Sen. Chapin and Republican Colleagues Push for Clean Elections

February 3, 2015

Hartford –The State of Connecticut can improve its so-called “Clean Elections” laws, according to Torrington area state legislators Senator Kevin Witkos (R-8), Senator Clark Chapin (R-30) and Representative Jay Case (R- 63). This past week, Republicans called for a series of reforms to restore transparency and level the playing field for those seeking state elected office. Since the original clean elections law was enacted in 2005, the program has suffered from numerous erosions. Republican legislators hope to restore the program, close loopholes and seek new reforms to make the program more effective.

“When the state’s groundbreaking public campaign finance laws were first passed into law, citizens were promised that in exchange for public funds going to campaigns, we could count on a clean election system. That promise has fizzled over the years as the majority party has chipped away at the laws, allowing more money into campaigns and more room for abuse of the system. It’s time to put our foot down and work together to clean up the system, restore accountability and promote transparency,” said Sen. Witkos, Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore.

“People hold different opinions on public campaign financing, but most would agree that if a candidate chooses to take taxpayer money for a campaign, he or she should not be the beneficiary of unlimited amounts of outside money,” said Sen. Chapin. “Connecticut’s Citizens’ Election Program grants are overly generous and provide sufficient levels of funding to run effective campaigns without the need for outside influences.”

“We are doing a genuine disservice to voters and taxpayers,” Rep. Case said. “If we want to engage more people in the democratic process, we need to close up these loopholes. It will benefit our state in the long run, both at the voting booths and in the bank.”

The campaign finance system relies on the use of public funds distributed to candidates after they meet certain fundraising criteria and thresholds. The legislators pointed to several legislative rollbacks of the law which created the current crisis, including the increase of allowed donations to state political parties coupled with the unlimited expansion of how much those parties could spend on publicly-financed candidates. They also noted the 2010 special session of the legislature to increase the state grant funds for then-gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy to assure he would have enough money to compete with a self-funding opponent.

In the 2014 elections the State of Connecticut spent $33 million- an amount the legislators say is too much.

In response, Witkos, Chapin and Case, along with other Republican legislators are proposing a package of legislative reforms to election laws including the following changes.

1) Cap organizational expenditures by state parties
Currently, political parties can make unlimited organizational expenditures on behalf of participating candidates. Republicans are proposing the following limits:

    • Candidate for Governor $250,000
    • Candidate for Constitutional Officer $75,000
    • Candidate for State Senate $10,000
    • Candidate for House of Representatives $3,500

2) Reduce individual donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000
In 2013, individual donor limits to state parties was increased along with the amount state parties could make in organizational expenditures to a campaign. Republicans are proposing to roll back donation limits to previous levels.

3) Eliminate grants to unopposed candidates
Currently, candidates for state office (constitutional officers, senators, and representatives) are eligible for Citizens’ Election Program (CEP) grants even if they are unopposed. The amount of their grant equals 30% of a full-grant. Republicans are proposing to eliminate these grants.

4) Stop state contractors from donating to a federal account to fund a state race
The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) needs to be able to enforce Connecticut’s current laws that prevent contractors from donating to state races. Republicans are proposing legislation to help SEEC enforce this law.

5) Reduce all Citizens’ Election Program grants by 25%
By reducing CEP funds across the board, the state can save taxpayers approximately $7 million in gubernatorial election years and $2.4 million in Presidential years.

This session of the Connecticut General Assembly adjourns at midnight, Wednesday, June 3rd.