Location:
EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE NOMINATIONS COMMITTEE;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Court Cases;

OLR Research Report


January 21, 2011

 

2011-R-0047

QUESTIONS FOR STATE ELECTIONS ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION NOMINEE

By: Kristin Sullivan, Principal Analyst

STATE ELECTIONS ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION (CGS 9-7A AND 9-7B)

The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) is responsible for administering and enforcing the state's public financing program, the Citizens' Election Program (CEP). It also investigates possible violations of election laws, inspects campaign finance records and reports, refers evidence of violations to the chief state's attorney or to the attorney general, levies civil penalties for elections violations, issues advisory opinions, and makes recommendations to the General Assembly concerning revisions to the state's election laws.

The SEEC consists of five members who serve five-year, staggered terms. The Governor and the four top legislative leaders each appoint one member. No more than two may be from the same political party and at least one cannot be affiliated with any political party. Both houses of the General Assembly confirm.

The commission elects one of its members to serve as chairperson and another to serve as vice-chairperson. It can employ individuals necessary to perform its functions. Employees include (1) an executive director and general counsel, (2) a director of legal affairs, (3) a fiscal administrative manager, (4) a director of public campaign financing, (5) a director of disclosure and public information, (6) a director of information technology, and (7) 43 other staff members.

QUESTIONS

1. During the 2009 and 2010 sessions, the General Assembly considered proposals to expand the SEEC's authority to, among other things, investigate alleged violations of election regulations, not only election law, and hold hearings as part of these investigations. Why is this additional authority important?

2. In what other ways, if any, do you believe the SEEC's authority should be expanded?

3. The SEEC and the Office of the Secretary of the State both play a role in election administration. Do any areas over which the agencies have jurisdiction intersect or afford opportunities for collaboration? Do you believe election-related duties and responsibilities are appropriately divided between the agencies?

4. Up until recently, the SEEC's enforcement and compliance activities were housed in separate divisions within the agency. Now they are subdivisions under the Legal Unit. Describe each subdivision's responsibilities. What prompted the reorganization? What impact does it have? Does it create a conflict of interest between the two subdivisions? Why or why not?

5. About how many investigations does the SEEC conduct annually? For what types of allegations? On average, how much time does it take the SEEC to dispose of a case? About how many result in a sanction?

6. On average, how many cases of willful violations does the commission refer to the chief state's attorney or attorney general's office each year? Does the commission track the cases it refers? About how many are prosecuted?

7. Connecticut's 2010 gubernatorial race garnered national attention when a Superior Court judge ordered several polling places in Bridgeport to remain open for two extra hours after the city ran out of ballots. As a result, the legislature will likely consider safeguards to prevent future ballot shortages. What are your recommendations for preventing such shortages? What role, if any, should the state play?

8. Aside from the ballot shortage in Bridgeport, what were the top issues coming out of the November 2010 election?

9. Describe the audit process for campaign finance reports. Specifically, are the reports reviewed for errors when they are filed? How long after filing may a report be audited?

10. During the 2010 session, the General Assembly considered legislation (sHB 5470) that required the SEEC to respond in writing no later than 10 business days after receiving a written question from a candidate or campaign treasurer. What are your thoughts on this proposal?

11. In January 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as individuals under the First Amendment. The General Assembly responded by passing PA 10-187, authorizing businesses and unions to make unlimited independent expenditures. How did the new federal and state laws affect Connecticut's 2010 election? Are the reporting and attribution requirements for independent expenditures under PA 10-187 adequate?

12. PA 10-1, July Special Session, changed the CEP to conform state law to the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Green Party of Connecticut, et al. v. Garfield, et al. It eliminated the program's “trigger provisions” under which participating candidates received additional grant money when their opponents reached certain spending thresholds or they were the target of negative independent spending. What are your thoughts on this change? How did it affect legislative candidates, comparing the 2008 and 2010 election cycles?

13. The SEEC would like to (1) require that all candidates, not only those for statewide office, submit their campaign finance statements electronically and (2) lower from $250,000 to $5,000 the threshold at which they much do so. Why are these changes necessary?

KS:tjo