OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING REVISION OF CERTAIN CAMPAIGN FINANCE AND CITIZENS' ELECTION PROGRAM STATUTES.
This bill changes state election laws on campaign finance and the Citizens' Election Program. Concerning campaign finance, it lifts the cap on one type of organization expenditure and also specifies that such expenditures do not include de minimus activities. It exempts certain items and services from the definition of contribution, including the purchase of advertising space on signs at a town committee's fundraising affair. It authorizes candidates to organize post-primary or -election meals or events for campaign workers up to 14 days later.
With respect to the Citizens' Election Program, the bill authorizes candidates who participate in the program (participating candidates) to submit corrected grant applications if the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) rejects them for other than “substantial noncompliance” with application requirements and conditions. It eliminates the grant differential between primary grants for candidates in party-dominant districts and those in non-party-dominant districts. It allows participating candidates who receive grant money from the Citizens' Election Fund to use any remaining funds for post-election audits or to pay treasurers up to $ 1,000 for their services.
The bill allows the SEEC to continue reviewing a grant application for up to one week beyond its deadline and also requires it to complete any post-election investigation of the program within six months.
EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2009
By law, organization expenditures are made by legislative caucus, legislative leadership, or party committees for the benefit of candidates and their committees. Organization expenditures are not considered campaign contributions and thus are not restricted to lawful committee purposes.
The bill lifts the cap on organization expenditures consisting of the use of offices, telephones, computers, or similar equipment by removing the restriction on using the equipment when it results in an additional cost to the legislative caucus, legislative leadership, or party committee. It thus allows candidates to use this equipment when the committee making the expenditure incurs a cost.
The bill also specifies that organization expenditures do not include de minimus activities such as (1) using the personal computer or cell phone of an individual or business to send an email or a message, respectively, without pay or (2) posting or displaying at a town fair a candidate committee's name or a party candidate listing (see BACKGROUND). However, these activities may still have value and be considered campaign finance contributions or expenditures.
The bill eliminates the requirement that campaign treasurers for participating legislative candidates file a statement with the SEEC listing any committee that made an organization expenditure on the candidate's behalf, including the amount of the expenditure and its purpose. It retains the requirement that treasurers for party committees and legislative caucus and leadership committees include with each campaign finance statement an itemized accounting of organization expenditures.
The bill exempts certain items and services from the definition of “contribution,” including:
1. up to $ 100 in personal items or services that are customarily associated with occupying a residence and
2. up to $ 20 (fair market value) in donated personal property a candidate committee possesses.
The bill also exempts from the definition the purchase of advertising space on signs at a town committee's fundraising affair, provided they clearly identify the purchaser. Although the law prohibits communicator lobbyists and their families and state and prospective state contractors and their principals from (1) purchasing advertising sign space in advertising books at a town committee's fundraiser and (2) contributing to or soliciting on behalf of candidates, generally, the bill allows them to purchase advertising space on signs at fundraising affairs.
The bill raises, from $ 200 to $ 400, the individual exemption for costs associated with hosting a house party (i. e. , cost of invitations, food, drinks, and using real and personal property). Under the bill, as under existing law, individuals may apply this exemption to each candidate for whom they host a house party during a single election or primary campaign. It applies as an aggregate total during a calendar year for house parties to benefit party committees.
The bill authorizes paid committee workers to also volunteer their time with a candidate committee. Under the bill, they must sign an affidavit indicating the number of unpaid hours they will serve and provide it to the campaign treasurer of the committee with which they will volunteer. The treasurer must file the affidavit with the SEEC when he or she files any required periodic campaign finance statement. Presumably, the bill applies to individuals who work for and are paid by any type of candidate, party, or political committee.
“Thank You” Parties
The bill authorizes participating and non-participating candidates to host a meal or an event after a primary or an election to acknowledge committee workers' efforts. The party must occur no later than 14 days after the primary or election, whichever is applicable (see BACKGROUND).
The bill does not include a monetary limit for each worker nor does it define “event. ” However, the law allows candidates to spend up to $ 100 on gifts for each of their campaign or committee workers in a calendar year. Regulations specify that participating candidates may purchase meals for them as follows: up to $ 15, $ 20, or $ 30 per person per occasion for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, respectively (including tax and gratuity for each meal).
CITIZENS' ELECTION PROGRAM
By law, the candidate and campaign treasurer must sign the grant application. The application must include certain written certifications and a cumulative itemized accounting of campaign finances.
The bill allows candidates to submit corrected primary or general election grant applications if the SEEC rejects them for other than “substantial noncompliance” with application requirements or conditions. The bill does not define this term.
It appears that candidates must submit these applications, correcting each of the defects the commission identifies, in accordance with the schedule specified by law. However, the law containing the schedule is amended by the bill and contains two different schedules. Thus, it is unclear when candidates must submit corrected applications. The SEEC must review any corrected application in the same manner as it reviews original applications.
The bill also authorizes the SEEC to continue an application review for up to one week. One reason for continuing a review is missing documentation, but the bill does not specify any others.
However, if the SEEC continues a review for a reason other than missing documentation, the commission must inform the candidate of the basis. If the review is continued without prejudice until the commission's next meeting, the applicant may submit missing or incomplete information by 5: 00 p. m. the day before the commission next meets to consider applications. The bill does not specify how the SEEC must treat a candidate who fails to provide the required additional information timely.
Grants for Primary Campaigns
The bill eliminates the differential in primary grants for major party legislative candidates based on whether they run in a party-dominant district (i. e. , one in which a major party has at least 20% more enrolled voters in his or her district than another major party has, as determined by the latest enrollment and voter registration records of the secretary of the state).
It instead provides that all candidates receive the primary grant allowed by law for those in non-party-dominant districts: $ 35,000 for state senator and $ 10,000 for state representative. Currently, a major party candidate for state senator or state representative in a party-dominant district receives a $ 75,000 or $ 25,000 primary grant, respectively.
The law authorizes the SEEC to investigate possible violations of election law. The bill requires the SEEC to complete any investigation within six months that it conducts of the Citizens' Election Program. The commission must provide monthly status updates to the subject of such an investigation. The bill does not specify consequences for noncompliance.
The bill authorizes participating candidates who receive a grant from the Citizens' Election Fund to use any remaining funds after an election to make a payment to their campaign treasurer of up to $ 1,000 for services rendered. By law, candidates may compensate without limitation (1) campaign and committee staff and (2) attorneys, accountants, consultants, or other professionals for services during a campaign. However, the SEEC has advised that participating candidates may not use campaign funds for bonus payments for campaign staff or volunteers on or after an election (see “Post Election Fact Sheet – November 2008”).
By law, the commission may inspect or audit the accounts or records of candidates who participate in the Citizens' Election Program. The bill allows participating candidates to use remaining grant funds after an election to comply with any audit the SEEC conducts. Presumably, this applies only to an audit of a candidate's own committee.
Party Candidate Listing
A “party candidate listing” is any communication that (1) lists the names of one or more candidates; (2) is distributed through public advertising including broadcast stations, cable television, newspapers or similar media, direct mail, telephone, electronic mail, public Internet sites, or personal delivery; and (3) treats all candidates in a substantially similar way. The content must be limited to (1) the identification of each candidate, including photographs; (2) the offices sought; (3) the offices the candidates currently hold, if any; (4) the party and a brief statement about the party or the candidates' positions, philosophy, goals, accomplishments, or biographies; (5) an encouragement to vote for the candidates; and (6) information about voting, such as voting hours and locations.
“Thank You” Parties
For the 2008 election, the SEEC prepared a fact sheet stipulating that post-election parties held by participating candidates must occur on Election Day. In accordance with regulation, the sheet provided that campaigns could not exceed the “per person per occasion” meal limit set by regulation (see “Election Day Parties – November 2008”).
sHB 6438, reported favorably by the Government Administration and Elections Committee, exempts certain activities and donations from the definition of “contribution. ”
sHB 6662, reported favorably by the Government Administration and Elections Committee, makes changes to the Citizens' Election Program, including the timeframe for reviewing some grant applications.
Government Administration and Elections Committee
Joint Favorable Substitute