Government Administration and Elections Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5511

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING DISCLOSURE OF COORDINATED AND INDEPENDENT SPENDING IN CAMPAIGN FINANCE.

Vote Date:

3/21/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/7/2016

File No.:

568

SPONSORS OF BILL:

The Government Administration and Elections Committee, on behalf of the State Elections Enforcement Commission

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill (1) increases disclosure with respect to independent expenditures, (2) clarifies distinctions between coordinated and independent spending, enhancing enforcement of campaign finance laws, and (3) conforms statutes to rulings by the United States Supreme Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Michael Brandi, Executive Director, The State Elections Enforcement Commission supports this bill, arguing that the proposed bill increases meaningful disclosure with respect to independent expenditures made in Connecticut elections. It addresses the distinction between coordinated and independent spending, which enhances the SEEC's ability to enforce the law and thereby saves state resources.. He offered minor and technical changes that more accurately reflect the SEEC's original proposal. Overall, SEEC believes that this bill will allow them to do the following:

● Increases disclosure of independent spenders by drilling down though the “dark money” to see where the money really comes from. It eliminates loopholes found in previous legislation.

● It makes a meaningful attempt to shut down the shell game of surrogate groups acting like independent Super PACs;

● It adopts the “coordinated spender” language being proposed at the national level as a means to clarify the line between coordinated and independent expenditures, making it easier for campaigns to comply by delineating which groups making expenditures can be considered truly “independent” and which cannot;

● It prevents groups for whom the candidate fundraises from making independent expenditures to benefit the candidate from the funds the candidate raised, unless those funds are completely segregated;

● It prevents groups formed by family members of the candidate from making independent expenditures to benefit the candidate;

● It improves meaningful disclosure by requiring more and better information from independent spenders;

● It increases penalties for non-reporting independent spenders;

● Rolls back the changes in Public Act 13-180 that weakened the Commission's ability to enforce the line between independent and coordinated expenditures;

● Codifies a system for creating independent expenditure political committees that was outlined in the Commission's Declaratory Ruling 2013-02, which addressed the Second Circuit's Walsh decision, regarding the allowance of unlimited contributions to independent expenditure only political committees;

● Codifies the guidance issued by the Commission in Advisory Opinion 2014-03 addressing the U.S. Supreme Court's McCutcheon decision, regarding aggregate limits for individual contributors;

● Creates a clear, safe harbor for debate related communications; and

● It also addresses a concern raised by candidates in the last election that reimbursements to party committees for headquarters and communications were not allowed by CEP candidates. This bill will allow that to happen.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Cheri Quickmire, Common Cause CT

Tom Swan, CT Citizen Action Group

support bill, as well as the improvements proposed by SEEC in the areas of disclosure of independent spending in campaign finance and independent expenditures, . Disclosure is the strongest response Connecticut has in the wake of the Citizens United ruling short of a constitutional amendment to overturn.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Expressed

Reported by: Maureen O'Reilly

Date: 4/11/2016