Friday, April 17, 2009

Republicans Will Kill Citizens’ Election Fund?

Yesterday, Connecticut Republican lawmakers released a
budget proposal which proposed eliminating $60 million from the Citizens’
Election Fund, effectively killing the program.

“The League of Women Voters opposes the Republican proposal. In
these tough economic times, we need a Governor and a Legislature that listens
to the people, not the industries that contribute the most money,” said Christine
Horrigan, government director for the League of Women Voters of Connecticut.
“The Citizens Elections program allows candidates to run for office free of
special interest money and we need this critical accountability measure now
more than ever.”

The inaugural year of the Citizens’ Election Program was an unqualified
success. The new law frees candidates from special interest money by allowing
them to participate in a voluntary program for public funds if they raise a
threshold amount of qualifying contributions from individuals in their district.
Once they qualify, candidates agree to abide by spending limits and forgo further
private contributions. In return they receive a grant from the state to run their
campaign, and if they are elected they head to the statehouse accountable
primarily to the voters who elected them, not the special interests who would
have financed their campaign.

Seventy-five percent of all candidates for Connecticut’s General Assembly
ran under the Citizens’ Elections program. Eighty-one percent, or 152 out of 187
of those elected to serve in the next General Assembly ran under the Citizens’
Elections program. In the Connecticut Senate, 89 percent of the seats, or 32 of
36, will be held by Clean Elections officials. On the House side, Clean Elections
officials will hold at least 120 of the 151 seats.

“We can’t go back to the corruption of the past when the name of the
game was pay-to-play,” said Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director of Common
Cause. “It wasn’t that long ago that John Rowland was giving no-bid
government contracts to special interests who gave him large personal gifts and even larger campaign contributions.

“From our perspective, the Citizens Election program has already paid for
itself by making it possible to reclaim the $20 million a year in unclaimed bottle
deposits,” added Cheri Quickmire. “The recent enactment of Connecticut’s new
law requiring five cent deposits on plastic water bottles and reclaiming the
collection of millions of dollars worth of unclaimed bottle deposits is the perfect
example of how the Citizens Election program can impact public policy.”

Environmentalists and others at the Capitol tried to make progress on
these two major issues for years, but the beverage industry and their lobbyists
with their generous campaign contributions kept reform at bay for years. 80%
of this General Assembly ran free of special interest money under the new law
and voted early in the session to pass the expanded bottle bill and to reclaim the
bottle deposit money. It is clear that landmark campaign finance laws passed in
2005 and 2006 have severely diminished the power special interests once
wielded in state government.

“It is no surprise that Representative Larry Cafero and Senator John
McKinney are leading the charge to gut this program,” said Tom Swan,
Executive Director of Connecticut Citizen Action Group. “They never were
supporters of public financing in the first place. This program is the most
significant anti-corruption measure adopted by the state. The Republican
proposal should be summarily rejected by all.”

Groups supporting the Ciizens Election Program In Connecticut include:

AFSCME Council 4
American Postal Workers Union,
WestConn Area Local
Capitol Region Council of Churches
Citizens For Economic Opportunity
Citizens For Election Reform
Collaborative Center for Justice
Connecticut AFL-CIO
Connecticut Association of Human Services
Connecticut Citizen Action Group
Connecticut Common Cause
Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ
Connecticut Federation ofEducational and Professional Employees
Connecticut Green Party
Connecticut NOW
Connecticut State Employees Association
Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund
Danbury Central Labor Council
Danbury Hospital Professional
Nurses Association, Local 5047
Democracy for CT
Earth Matters
Fairfield County Labor Council
Grassroots Coalition, Inc.
Greater Hartford African American
Greater Hartford Labor Council
Hartford Environmental Justice Network
Healthcare For All
Northeast Action
One Connecticut
People’s Action for Clean Energy
Sierra Club-CT
Toxic Action Center
United Auto Workers-Region 9A
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 18
Western Connecticut Central Labor Council
Yale Students for Clean Elections
Youth for Justice

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