Connecticut Defends Clean Elections Financing Program

Overriding a veto by their Governor, the Connecticut Legislature has strengthened its Citizens' Election system of public financing of elections that was first instituted in 2005.  The Senate voted on August 5th to override Governor Rell's veto of the bill, SB 551, and the House followed suit last Friday by a 106-30 vote. 

The vote comes in response to a Second Circuit decision issued in July.  In Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield, the court upheld the major provisions of Connecticut's Citizens' Election Program with one exception: the "trigger provisions," which allow additional public funds to be disbursed when nonparticipating candidates spend in excess of a certain threshold (also known as "fight back" funds), were ruled unconstitutional on the dubious argument that matching the spending of wealthy candidates somehow violates their rights to spend excessively.

The new Connecticut law gets around the court decision by doubling the amount of the initial grant for participating candidates to $6 million.  Under the old law, participating candidates only received $3 million initially, but could have qualified for an additional $3 million in "fight back" funds if they were widely outspent by an opponent.  A final $3 million, for a total of $9 million, would have been available if they were the subject of attack ads by special interests. 

Connecticut's Citizens' Election program is funded through unclaimed property assets, such as real estate and life insurance policies.