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CT Democratic Party Leaders Propose a Step Backwards

Seventy-four percent of 2014 political candidates participated in Connecticut's Clean Elections law. Credit: Jim Bowen/flickr.com
Seventy-four percent of 2014 political candidates participated in Connecticut's Clean Elections law. Credit: Jim Bowen/flickr.com
November 18, 2015

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Leaders of Connecticut's Democratic Party have proposed suspending the state's Clean Election law as a way to help close the budget deficit.

More than 70 percent of state legislators elected in 2014 used the campaign finance law that favors small donors over large, corporate contributors and special interests.

According to Nick Nyhart, president of the Every Voice Center, suspending the Clean Election law would do little to solve the budget problems.

"The budget deficit is being projected at over $300 million, and this is an $11 million program," said Nyhart. "So, it's not a big part of the solution, and there are many other solutions on the table."

Nyhart notes the current proposal also includes $9 million in corporate tax cuts.

The proposal came as a big surprise to Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president of Common Cause. She helped get the law passed in 2005, in the wake of massive pay-to-play scandals.

"To go backwards and open up the door to special-interest money seems to fly in the face of public opinion, and what we're seeing other states do across the country," she said.

Two weeks ago, the city of Seattle and the state of Maine both passed, by wide margins, clean election laws similar to Connecticut's through ballot referendums.

The suspension of Connecticut's law is still just a proposal, and Nyhart thinks there's a good chance it will go no further.

"My guess is, between the voters putting on pressure and lawmakers believing their leaders have made a wrong step, then we'll see it withdrawn and they'll maintain and perhaps even strengthen the system," he predicted.

Clean-election advocates have said with so many presidential candidates talking about reducing the influence of money in politics, Connecticut's law should serve as a national model.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT