Republicans and Democrats in the House united Thursday night to pass legislation that begins to restore the integrity of the state’s campaign finance laws by undoing some of the changes made in 2013. But the legislation’s future in the Senate is uncertain, at best, because there doesn’t appear to be agreement about the bill between the chambers.
The bill reduces public grants to candidates by 25 percent, eliminates grants to unopposed candidates, caps the amount of money the state party can give to a publicly funded candidate, lowers the amount of money an individual can give to a state party from $10,000 to $5,000, and prohibits a state party from using money from its federal account to support a publicly financed candidate. The bill would also limit the amount of money a family member of a candidate could receive from a campaign to $1,000.
Each one of the provisions in the bill addresses a scenario that occurred in the 2014 election cycle.
The bill addresses the Democratic Party’s use of its federal account to send three mailers featuring Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the more than $207,000 in Democratic Party money that went to help fund Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr.‘s state senate campaign, and a recent report by NBC Connecticut’s George Colli, who highlighted the money relatives of state lawmakers received from the Citizens Election Program for the campaign services they provided.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the bill restores the trust established in 2005 when the General Assembly established the Citizens Election Program.
“We pledged to the people of the state of Connecticut that if they trusted us with their hard earned money to clean up this system that we all agreed was broken, it would be fixed,” Klarides said. “We promised to fix this and take special interests out of the equation and restore their trust.”
Klarides and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey expressed concern at the beginning of this year’s legislative session about the fallout from the changes made to the clean election program in 2013. Problems became apparent as the 2014 election cycle unfolded.
A spokesman for the Senate Democrats said they “haven’t caucused the bill” but there are a number of concerns.
Cheri Quickmire, director of Common Cause in Connecticut, called the vote a “charade.” She said there hasn’t been agreement on a number of the issues in the bill that the House passed Thursday. She said the bill dismisses holes in the program and the “need for actual reform.”
She said she appreciates that the bill was introduced, “but there needs to be a genuine effort” and there are significant, important issues that need to be addressed.
Rep. Richard Smith, R-New Fairfield, said the bill signals that “this chamber is serious about cleaning up our elections.”
The bill was a rare, friendly victory by the 64-member Republican minority.