Sen. Martin: Bring Back “Clean” CT Elections. (Bristol Press)

February 1, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Bristol Press

HARTFORD — GOP state legislators said Thursday they want regulators to have more say in money that flows into publicly financed political campaigns.

Connecticut Senate and House Republicans called on the state to clean up the Citizens’ Election Program, which provides taxpayer-funded grants to qualified candidates. The program was created 10 years ago to do away with special money influence on political candidates.

During a press conference at the Legislative Office Building, Republican legislators outlined a plan they argue will close loopholes in the state’s current public campaign financing laws.

“A decade ago, Republicans and Democrats joined together to create a clean election system that Connecticut took great pride in,” said Sen. Henri Martin of Bristol. “Since then, the Connecticut system has grown to look like Swiss cheese. Let’s seize the opportunity this year to close the loopholes in our elections laws and make our state a national model again.”

State GOP leaders want to eliminate certain grants, reduce the money spent on elections and curb the influence of outside groups that they say have been allowed over time to re-enter the field.

Republican lawmakers proposed a package of reforms to election laws. They would cap organizational expenditures by state parties. Currently, political parties can make unlimited organizational expenditures on behalf of participating candidates. The also want to reduce individual donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000; stop state contractor funds from being used in state races and eliminate grants to unopposed candidates.

Bristol state Rep. Whit Betts said there is a strong need for campaign finance law reform in the state after having witnessed what he perceives to have been an abuse of the current system.

“We should adhere to one of the important goals of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, which is the prohibition of state contractors giving money to candidates running for governor or any state office,” Betts said. “I also fully support the proposal that candidates, who have no opponents, should not receive any state funds for their campaigns.”

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven, said, “We have seen the majority party chip away at the clean election system that Connecticut once took great pride in. We created a public financing system to ensure honest, fair elections. But, that’s not what we have now. It’s time to close the loopholes.”