Minor party candidates who joined lobbyists and the American Civil Liberties Union in filing Connecticut’s campaign finance lawsuit thought they won a major victory in Aug. 2009 when U.S. District Court Judge Stephan Underhill found that the program imposed an unfair burden for minor party candidates seeking to qualify for matching campaign funds
But almost a year later the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned that part of Underhill’s decision leaving in place the higher burden for minor party candidates.
Just last week the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court asking it to review that portion of the case.
In a press release Monday, proponents of the Connecticut Citizens’ Election Program argue minor party candidates are making erroneous claims and jeopardizing the entire program.
“The plaintiffs in this case are making the erroneous claim that the Citizens’ Election program unfairly burdens minor party candidates,” Karen Hobert Flynn, vice president of Common Cause, said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Under this program, minor party candidates who work hard have been able to participate in this program and have access to never before available financial resources.”
“Connecticut’s law is constitutional,” Hobert Flynn said.
Lawyers representing the interests of Hobert Flynn and a handful of other intervenors will argue the issue of minor party candidates was settled by Buckley v. Valejo in 1976.
The pro bono legal team establish by Democracy 21 said in a press release Monday that in the Connecticut case the Second Circuit held that Connecticut could constitutionally distinguish between major and minor party candidates in setting qualification standards. The court quoted Buckley, which said that the “Constitution does not require the Government to finance the efforts of every nascent political group,” for “[s]ometimes the grossest discrimination can lie in treating things that are different as though they were exactly alike.”
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last month to take up Arizona’s case and review the issue of whether the spending of a wealthy candidate should trigger additional state funds for the participating candidate.
Connecticut removed its trigger provisions from its program after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals warned it would be unconstitutional to give a participating candidate more money if they are running against a wealthy non-participating candidate.
During a special legislative session in August the Connecticut legislature removed the trigger provisions and increased the amount of money a gubernatorial candidate could receive for a general election. It was the vote that gave Gov.-elect Dan Malloy $6 million for the general election.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule next spring on whether to grant certiorari in Connecticut’s case. If certiorari is granted, the court is expected to hear the case in the fall of 2011.