ELECTION FUND •Budget-balancing plans imperil clean campaigns program
Hartford Courant Editorial
April 12, 2010
Gov. M. Jodi Rell and legislative leaders swear they are committed to Connecticut's landmark Citizens' Election Program. If so, they have an odd way of showing it.
In the past year and a half, the governor and lawmakers have tapped the program's Citizens' Election Fund for more than $38 million to help balance the budget.
Thursday, Mrs. Rell proposed to take yet another $10 million as part of her latest plan to eliminate the projected deficit in this year's budget.
The election fund and others like it are tempting targets, no doubt. But these raids — called "sweeps" in statehouse parlance — place the fund in danger of being unable to accomplish its purpose.
This fund has already "given at the office." It should be off-limits to further sweeps so it can do its job.
The voluntary program was established in 2005 as an antidote to political corruption and special-interest funding of election campaigns. The Citizens' Election Fund provides grants of public money to cover campaign expenses for candidates for state office who can raise qualifying sums and agree to the program's rules.
The constitutionality of the Citizens' Election Program has been challenged in federal court, but it is set to operate during the 2010 election. The State Elections Enforcement Commission, which administers the program, estimates that the potential overall cost of this election cycle will be between $38 million and $48 million. The fund currently contains less than $40 million.
Another $10 million cut would be a "death blow" to Connecticut's clean elections system, says Karen Hobart Flynn, Common Cause vice president.
Indeed it would. Because the program by law can't operate at a deficit, grants to each candidate would have to be reduced and they would be allowed to raise special interest money. That would defeat the purpose of our clean-election, good-government reform.
Let's don't let that happen.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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