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Federal Appeals Court Rules On State Campaign Financing Program

Jeff Cohen

July 13, 2010

federal appellate court issued a ruling today on the state’s program to publicly finance political campaigns. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

The state’s campaign finance laws allow participating candidates to get public money if they meet certain thresholds. But a federal appeals court says that some portions of the law are unconstitutional – including the part that says lobbyists should be banned from contributing to political campaigns.

“I’m disappointed to say the least. I still think that whatever we can do to keep special interests out of campaigns, I would support.”

That's Governor Jodi Rell, who says that the program has largely survived the federal court decision.

That decision could have more immediate implications for gubernatorial candidates Republican Michael Fedele and Democrat Dan Malloy. In its decision, the federal court ruled that the state shouldn’t give extra money to candidates running against self-financing big spenders.

Malloy has already gotten and spent more than a million dollars of that “extra” money because he’s running against millionaire Ned Lamont.

Then there is Fedele. After a ruling by a state court judge that clears the way for him to participate in the state’s campaign finance program, Fedele said he planned to start spending the roughly one million dollars of extra money immediately. He’s running against endorsed Republican Tom Foley, who is self financing his campaign.

“The situation that I’m in is the same situation for instance that Dan Malloy is in. My question would be in that case do you go back to someone who’s already received funds and may have expended them and return them based on that decision?”

Obviously, Fedele says that would be the wrong way to tackle the problem. But just what will be the right way to handle the supplemental funding? That's a question state politicians, legislators, and attorneys are trying to figure out.

Beth Rotman, the state official who oversees the state’s campaign finance program, says a federal district court judge will hold a status conference on the issue Wednesday to figure out how best to proceed.

For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.

Reprinted with permission of Jeff Cohen, author of the blog Capital Region Report. To view other stories on this topic, search Capital Region Report at http://capitalregionreport.wordpress.com/.
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