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Campaign Finance On Life Support

by Hugh McQuaid | Jun 12, 2012 4:30pm
(1) Comment | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election Policy, Legal, Special Session

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Government Administration and Elections Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Gayle Slossberg and Rep. Russ Morin

Legislative leaders said Tuesday they expect Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to veto a campaign finance disclosure bill they passed during the regular session.

The bill aims to shed light upon the election process by requiring corporations to disclose their campaign activity. It’s a response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that allowed corporations, unions, and special interest groups to funnel unlimited funds into political campaigns.

House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey said the bill would allow voters to know what super political action committees were coming into the state and trying to influence elections. He used the recent education reform process as an example.

“Michelle Rhee said, ‘we are going to come to Connecticut.’ She effectively said that she’s going to bring her super PAC to Connecticut, depending on the outcome of the education reform bill. How do we defend against that?” he asked.

Sharkey said the bill was designed to protect lawmakers on both sides of the aisle from out-of-state money they anticipate will be in play before the November elections.

“Unfortunately, that was the campaign finance bill that we did and passed both houses, the governor intends to veto,” Sharkey said.

Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s chief legal counsel, said the administration still hadn’t made a decision with regard to the bill. But he said they have serious concerns.

“The concerns that the governor has with respect to the legislation go to certain fundamental constitutional principles,” he said.

McDonald said that while Malloy feels the Citizens United decision was “wrong-headed,” he doesn’t want to sign a bill that will be vulnerable to court challenges.

“If the governor were to sign it, it’s pretty clear within a couple of days after enactment, groups across the spectrum of political thought would quickly file lawsuits seeking to enjoin the legislation,” he said.

Though there will be a veto override session later this month, Sharkey said he doesn’t have the two-thirds support necessary to overcome a veto should Malloy reject the bill.

“There’s a lot of frustration. We don’t know what’s coming, we haven’t seen it yet, but we know it’s coming this November,” he said.

Sharkey said lawmakers reached out to the governor’s office hoping to negotiate some sort of agreement to be voted upon during Tuesday’s special session, but they were told the administration’s concerns were too numerous to be addressed.

Government Administration and Elections Committee Co-Chairwoman Sen. Gayle Slossberg said her attempts to reach out to the administration “didn’t work out.” She said she wasn’t sure exactly what the governor’s concerns were because they never got to the point of negotiating.

“I was more than willing. I offered on a number of occasions to try to address the concerns and it’s just not something that happened,” she said.

Asked why the administration did not attempt to work with lawmakers to find a fix in time for the special session, McDonald pointed to a box of legislation sitting on a table in his office.

“If you look over there, we have 125 bills that were delivered to my office in the last couple of days that we’re reviewing. This is one of several and there are some bills of tremendous consequence in there. This is not the only issue that we have been dealing with,” he said. “Frankly, given the magnitude of what was discussed in the implementer negotiations, this was one piece of a much larger puzzle.”

Asked if the issue can be addressed next year, Sharkey expressed concern that many lawmakers won’t survive the election in the absence of the bill.

“By that time, whoever’s left after November . . . I mean next year is too late,” he said.

Slossberg agreed.

“If we don’t have some sort of disclosure bill I think we are at great risk in the Fall elections for having millions of outside sources sending money into our state that’s from sources we don’t know trying to buy our elections,” she said.

Related: House Postpones $9M Campaign Finance Question

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posted by: Luther Weeks | June 12, 2012  6:09pm

Luther Weeks

Such are the risks when items that never had a public hearing are added to a bill. Legislators should learn not to do that, and not to condone that or expect this kind of result occasionally.

We need more than negotiations at the last minute between legislators and the Governor. Public hearings let various interests have their say, perhaps to educate legislators on crafting a bill that is Constitutional and has less legitimate concerns based on wide scrutiny.

If this bill is as critical as Legislators claim then they should have crated a clean bill. Now they still could convince the Governor to call another Special Session to create a bill that would meet legitimate objections and solve this crisis they predict and they created. If they are really concerned and committed, they have options.