December 5, 2005
Connecticut Enacts Public Financing Law;
Massachusetts Legislature Still Balking
by John Andrews, MCHC
The movement for public election financing got a boost last week when the Connecticut Legislature created the Citizens Election Fund.
Under the new law, candidates who want to opt in to the voluntary system must raise seed money before qualifying for public funds. House candidates qualify by raising $5,000 in individual contributions of up to $100. The threshold for Senate candidates is $15,000.
In Massachusetts, voters created a public financing law that was supposed to get its first trial in the 2002 elections. But the Massachusetts Legislature refused to fund the Clean Elections Law, and eventually repealed it on a voice vote. One of the excuses legislators gave was that they wanted to spend the $10 million required on “higher priorities But recently the legislature has enacted an economic stimulus bill to subsidize corporations with over $200 million of taxpayer money – the very kind of payoff to big donors that Clean Elections was supposed to prevent.
Under the Connecticut proposal, candidates for governor, other state offices and the legislature would no longer be able to accept contributions from lobbyists or contractors, as well as those made by corporations through purchases of advertising space in so-called ad books, which are typically distributed at fund-raisers. Lobbyists would also not be able to raise money from their clients.
Citizens who want to see their money invested in democracy rather than giveaways to big donors are still pushing for a clean-up on Beacon Hill. One of the key organizations is Mass Voters for Fair Elections (an independent organization that grew out of Mass Voters for Clean Elections). They have worked with supportive legislators to draft a Fair Elections Financing Act that would provide public matching funds to address the problem of big money in politics. So far, the measure has not begun to move on Beacon Hill, but there is hope that it will gather steam in the coming year. For more information, see the MVFE website http://www.massvoters.com/MVFE/about.shtml