Friday, June 03, 2005

Campaign Finance Reform: Action in Connecticut

Republican governor Jodi Rell of Connecticut yesterday announced publicly that she will drop her opposition to a Democratic proposal that would allow public financing of state political campaigns, provided that Democrats support other proposals Rell has previously backed: "the elimination of contributions from state contractors and lobbyists and the restriction of political action committees to one per caucus in the House and Senate," according to Connecticut newspapers (tip to PoliticalWire).

New London's The Day called Rell's action "an about-face that startled and thrilled advocates of electoral reform." The governor's "surprise call for the public financing of campaigns set the state Capitol abuzz Thursday morning. By nightfall, it was riding a bandwagon," the Hartford Courant reports; Republicans in the state senate said by the afternoon that they would unanimously support the plan, a step the Courant calls "a gesture as startling as Rell's proposal."

Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the legislature over the shape and scope of reforms had been faltering in recent weeks, but The Day writes that Rell's "offer seemed to instantly reinvigorate" negotiators. Said Rell when she announced her proposal, "I figured if we were going to break this gridlock, let's get a little bit bold here and see if we really mean business. So what I said was, I will support public financing of campaigns if you take my initiatives and truly, truly mean it."

Proponents of campaign finance reform from Connecticut and across the nation responded happily to Rell's statement: The Day notes "Reform advocates were almost giddy." Common Cause's Andy Sauer told the Courant "I feel like I've gone through the looking glass. I'm expecting to see a white rabbit running through here, late for an important date. It's so bewildering." Jeffrey Garfield of the Elections Enforcement Commission said "This is huge. If they pass this kind of a comprehensive reform bill, Connecticut would have the toughest campaign finance laws in the country."

Senator John McCain also responded favorably to Rell's proposal. In a statement he praised Rell's "commitment to reform," "saying the two parties' proposals were sides of the same coin." "You simply can't have one without the other. Partnered, these reforms will make major progress toward cleaning up elections and ethics in the state," McCain added. "As the legislative session comes to a close, time is of the essence. Connecticut's elected officials have a unique opportunity to create an atmosphere of ethical government that is focused on what is best for the people's interests, not the special interests."

I agree with Rell, and with McCain. This is an excellent step forward, and I hope that all sides will be able to reach agreement on a comprehensive reform package before the session ends.


At 4:06 PM, Blogger GlitterGlamGirl05 said...

Thought I'd say hello. this is the 3rd or 4th time I've come across your blog by hitting next! : )

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Public financing. Ugh. I don't know the details here, but are we talking tax dollars? Why use taxes to fund something that can so clearly be funded without taxes?

Why not cap expenditures rather than controlling who contributes? I don't know. I'm in favor of campaign finacne reform but I think we keep picking at it when what we really need is an overhaul.

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Heiuan said...

Alan, you eat an entire bear one bite at a time.

The bipartisanship of this measure is very heartening. If the politicians get enough praise for this one act, they might get the hint and work together on more issues.

And wouldn't that be wonderful.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

heiuan: lovely analogy. But I'm a Texan, we eat bear like the rest of y'all eat grapes. ;)

But, seriously, I agree this is a good thing. I love it when states experiment. That's the nation working like it's supposed to. I was just making a broader argument.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Charles Amico said...

I agree with your overall philosophy of being a centrist and compromising. I have some writings to this effect on my Blog. I would be interested in your comments on my site as well.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger JBD said...

Alan - I agree in principle with you on the concept of tax-funded public financing. Rell's plan would fund campaigns initially with a $5 million chunk from the state's budget surplus, and after that it would be voluntary (we'll see how that works).

Charles - thanks for your comment; I added a link to We The People.


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