme Court order that barred Arizona officials from distributing matching funds to state candidates who agree to spend only public money on their campaigns.
Lawyers involved in the Connecticut lawsuit involving a similar public financing system filed a letter with the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals this week asking the appellate judges to take notice of the Supreme Court’s order in the Arizona case.
The 2nd Circuit Court is currently considering a decision by a U.S. District Court judge who found last August that Connecticut’s public finance law is unconstitutional because it creates an unfair burden for minor party candidates. The appellate court is also considering a portion of the law the judge upheld which bans lobbyists and contractors from contributing to campaigns.
Mark Lopez, the attorney arguing the case on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter to the court this week “gently urging,” it to take a look at the U.S. Supreme Court’s order in Arizona case, which supports some of his arguments in the Connecticut case.
“The payment of matching funds to major party candidates under these circumstances only adds to the burden of minor party and independent candidates from being excluded from the public financing system in the first place,” Lopez wrote in an earlier letter to the court.
He said the difference between the Arizona and Connecticut laws are that the Arizona law is party neutral, but Connecticut’s is not. The independent expenditures under the Connecticut system only add to the burden of minor party candidates, he said.
Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, said despite Lopez’s letter the 2nd Circuit Court was most likely already aware of the Supreme Court’s order in the Arizona case that vacated the 9th Circuit’s stay of an order barring enforcement of Arizona’s Clean Elections Act.
Both the Arizona and Connecticut clean election laws aim to dilute the political influence of private and special interest groups. Opponents of the law say it chills their political speech because it forces them to limit how much they spend on their own campaigns to avoid triggering matching funds for their clean election opponents.
“There’s no question that granting a stay in the Arizona case is troubling,” Rotman said Friday afternoon.
The difference at the moment between Arizona and Connecticut is that Connecticut has already starting doling out the matching funds to candidates. In Arizona the funds had yet to be distributed before the court issued its order.
In Connecticut gubernatorial hopeful Dan Malloy an additional $937,500 in supplemental funds to match his opponent’s spending. Based on the spending of his Democratic opponent Ned Lamont, Malloy could receive an additional $312,500 for the primary.
“The good news right now is that we’re still waiting on the 2nd Circuit Court decision,” Rotman said. “There’s nothing the 2nd Circuit Court has to do right now.”
It’s possible the court may ask all the parties in the case to file supplemental briefs and address the issue, Rotman said. But that hasn’t happened yet.