Government Administration and Elections Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING REVISIONS TO CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Committee on Government Administration and Elections
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill alters current statutes to provide greater transparency to the campaign financing. It also makes minor alteration to how Citizen Election Program financing can be used and how much an unopposed candidate can receive.
These changes include the closing of ad-hoc loopholes for campaign reporting of CEP expenditures by requiring secondary or coordinated spenders to report the use of CEP moneys.
This is to both protect expenditures of public moneys and update how financing with how current campaigns are run, particularly bringing Connecticut statutes in line with Federal law.
The substitute language provides technical changes. It also provides a Spending Cap for state central spending on a particular state candidate. It reduces the cap for the amount a unopposed candidate can receive from CEP from 30% to 20%. It also provides more stringent regulations on IE committees.
Present bill sections are listed below.
1. expands the contribution and expenditure exemptions for certain communications;
2. eliminates aggregate individual contribution limits;
3. creates a category of spenders called “coordinated spenders” and defines their expenditures as contributions subject to campaign finance reporting and limits;
4. codifies “independent expenditure political committees” as a type of PAC and requires them to register with SEEC;
5. expands certain independent expenditure (IE) reporting requirements and changes others, including for political committees established by an individual acting as an agent for another person (known as Affiliated PACs);
6. expands certain covered transfer disclosure requirements;
7. potentially increases maximum penalties for failing to file IE reports;
8. establishes a uniform deadline for certifying minor party nominations, submitting nominating petitions, and filing affidavits of intent under the CEP for candidates not in a primary;
9. reduces CEP grants, from 30% to 20% of a full grant, for eligible participating candidates who are unopposed in the general election;
10. freezes inflationary CEP grant adjustments until January 2018; and
11. establishes a limit of $250,000 on organization expenditures made by state central committees to benefit the general election campaign of a legislative candidate participating in the CEP.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Michael Brandi, Executive Director and General Counsel, State Elections Enforcement Commission(SEEC):
The State Elections Enforcement Commission has a mixed stance on S.B.1126. They state that the current system is quite successful and the SEEC has acted as a watch dog agency for Campaigns in the state. They state that much of the proposal is derived from ones that are being proposed in other jurisdictions. It also incorporates the model legislation recommended by Democracy 21. They state that several of the sections build on federal legislation dealing with issues of campaign financing. SEEC supported these sections of S.B.1126.
However they state that they are opposed to sections 19-21, 25, and 26. They state that these provisions would weaken the current campaign financing system by limiting the SEEC's oversight abilities. They also may have the unintended consequence of allowing private funding to seep back into state elections.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
J. Brendan Sharkey Speaker of the House:
Speaker Sharkey supports several of the provisions stated in S.B.1126. These provisions are important to provide transparency in elections especially in terms of party or candidate donations. He does however believe that the bill could go farther by providing a cap on the amount a party committee can spend on a particular candidate.
Senator Leonard A. Fasano:
Senator Fasano opposes several of the provisions in S.B. 1126. Senator Fasano support CEP and states that he was one of the few original republicans that did. He does however believe that this bill does not go far enough to close loopholes in the bill and he states opposition to two sections contained in the bill. These provisions include limiting the time period SEEC can conduct an audit to three months and prohibits audits on campaigns that were audited the previous election cycle. Both of these provisions the Senator believes will damage the system and open CEP to further abuse.
Representative Gail Lavielle:
Representative Lavielle supports the concept of S.B.1126. She does however suggests major revisions and ask for several additions. These include an overall reduction for campaign grants and a total withdrawal of funding for unopposed candidates. She also asked for more stringent measures to close loopholes that allow for out of state funding for candidates through PACs and prohibiting federal funds from going towards a state candidate races.
Representative Kurt Vail:
Representative Vail supports S.B. 1126. The representative believes that this bill is important to maintain clean election and supports this bill out of committee with revisions capping expenditures by state party Committees to candidates as well as capping the amount individuals may donate to state central committees.
Representative Mike Alberts:
Representative Alberts supports the S.B.1126. He asked for an amendment to the bill adding a prohibition of CEP funding for unopposed candidates.
Representative Michael France:
Representative France supports S.B.1126. He does however state some large criticisms of the original wording of the bill. He stated that currently many of the recipients of CEP funding do not provide adequate list of expenditures. This can be attributed to candidates giving the bulk of their grant to secondary payees who under the current statutes are also required to provide itemized expenditure list of campaign expenses on behalf of CEP candidate. Representative France states that this does not happen regularly in practice however and the public are not adequately granted the transparent campaign they have been promised. Representative France believes this erodes public confidence in the program and the process overall. He asks that the bill be amended to include more stringent requirements on secondary payees of CEP funds.
Sal Luciano Executive Director, Council 4 AFSCME:
The AFSME takes issue with section 20 and 21 of the S.B. 1126 but is otherwise in support of the bill. They are opposed to these sections because they will make it more difficult for minor parties to receive CEP funding.
Other sources of Support:
League of Women Voter
Brent Ferguson, Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice
Elsa Peterson Obuchowski
Karen Hobert Flynn, Senior Vice President Common Cause
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Evan Preston State Director ConnPIRG:
ConnPIRG opposes several of the provisions provided in S.B.1126. These include sections 19-21, 25, and 26. They state that sections 19-21 damage minor party candidates from being able to participate in CEP. They state that Section 25 and 26 will damage the oversight that is currently granted the SEEC over the CEP funds. They state that CT is unique in their ability to counter large donor influence within elections and they would like that to continue they however cannot support S.B.1126 in its original form.
Luther Weeks, Executive Director, CTVotersCount:
Opposes S.B. 1126 because the provisions contained in the bill do not go far enough to fill loopholes left in the current statutes that allow outside the state donations and other provision go further to undermine the current CEP program.
Other sources of Opposition:
Lindsay Farrell, Director of CT WF
Tom Swan, Executive Director, CCAG
Reported by: Wade Packer