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Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Campaign Finance Reform on Tap in CT

February 4, 2010

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Connecticut lawmakers are looking at fixing the Citizens' Election Program, and it's a fix being scrutinized with a new lens because of the recent Supreme Court decision that cleared the way for unlimited federal elections donations from businesses. The Citizens' Election Program was designed to keep big money out of Connecticut state races. The 2005 law was declared unconstitutional last year by a judge who ruled it treated third parties unfairly. The judge did leave intact the state's ban on lobbyists' contributions to politicians.

Rep. James Spallone (D-36) serves on a General Assembly committee that submitted a bill Wednesday to amend the law. He explains why he thinks the ban on money from lobbyists will withstand court scrutiny, even before a fix is on the books.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has always made a strong distinction between contributions and expenditures."

Spallone says the fine line is that contributions from lobbyists are not considered as much a free speech issue as direct corporate expenditures.

Connecticut League of Women Voters government director Christine Horrigan says Connecticut's elections reform is crucial to democracy becuase it allows candidates running for office to "just say no" to big money interests who expect a payback.

"From our perspective, public financing of campaigns is a very crucial and perhaps is the only viable alternative to opening the door to all this corporate money flowing into our elections system."

It's too soon to know if the Supreme Court decision will impact the state law as it stands, she says, or when it's amended, since that ruling focused on federal elections.

Melinda Tuhus/Deb Courson, Public News Service - CT