March 9, 2000
SHERIFF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS AND BALLOT QUESTION CAMPAIGNS
By: Mary M. Janicki, Chief Analyst
You asked for a discussion of any restrictions on campaign contributions from deputy sheriffs and special deputy sheriffs to candidates for the office of sheriff. You also asked how the law regulates campaigns in support of, or in opposition to, ballot questions.
No law restricts the specific contributions or campaign-related activities of deputy sheriffs and special deputy sheriffs. But they are subject to the campaign finance laws that apply to anyone aiding the nomination, election, or defeat of a candidate for the office of sheriff. These include (1) a $1,000 contribution limit, (2) the requirements related to the methods of payment and contributor information disclosure, (3) reporting requirements for independent expenditures over $1,000, and (4) existing corrupt practices prohibitions.
In 1993, the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee gave a favorable report to a bill to prohibit (1) deputy or special deputy sheriffs, their spouses, and dependent children from making or soliciting contributions to a candidate for sheriff and (2) sheriff candidates from accepting such contributions (HB 7182). But the Judiciary Committee removed the ban, substituting a reduction, from $1,000 to $500, in the contribution limit to sheriff campaigns for all individuals. That provision, too, was replaced by a House amendment that struck everything and substituted an appropriation to the county sheriffs from the General Fund to pay for special deputy sheriffs (SA 93-38).
In each of the following two regular sessions, legislation prohibiting a candidate for sheriff from soliciting campaign contributions from deputy sheriffs or special deputy sheriffs died in the Judiciary Committee.
The question on approval of an amendment to the Connecticut Constitution appears on the ballot as a referendum at a statewide election and the laws regulating referendums apply. Certain individuals, businesses, and labor organizations must form a referendum committee if they want to campaign for or against the question. They must register with the secretary of the state's office and report periodically on their receipts and expenditures. The law allows individuals, party committees, and labor organization political committees (PACs) to make unlimited contributions to a referendum committee. Other PACs may contribute up to $2,000, while a business, labor union, or other organization can donate over $300,000. An individual who spends more than $1,000 on the campaign for a question must file a financial statement with the secretary. Political advertisements related to the question must have the proper sponsor attribution.
RESTRICTIONS ON SHERIFFS' CAMPAIGNS
The following campaign finance laws that apply to anyone apply to deputy and special deputy sheriffs, their spouses, and dependent children:
1. an individual's contribution is limited to $1,000 (the limit applies separately to the primary and general election) (§ 9-333m(a));
2. monetary contributions over $50 must be paid by check, money order, or credit card (§ 9-333x(9) and SEEC Ad.Op. No. 75-5);
3. anonymous cash contributions over $15 are not permitted (§ 9-333h(b));
4. contributions over $100 must include the contributor's name address, principal occupation and employer, and lobbyist status, if applicable (§ 9-333j(c)(1)(G));
5. an individual may purchase up to $50 of “advertising space” in a program book for a fund raising event (§ 9-333b(10));
6. an individual who hosts a fund raising event can contribute up to $200 for invitations, food, or beverages which does not count against his aggregate contribution limit (§ 9-333(b)(5));
7. an individual under age 16 may not contribute more than $30 to a candidate (§ 9-333m(f)).
An individual may spend an unlimited amount to promote the success or defeat of a candidate as long as the expenditure is not coordinated with the candidate's campaign. Anyone who makes an independent expenditure over $1,000 must file a statement with the secretary of the state, in the case of a sheriff candidate, disclosing an itemized accounting of the expense (§§ 9-333e(a) and 9-333j).
The following general prohibitions apply:
● No person may knowingly give anything of value to another to influence another person's vote for or against any candidate (§ 9-333x(1)).
● No person may make a campaign contribution in the name of another (§ 9-333x(7)).
● No incumbent officeholder may use public funds for promotional materials for distribution in the three months prior to an election in which the person is a candidate for elective office (§ 9-333l(d)).
● No candidate may promise to appoint or secure the appointment of anyone to any public position (§ 9-333x(6)).
The law regulating solicitations within a government department applies specifically to commissioners and deputy commissioners. They are prohibited from soliciting funds for a candidate (§ 9-333x(11)).
A sheriff's candidate committee cannot receive contributions from another candidate committee, including candidates for federal and out-of-state offices (CGS § 9-333r).
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF 1993 ACT
In 1993, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) submitted a proposal to the GAE Committee that would have prohibited deputy and special deputy sheriffs, their spouses, and dependent children from making or soliciting contributions to a candidate for sheriff. The bill also banned the sheriffs from soliciting or accepting such contributions (An Act Concerning Contributions To or For the Benefit of a Candidate for Sheriff, HB 7182). The bill also reduced the contribution limits to sheriff candidates to $250 from $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the type of donor.
At the public hearing, Jeffrey Garfield, SEEC executive director and general counsel, testified that the proposal was prompted by the results of the commission's study of contributions to sheriff candidates in the 1990 election. Garfield testified that the commission undertook the study after receiving “a number of telephone calls from deputies and special deputies …who claimed they were pressured to contribute to their bosses [sic] campaigns.”
At the hearing, Jay B. Levin, representing the Connecticut Sheriff's Association, testified against the bill, arguing its provisions were unconstitutional. Copies of testimony on the question of the bill's constitutionality from Garfield and Levin are attached.
The committee gave the bill a favorable report by a vote of 14-5. But the bill went to the House with a letter from the Legislative Commissioner's Office suggesting that the bill, if enacted, could face legal challenges. The commissioners said they “have concluded that its constitutionality should be determined by a court. Arguments are compelling on both sides and we are unable to advise you that it is clearly unconstitutional.”
The House referred the bill to the Judiciary Committee, which removed the contribution ban for deputies and special deputies and changed the limit for others to $500. Finally, the House deleted Judiciary's version of the bill, substituting an appropriation of almost $600,000 for sheriffs that became SA 93-38.
In 1994 and 1995, the legislature considered bills that would have barred a candidate for sheriff from soliciting or requesting a campaign contribution from a deputy sheriff or special deputy sheriff “with the understanding that the contribution will be used for a sheriff candidate.” The language with respect to campaign contributions was identical in both bills. The 1994 proposal (An Act Concerning Sheriffs, HB 5559) began in the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee. That committee gave it a favorable report and sent it to Judiciary where it died. The 1995 legislation (An Act Concerning Sheriffs, HB 6363) was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which took no action.
RESTRICTIONS ON BALLOT QUESTION CAMPAIGNS
The laws on contributions and activities for referendums apply to a campaign in support of or opposition to a constitutional amendment ballot question. No public funds may be spent to influence the vote on a question (§ 9-369b).
The SEEC has published detailed information on the law regulating referendum campaigns in its Guide to Financing a Referendum Question, available from the commission, the Secretary of the State's Office or at http://www.seec.state.ct.us/SEEC publications/Referen Guide.pdf
Political Committee Established for a Referendum Question
A group wanting to spend funds on a constitutional amendment campaign must first register as a political committee with the Office of the Secretary of the State (§ 9-333d(a)). Registration is required when, for a referendum:
1. a group of two or more individuals wants to raise or spend more than $500 (§ 9-333g(d));
2. business, labor union, or other organization, spends more than $1,000; or
3. a group of two or more businesses or other organizations acting together receive or spend any funds.
A referendum committee may accept the following contributions:
1. unlimited contributions from an individual (over age 16) (§ 9-333n(d)), a party committee (§ 9-333s(a)), or a labor PAC (9-333q(b))
2. up to $2,000 in a year from an ongoing PAC (§ 9-333t(a));
3. up to $2,000 from a business PAC (§ 9-333o(e)) or a committee formed for a single election (§ 9-333u(a)); and
4. up to 10 cents per resident from a business, labor union, or other organization (currently $328,711.60 for a statewide question) (§ 9-333v(c)).
The same provisions that regulate the method of payment and disclosure to a candidate committee (described above) apply to contributions to a referendum committee.
An individual may make unlimited contributions or expenditures to promote the success or defeat of a referendum question. But when a person spends over $1,000 related to a constitutional amendment question, he must file a statement with the secretary of the state (§§ 9-333e(a) and 9-333n(d)).
Any business, organization, labor union, committee, or group organized for a referendum must include identifying information after the words “paid for by” on any written, typed, or printed communications that support the success or defeat of a question (§ 9-333w).