June 27, 2011 •
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an Arizona campaign finance law that offered extra public funding to state political candidates who faced increased opposition spending.
The Citizens Clean Elections Act, passed by voters in a 1998 ballot initiative, gave candidates extra money if they face well funded opponents that opted out of the state election financing system.
Candidates also could qualify for greater public financing based on political spending by independent political groups that ran advertisements opposing their candidacy or supporting other candidates.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “laws like Arizona’s matching funds provision that inhibit robust and wide-open political debate without sufficient justification cannot stand.”
January 4, 2011 •
Commission on Governmental Ethics Seeks Independent Investigatory Powers and New Campaign Finance Restrictions in 2011
The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices has issued a memo outlining the agencies priorities for 2011. The commission seeks to investigate possible violations of legislative ethics on its own, even if no formal complaint is filed.
The commission also wishes to enact regulations that restrict legislative candidates from using Clean Election money to buy computers, cell phones, and other electronic equipment and increase the fine for failing to include a disclaimer on campaign communications from a maximum of $200 to a maximum of $5,000.
The Great Seal of Maine courtesy of Wikipedia.
August 13, 2010 •
The latest news on the bill to fix the Citizens’ Election Program in Connecticut.
The Connecticut House of Representatives voted to override Governor M. Jodi Rell’s veto of the bill designed to reinstate the public election financing program, which had been previously limited by a federal court decision. The state senate had already voted to override the veto.
The immediate effect of the vote is to provide gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy with six million dollars from the Citizens’ Election Program, twice as much as he was originally scheduled to receive.
August 2, 2010 •
On July 30, 2010, during a special session, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Senate Bill 551.
SB 551 is a response to the recent U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield regarding the state’s Citizens’ Election Program. If signed by Governor M. Jodi Rell, the bill would limit contributions from communicator lobbyists, members of the lobbyist’s immediate family, and political committees established or controlled by the lobbyist or lobbyist’s immediate family to $100, while also banning the bundling of contributions by the same individuals.
Further, the bill expands the list of items not considered to be a contribution, while also prohibiting the knowing solicitation of contributions by state contractors, prospective state contractors, principals of state contractors, and principals of prospective state contractors from the contractor’s employees or a subcontractor or principals of a subcontractor on behalf of exploratory or candidate committees, political committees authorized to make contributions or expenditures to or for the benefit of specified candidates, or a party committee.
Additionally, grants to participating candidates would increase to $6,000,000 for the general election campaign. However, Governor Rell has previously indicated her intent to veto any bill increasing grants to participating candidates, citing state budget concerns.
Photo by jimbowen0306 in Wikipedia.
July 16, 2010 •
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued two separate decisions in regards to the case of Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield on July 13, 2010, one decision affecting the Connecticut Campaign Finance Reform Act (CFRA) and another affecting the state’s Citizens Election Program (CEP).
In the first decision, the court affirmed the U.S. District Court’s decision upholding the CFRA’s ban on contributions by state contractors, prospective state contractors, and the principals of contractors and prospective state contractors, as well as the spouse and dependent children of these individuals. However, in a reversal of the lower court’s decision, the Second Circuit struck down the ban on contributions from lobbyists and their families.
In the second decision, the court overturned a prior U.S. District Court decision which had declared the Citizens Election Program’s public financing for qualifying candidates as unconstitutional on the basis it discriminated against minor parties and their candidates. The court, however, agreed with the earlier decision in finding the CEP to unconstitutionally infringe upon the First Amendment rights to free speech of privately funded wealthy candidates when the state’s program required extra public funds be distributed to publicly funded candidates when certain financing “triggers” had been achieved. The Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission is expected to meet with the attorney general to determine the next course of action.
(Image from the National Atlas of the United States)
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