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House Saves Campaign Reform

Governor's Veto Overridden General Election playing field not so tilted thanks to lawmakers

Hartford Courant editorial

August 17, 2010

The General Assembly might have come up with a better fix than it did for constitutional flaws that the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently found in Connecticut's program for publicly financing campaigns.

But because the court dumped the eviscerated law on the legislature for fixing so close to an election, lawmakers had to act with haste to make the court-ordered improvements and restore fairness to the public financing program. They were right to override Gov. M. Jodi Rell's veto of the imperfect product.

The House completed the process Friday, voting 106-30 to override the governor. The Senate had overridden Mrs. Rell's veto the week before.

Under the original law, party nominees for governor who participate in the Citizens' Election Program get a basic grant of $3 million in public money for the general election campaign. They would qualify for additional, or supplemental, grants of up to $3 million more if their wealthy, self-financing opponents outspent them by that amount.

The campaign finance reform was meant to stimulate competition in elections and offset some of the advantage of rivals who finance their campaigns through their own personal wealth or with special-interest financial backing. The reform has shown signs of working.

But in the midst of the primary campaign, the federal courts struck down the supplemental grants, along with a provision banning lobbyist contributions to campaigns for state office. The legislature responded with a bill doubling the basic grant of money to gubernatorial nominees from $3 million to $6 million.

That's only fair. In this election, two men Republican Michael Fedele and Democrat Dan Malloy took part in the Citizens' Election Program with the understanding that they could qualify for grants of up to $6 million if they made it to the general election. (Mr. Malloy did.) When the courts struck down the supplemental grants, the candidates were left high and dry with no fund-raising apparatus in place.

That's why state Rep. John "Corky" Mazurek of Wolcott said he voted for the override: "A promise is a promise."

The legislature did enact some provisions regarding lobbyists that went too far such as letting their contributions help a candidate qualify for public money. Those provisions should be repealed.

But it was important to increase the basic grant for the general election campaign so the race for governor could be competitive.

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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