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Judge Halts Trigger Payments Under Campaign Law

Courant Staff Report

August 11, 2010

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the state can no longer distribute so-called "trigger" payments to eligible candidates because those payments have been held to be unconstitutional.

District Judge Stefan R. Underhill issued an injunction citing the trigger provisions of the state's public campaign finance law.

Those provisions released supplemental campaign grants to publicly financed candidates who are widely outspent by privately financed opponents or are the subjects of special-interest attack ads.

Qualifying candidates for governor in the general election would have been issued initial grants of $3 million. They could receive up to $3 million more if they were widely outspent by a privately funded opponent. And they could have received up to $3 million more if they were targeted by special interests in attack ads.

Also Wednesday, Underhill denied a request by Dannel Malloy, the Democrats' nominee for governor, for a stay of the injunction. Malloy is running against multimillionaire Tom Foley.

In his injunction, Underhill also included provisions in the law that prohibit lobbyists from making contributions to candidates for state office and that prohibit lobbyists and contractors from soliciting contributions on the candidates' behalf.

The judge noted, however, that "there is nothing in this order, and nothing in the CFRA [Campaign Finance Reform Act], that prevents the Connecticut legislature from amending its campaign finance statute to eliminate the unconstitutionality giving rise to this injunction."

The state legislature has been trying to amend the law. Changes approved by the Senate and the House earlier this summer were vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The Senate has overruled the veto. The House is expected to take up the matter Friday.

Finally, Underhill asked the state Supreme Court to decide whether the trigger provisions can be removed from the law without negating the entire Citizens' Election Program.

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.
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