A day after a key legislative committee rejected the governor’s proposal to allow publicly financed candidates raise unlimited funds if they have been outspent by an opponent — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he was open to finding a legislative solution.
“Listen I think the bill is making progress,” Malloy said Friday following a state Bond Commission meeting.
The governor said the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which equates personhood to corporations “will go down as one of the worst decisions by the Supreme Court in its storied history.” The decision allowed corporations, unions, and special interest groups to funnel unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.
“I believe the Supreme Court changed all the rules and our legislature has to respond in an appropriate fashion, whatever that fashion ends up being,” Malloy said.
Instead of allowing private contributions to be raised by a publicly financed candidate, the General Administration and Elections Committee approved language Thursday that increases the amount of public financing for gubernatorial candidates.
Under the legislation, a gubernatorial candidate would receive a $2.5 million grant for the primary and $9 million grant for the general election. Under the current system a gubernatorial candidate can receive a $1.25 million grant for the primary and a $6 million grant for the general election. The committee bill does not increase the grant amounts for any other positions.
The first publicly financed governor to be elected in the state, Malloy said he hasn’t had enough time to sit down and reflect on whether $9 million would be enough for another gubernatorial bid.
“If I run for re-election, I’ll run for re-election under the public finance system. So I won’t be the person who destroys that system,” Malloy said.
The public grant Malloy received for his general election bid in 2010 was increased from $3 million to $6 million after a veto-override because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision that would have allowed the state to issue supplementary funds if a candidate was outspent by a non-participating opponent.
Clean-election advocates who attended a public forum at the Capitol Monday said Malloy’s approach to solving the problem defeated the entire purpose of the public financing system.
“It certainly betrays the spirit of the law,” Nick Nyhart, co-founder and president of Public Campaign, told lawmakers. “Such a solution could take us back to the days of ‘Corrupticut’ or worse, with gubernatorial candidates forced to rely on millionaire and billionaire special interest contributors, much as we are seeing in this year’s presidential race.”
The revised bill, which was passed 10-5 along party lines Thursday, now goes to the House for a vote.
“The governor’s proposal was clearly put out there as a way to start the discussion,” Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said Monday. “Now we’re finding alternatives that will help us address the landscape after Citizens United but also maintain the integrity of our clean elections system.”
In a press release Thursday, Slossberg touted the committee’s approval of the bill and the strong disclosure requirements included in the legislation.
“The message here is, ‘Own your speech.’ We want voters to be informed about who is spending money to influence elections and how much,” Slossberg said. “This legislation attempts to bring campaign spending into the light.”
The new legislation strengthens those rules, requiring disclosure of donors who make significant contributions for campaign purposes. It also states that if corporate or organizational entities are going to participate in campaign communications and advertising, they must be clear about who is paying for the ad. Also under the legislation, corporations will be required to inform their shareholders about their political activities and spending.