The Slow Trickle of Public Financing
HARTFORD, CT — There has been a lot of criticism lately of the State Elections Enforcement Commission for the pace at which it’s working to audit clean election candidates and give out the grants.
But there’s perception and there’s reality.
Statewide grants for Republican gubernatorial candidates, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and former First Selectman Tim Herbst, were approved Wednesday. However, Steve Obsitnik, the third Republican candidate participating in the program saw his application continued to the June 27 meeting.
SEEC Executive Director Michael Brandi said he’s unable to say exactly what’s wrong with Obsitnik’s application.
“There’s still some issues we’re reviewing with regard to his application,” Brandi said.
He said they’ve been in touch with Obsitnik campaign and have offered information on how he can fix any problems with the application.
“While we are obviously disappointed, we continue to work through technical issues with the SEEC around a small number of our donor forms,” Obsitnik campaign manager Dan Debicella said. “We expect approval once those are satisfactorily dealt with, and meanwhile continue to build massive volunteer support for our on-the-ground efforts of door knocking, events, and Steve meeting with voters.”
“We will not let this slow down the momentum of Steve’s gubernatorial campaign,” Debicella added.
Boughton and Herbst have had their approvals postponed twice before they were approved Wednesday. This was the fourth time Obsitnik’s application had been continued.
But aside from the increasing number of applications Brandi said there’s nothing different about the process.
Brandi said in the first five meetings of 2014, the last gubernatorial election year, they had received 62 applications. This year it’s been 107.
“Not only that but this year we’re looking at statewide primaries whereas in 2014 there were only two primaries,” Brandi said.
Brandi said they have nine statewide applications and they were able to approve three of them Wednesday. Sen. Joe Markley, who is running for lieutenant governor, also had his grant approved Wednesday.
State Treasurer candidates Shawn Wooden and Dita Bhargava, and the three Democratic candidates for attorney general had their applications continued.
Sen. Paul Doyle, one of the three attorney general candidates, said he was disappointed but not surprised.
“A campaign’s a cash business, if you don’t have cash it’s challenging,” Doyle said.
Since there’s no debt collection laws governing campaigns most vendors who provide services require upfront payment.
As far as the approval process is concerned, Brandi said it’s a cumbersome process, especially when the exploratory committee has to be reviewed and merged with the candidate committee.
“It takes a lot longer because we have to review two committees,” Brandi said.
In 2014, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had his application approved on June 18. The application for Republican Tom Foley was approved on July 2 and the one for John McKinney was approved two weeks after that.
Brandi said four years ago they didn’t have the “onslaught” all at once of statewide candidates.
The Citizens Election Program was created in 2005 after the corruption scandal involving former Gov. John G. Rowland. It prohibits donations from state contractors and limits candidates to small donations between $5 and $100 for statewide office and $5 and $250 for General Assembly races.
The first statewide election where the program was available for legislative races was 2008. The first statewide contest was in 2010.