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CT Campaign Finance Limits in the Legal Balance

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Photo: Oral arguments could come next week in a challenge to recent changes in Connecticut's campaign finance law. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo: Oral arguments could come next week in a challenge to recent changes in Connecticut's campaign finance law. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
May 16, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. – You might call it Connecticut's version of Citizen's United – and the case could be headed for oral arguments next week.

The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) wants an injunction to prevent the state from enforcing campaign finance law, because the governors say it violates their free-speech rights.

Cheryl Dunson, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, says at issue are unlimited campaign contributions, which Connecticut does allow – but only if they are independent expenditures.

"The bedrock of an independent expenditure is that it be independent,” she says. “So it has to be without the consent, or coordination, or consultation with a candidate."

Gov. Dan Malloy is a member of the association, and as finance chairman helped the group raise $20 million in 2011.

Dunson says the DGA is demanding a blanket guarantee that this kind of fundraising may never serve as an indication of coordination under state election laws.

She says this case goes to the heart of the law and whether the state can place reasonable requirements for groups and individuals that seek to make unlimited contributions.

"In 2013, changes were made to Connecticut's Campaign Finance Law, and among the changes were revisions to the definition of independent expenditure,” Dunson explains. “This lawsuit is going to the core of whether rules governing coordination with campaigns will survive."

Dunson says a ruling in the DGA's favor could spell the end of the requirement that unlimited campaign expenditures in Connecticut be independent.

"What they are seeking, in essence, is to make unlimited expenditures in support of Connecticut Gov. Malloy's candidacy at that same time that Gov. Malloy is fundraising for the Democratic Governors Association," she says.

The League of Women Voters of Connecticut joined Connecticut Common Cause and The Campaign Legal Center in a friend-of-the-court motion in support of the current law.



Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT