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Deeply Flawed Campaign Finance Bill Deserves Veto

Well-intentioned, but: The legislation would make newspapers, TV stations jump through hoops to hold a candidate debate

Hartford Courant Editorial

June 02, 2012

The campaign finance bill passed last month by the state General Assembly is so flawed that it would seriously hamper candidate debates.

In addition, it imposes an unreasonable burden on companies making even modest political contributions. It should not become law.

State law now requires the reporting of campaign contributions and expenditures. The new bill expands the definition of "expenditure" to include not only ads, but anything an organization does to influence the outcome of an election. It also adds a requirement that the boards of directors of those organizations approve such expenditures.

On the surface, that sounds reasonable. But as the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association points out, consider what that would do to a newspaper (or TV station) that sponsored a candidate debate, as this one often does:

The event's monetary value setup, airtime, etc. must be reported and approved by the newspaper's board of directors. How could such a value be determined? Would public-service ads promoting a debate be considered reportable expenditures?

As CDNA Executive Director Chris VanDeHoef points out, dealing with such questions would hinder a vital part of the political process by making newspapers jump through hoops just to hold a debate. If anything, state laws should encourage not discourage the free exchange of views that debates provide.

Further, the bill requires that the boards of directors of all organizations, including nonprofits, pre-approve any expenditure of more than $4,000 on behalf of a candidate or political party. It apparently didn't occur to majority Democrats in the legislature that boards of directors of even small companies meet only rarely, and are almost never asked to consider an expense as low as $4,000.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy should veto the legislation.

In its well-intentioned zeal to improve state election laws affecting campaign finance, lawmakers pushed through a bill without considering all its consequences.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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