Some Lawmakers Hold Out Hope For A Campaign Finance Compromise
Legislative leadership and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy sat down Monday to discuss a possible compromise on the campaign finance legislation he vetoed, but the likelihood the General Assembly would return for a special session in the near future seemed unlikely.
“There are discussions ongoing,” House Speaker Chris Donovan said after the 15-minute veto session where lawmakers declined to override any of Malloy’s eight vetoes.
Donovan declined to characterize the likelihood that the legislature would be called back in an election year to vote on a bill that calls for greater disclosure of campaign donors.
“We’re still discussing,” Donovan said.
Malloy’s Senior Communications Adviser Roy Occhiogrosso described the talks in a similar fashion saying that discussions were “still ongoing.” But he admitted that “if it doesn’t happen soon, it’s probably not going to happen.”
Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said it’s almost July and there’s little desire from rank-and-file lawmakers to return to discuss campaign finance reforms.
“We need to talk to voters, not each other at this point,” Godfrey said.
Rep. Arthur O’Neill, R-Southbury, said the campaign finance reform bill is a good example of how the legislature spent most of the session “ripping apart” Malloy’s proposals.
“The legislature has gone off in a different direction and it seems the Democrats and the governor have struggled to get on the same page,” he said. The campaign finance reform bill is just one of the many issues where Democratic lawmakers and a Democratic governor butted heads.
Some of the tension may be related to timing.
The legislature is up for re-election this year, but Malloy isn’t up for re-election until 2014, if he decides to run again. Malloy, who proposed the campaign finance bill he would later veto, wanted to allow candidates to raise funds privately if their opponent outspent them under the public system.
Malloy, the first governor elected under the public financing system, said he believes allowing publicly funded candidates to stay competitive is the only way to keep the system intact in a post-Citizens‘ United world. But lawmakers disagreed, and instead boosted the amount of money a gubernatorial candidate would receive from $6 million to $9 million.
However, they ran into problems when rank-and-file lawmakers found it unacceptable to increase the gubernatorial grant at a time when the state was struggling with a deficit, so that provision was removed from the bill before it was passed.
In the end the bill the legislature passed ended up being a disclosure bill which would have forced corporations and nonprofits spending money in Connecticut to disclose their campaign activity. There was plenty of opposition, but the legislation passed both the House and the Senate.
Karen Hobert Flynn, vice president of state operations for Common Cause, said Malloy’s refusal to negotiate a strong disclosure bill with the legislature makes the Supreme Court’s decision today all the more disappointing.
The Supreme Court struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending without a hearing and reaffirmed its decision under Citizens’ United, which allows corporations to spend freely on elections.
“They chose ideology over common sense and the facts,” Hobert Flynn said of the Supreme Court. “Connecticut elections will be flooded with secret spending this year.”
Hobert Flynn acknowledged it would be difficult to pull people back over the summer to vote on campaign finance reform, especially when there was “ample opportunity to negotiate a bill before the implementer session.”
However, she worries it means some lawmakers won’t get reelected. With the 2012 election a few months away the legislature should tackle the disclosure portion of the bill and save the public financing portion for next year.
But it was those disclosure sections, Malloy and groups like the ACLU, found the most objectionable.
In his veto message , Malloy cited the disclosure of independent expenditures by a nonprofit or advocacy group as one of the main problems with the legislation.
“The net effect of this system would be to require nonprofit advocacy groups or even news organizations to identify the names of individual donors if they engage in issue advocacy or any other communication ‘for the purpose of influencing any legislative or administrative action’ within 90 days of a general election of primary,” Malloy wrote.
He concluded it would have a chilling effect on democracy and citizen participation.
“Requiring such groups to identify individual donors will dissuade people from supporting these groups or organizations from providing this public service and will reduce the free flow of information and debate on which our democracy thrives,” Malloy wrote.
Tags: campaign finance reform, veto session, Chris Donovan, Dannel Malloy, Karen Hobert Flynn, Arthur O'Neill, Bob Godfrey
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