In a rare move, the state's daily newspapers are asking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to veto a campaign finance bill that was passed several weeks ago.
The bill has already been criticized by groups as diverse as the 10,000-member Connecticut Business and Industry Association and the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union.
The newspapers are objecting on some of the same grounds as the CBIA and the CCLU regarding the disclosure of various expenses, and the requirements for approval of those expenses.
Under the interpretation of the bill by the Connecticut Daily NewspapersAssociation, newspapers that sponsor a political debate would be required to calculate "the value of the debate — i.e., set-up, airtime, advertising, etc. — coupled with the broadcasting of such debate'' as an "independent expenditure'' that would need to be reported publicly under the recently approved campaign finance bill.
In addition, the newspaper association board would need to approve those expenses, and the board "would then be required to disclose the votes of individual board members and 'pertinent information' that took place during the discussion of the expenditure,'' according to a letter to Malloy by Chris Van DeHoef, the association's executive director.
"If CDNA should partner with a local television station to host and televise a debate and CDNA placed ads in its members' papers, would those ads constitute an independent expenditure?'' Van DeHoef asked in his letter. "Would the airtime be an independent expenditure?"
The bill passed by 94-54 in the state House of Representatives and by 20-15 in the Senate on largely party line votes, with most Democrats in favor and most Republicans against.
Two unlikely allies — CBIA and CCLU — were both lobbying against the bill because of the reporting requirements. The bill stated that the board of directors of any corporation or nonprofit group would need to vote every time that the entity spent more than $4,000 on a political expenditure.
Currently, large corporations like Hartford-based United Technologies and Fairfield-based General Electric only convene their boards for big issues and never sign off on expenses as small as $4,000.
The boards would not only need to convene, but their votes would need to be published on the company's website within 48 hours.
The corporations said that boards of directors are not involved in the day-to-day operations of the corporation and only set broad policies. A lower-level employee in the company would be approving expenses at the level of $4,000.
"You don't bring those things to a board now," Joseph Brennan, the chief lobbyist for CBIA at the Capitol, said at the time. "Connecticut is putting a spotlight on itself. We just don't think it's good public policy.''
The Courant is a member of the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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