Read the full LWVCT letter to the SEEC.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut expressed its support for Proposed Declaratory Ruling 2013-01 by the State Elections Enforcement Commission, regarding administration of the independent expenditure disclosure requirements of Public Act 13-180, AAC Disclosure of Independent Expenditures and Changes to Other Campaign Finance Laws and Election Laws (the “Act”).
Read the full LWVCT letter to the SEEC.
Does the new campaign finance law signed into law last week mean our state has lost its resolve to put an end to “Corrupticut”?
Back in 2005, Connecticut proudly passed one of the strongest campaign finance laws in the country, designed to reduce the influence of big money in elections and turn CT in a new direction, away from the scandal associated with the conviction and imprisonment of Governor Rowland. We banned lobbyist and state contractor campaign contributions, as well as payments in “ad books.” We created the Citizens’ Election Program, designed to reduce the influence of special interest money and level the playing field by allowing qualified candidates to run for office, supported by public financing for candidates who can raise a threshold amount of small contributions from their prospective constituents.
Five years later, our legislature responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision with strong attribution and disclaimer rules for political advertising—the “stand by your ad” rules—that specifically required tax-exempt organizations to disclose their top 5 donors in political advertising and other communications.
Now our legislators have taken a big step backwards on campaign finance and disclosure laws by passing, as an amendment debated in the middle of the night, Public Act 13-180. Candidates for state office now can obtain public funding through the Citizens’ Election Program while simultaneously benefitting from thousands of dollars in special interest money raised by political parties for campaign purposes. Nonprofit 501(c)(4) organizations—the “social welfare” groups responsible for an explosion in campaign spending across the country—can now contribute to unlimited “independent expenditures” for political advertising in connection with CT campaigns without revealing the names of their major donors.
Should tax-exempt groups—whether homegrown in CT or based elsewhere—be able to spend unlimited amounts in our state to influence our elections while concealing their major donors? The League of Women Voters of CT says NO. Disclosure helps our voters to evaluate the campaign messages they hear and to make informed decisions. Transparency is a choice we believe is in the public interest—and we are sorry to see the majority of CT legislators put their campaign interests before the public interest.
Cheryl Dunson, President
Christine S. Horrigan, Government Chair
League of Women Voters of Connecticut
LWVCT Urges Governor Malloy to Veto Bill that Undermines Existing Campaign Finance and Disclosure Laws
Download the letter in pdf
Dear Governor Malloy:
On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, a statewide organization with over 1600 members, we urge you to VETO Public Act 13-180 (HB 6580) AAC Disclosure of Independent Expenditures and Changes to Other Campaign Finance Laws and Election Laws. Passage of this Act in the House and Senate enables continued access to taxpayer money through the Citizens’ Election Program while raising thousands of dollars in special interest money for campaign purposes. Connecticut’s current campaign finance system, established in 2005 in the wake of the Rowland scandal, is designed to combat corruption, reduce the influence of special interest money in government, level the playing field to allow qualified candidates to run for office, and ultimately maintain the public’s confidence in government. Hasn’t the recent Braddock scandal yet again underscored the need for sources of clean campaign funding and disclosure in our election system?
PA 13 -180 also rolls back the disclaimer and attribution rules put in place by Public Act 10-187 following the Citizens United decision. That law contains strong “stand by your ad” requirements for independent expenditures and specifically requires tax-exempt organizations to disclose their top 5 contributors in political advertising and other communications. These disclosures help the public to evaluate the motivation and content of political messages. Ultimately, they allow voters to make informed decisions regarding political candidates and to hold them accountable for post-election actions. Disclosure also serves shareholder and donor interests by giving them a window into how their money is being spent.
PA 13-180 rolls back the protections afforded by PA 10 -187 by (1) watering down the “stand by your ad” rules by allowing companies and CEOs to hide behind agents, (2) eliminating the requirement that 501(c) and 527 organizations list the names of their top five contributors, (3) requiring disclosure of the names of the top five persons that made “covered transfers” to the person making independent expenditures, but limiting those disclosures to expenditures made during the 90 days prior to a primary or election, and (4) excluding from disclosure any covered transfers of less than $5,000, in the aggregate, during the preceding 12 months.
Section 9 of PA 13-180 generally requires the maker of a communication to list in reports filed with the SEEC the top five contributors to any person named in a disclaimer, but it specifically prohibits the disclosure of the names of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations. While some have argued that federal law prohibits the disclosure of the names of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations, based on our preliminary research and the input of our national organization, we believe that this view is mistaken. Federal tax law permits 501(c)(4) organizations, which cannot have political activity as a primary purpose, to maintain the confidentiality of their donors’ identities in tax filings made available to the public. However,federal campaign finance law generally requires the disclosure of contributors to organizations engaged in electoral activity; and the Supreme Court has been clear that disclosure requirements are constitutional. States can, and do, require disclosure of electoral campaign activity by 501(c)(4) organizations and non-minimal contributions and contributors to that political activity. A recent example of this is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s announcement of new regulations which will require 501(c)(4) organizations that spend at least $10,000 to influence New York elections to disclose their donors. (See http://www.ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-announces-new-disclosure-requirements-nonprofits-engage-electioneering) California and Montana also have laws requiring 501(c)(4) organizations that engage in political spending to disclose their donors—as does Connecticut (PA 10-187), at least for now.
If PA 13-180 becomes law, Connecticut should expect to see an influx of “dark money” into our political system.
In Citizens United, the Supreme Court assumed that voters would know the true sources of the funds behind political advertisements and thus be able to make informed decisions regarding both the “speaker” and the message. Justice Kennedy’s opinion hailed that “transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”
Rather than moving to eliminate the strong system put in place in the 2005 Campaign Finance Law and the 2010 Independent Expenditure Law, we should be following the lead of New York’s Attorney General in proposing more disclosure and transparency.
Transparency is a choice – and at this juncture in the legislative process, it is yours to make. The League of Women Voters of Connecticut urges you to put transparency and the public interest above campaign interests. Please VETO PA 13-180 (HB 6580).
Cheryl Dunson, President
Christine S. Horrigan, Government Chair
Cc: Honorable Donald E. Williams, Jr.
Honorable Martin M. Looney
Honorable Gayle S. Slossberg
Honorable Anthony J. Musto
Honorable J. Brendan Sharkey
Honorable Ed Jutila
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut is a nonpartisan, statewide organization committed to effective public policy and the active involvement of citizens in their government. On behalf of the League, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to comment on SB 5 AAC Changes to Campaign Finance Laws and Other Election Laws and SB 1146 AAC Cross-Endorsements.
SB 5 AAC Changes to Campaign Finance Laws and Other Election Laws
Over the years, the League of Women Voters of Connecticut has strongly supported campaign finance reform efforts with the following goals in mind: ensuring the public’s right to know, combating corruption and undue influence, encouraging candidates to run for public office and re-connecting with citizens. We actively worked for passage of the historic 2005 Campaign Finance Reform law and the subsequent “fixes” in response to court rulings. We also were strong proponents of the 2010 law AAC Independent Expenditures that included “stand by your ad” provisions and expanded language on what constitutes “coordination” . . .
Click on "Read more" below or download the full testimony (2 pages).
Christine S. Horrigan, Government Director, provided LWVCT testimony to the Government Administration and Elections Committee on five campaign finance bills:
CGA Government Administration and Elections Committee, March 19, 2012 Public Hearing
Comments On RB 5528 “AAC Changes to the Public Financing Act and Other Election Laws”
Submitted By Cheryl Dunson, President
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut is a nonpartisan, nationwide organization with over 1800 statewide Connecticut members dedicated to improving the electoral process. On behalf of the League, I would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment upon RB 5528 AAC Changes to the Public Financing Act and Other Election Laws. As a result of the out-of-town absence of our Campaign Finance
Specialist Christine Horrigan, I offer the following preliminary comments on RB 5528 on behalf the League. We hope that the committee will consider any further comments provided by Ms. Horrigan in the future.
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut has strongly supported campaign finance efforts with the following goals in mind: ensuring the public’s right to know, combating corruption and undue influence, encouraging candidates to run for public
office and re-connecting with citizens. We actively worked for passage of the historic 2005 Campaign Finance Reform law and the subsequent “fixes” in response to court rulings. We also were strong proponents of the 2010 law “AAC Independent
Expenditures” that included “stand by your ad” provisions and expanded language on what constitutes “coordination.”
In an age where the cost of running for office has exploded, the courts have recognized that making a contribution is a form of protected speech, and the subsequent emergence of well-funded groups about which little is known who seek to influence elections, more can be done in the public interest.
We support the proposed expanded disclosure rovisions. This bill requires corporate or organizational entities to disclose all sources of the contributions for campaign-related activities. If any funds are transferred from another entity for the purpose of a campaign
related expenditure that would also have to be specifically disclosed. Particularly noteworthy is the provision to require corporations incorporated or registered to do business in the state that wish to engage in election related spending to propose
annually a political activities budget and to present such budget to shareholders for adoption (Sec. 29); in other words, this provision gives the shareholders the knowledge
and the power to authorize or vote down spending relating to Connecticut’s elections.
The League also supports: mandatory electronic filing by lobbyists of any election-related expenditure (Sec10); expansion of the “stand by your ad” provision to require identification of a website link which will provide the names and addresses of donors (Sec20); and a requirement for television broadcasters to provide a searchable database of elections-related ads with key information such as the contact info for the
purchaser of the ad, the date and amount of expenditure and whether it was made in support or opposition to a targeted candidate or ballot measure (Sec 20).
Taken together, the League believes that these provisions will increase the public’s knowledge of who is spending how much to influence the outcome of our state’s elections and help instill confidence in our electoral system.
In contrast to our support for the disclosure provision, the League is concerned about the across-the-board doubling or near doubling of contribution limits to the Citizens’ Election Program (Sec 13-17) that appears to be in a response to the court’s ruling eliminating “trigger funds”. Another provision which also appears to be in response to the court ruling is to enable participating candidates to raise unlimited amounts
in response to a nonparticipating opponent whose spending approaches the limit or exceeds the eligible grant amount. We fear that these provisions will once again create an opportunity for undue influence.
As proposed, some of the changes to individual limits are:
To State Central
To Statewide Offices
Changes to the limits on contributions by political committees organized by businesses
or organizations include...
CLICK BELOW TO READ THE FULL TESTIMONY
CGA Government Administration and Elections Committee
February 14, 2011 Public Hearing
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Comments Submitted by Christine S. Horrigan, VP of Public Issues
Support For: SB 945 AAC ELECTRONIC FILING OF CAMPAIGN REPORTS WITH THE STATE ELECTIONS ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut thanks you for the opportunity to comment on SB 945AAC Electronic Filing of Campaign Reports with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
The League supports lowering the thresholds and expanding the universe for mandatory electronic filing of campaign reports as proposed in SB 945. Mandatory electronic filing promotes transparency in government and prompt disclosure. It is also more efficient, reduces paper and saves money—important considerations in these difficult economic times.
We urge you to vote “YES” on SB 945. Thank you.
League of Women Voters of Connecticut · 1890 Dixwell Avenue Hamden, CT 06514 · 203/288-7996