Public Campaign Financing Better Than Tainted Cash
Hartford Courant Editorial
July 17, 2012
Connecticut's landmark 2006 campaign finance reform law is taking hold, the latest figures from the secretary of the state's office suggest.
It's a victory for cleaner politics and more honest government.
The figures show the lowest number of uncontested General Assembly seats — seats lacking Republican or Democratic challengers to the other major-party candidate — since 1998. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is right that "public campaign financing is having its intended effect, which is to motivate more of our citizens to take ownership of the political process."
The voluntary Citizens' Election Program, administered by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, makes grants of public money available to legislative candidates and those running for statewide office such as governor. The program makes it easier for inexperienced candidates and those with limited access to money to run for office.
It's not free money for the taking: Participants must agree to the spending limits and demonstrate political viability by raising seed money in small amounts from hundreds of donors.
The purpose of the reform is to limit the influence of special-interest money on politics and government. It is a weapon against corruption. (Of course, a candidate can self-finance if he or she so chooses, and would not have to abide by limits.)
Participating candidates for Connecticut's House of Representatives may receive $26,850 from the state's election fund if they raise at least $5,000 on their own from at least 150 donors from their districts. State Senate candidates — who would represent much larger districts — each receive $91,290 if they join the program and raise $15,000 from 300 donors from towns and cities in their districts.
Unopposed candidates now receive smaller grants than those in contested races. That's a waste of money. The program should be amended to eliminate grants for candidates who have no challengers.
All in all, though, Connecticut's experiment in conducting clean elections is a point of pride.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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