Political Disclosure: Sausage making is clearer and cleaner

Last year the political disclosure bill was marred by the last minute inclusion of email and fax voting and provisions crafted behind closed doors in an “emergency bill”. Drawing the Governor’s veto based partially on the risks of the Internet and the unconstitutionality of an individual waiving the secret vote <read> As we pointed out earlier this week, this year there is an even stranger Internet voting bill.

This year the disclosure bill was back with full public hearings and some of the objections mitigated, heading for a legitimate debate and vote <read>

But once again that bill is apparently being stuffed with other, unrelated, and additional controversial items. A grab-bag of items only insider politicians would love, CTNewsJunkie:  Despite Latest Evidence of Corruption, Lawmakers Consider Giving More Money to Parties, PACs <read>

Behind closed-doors Tuesday, lawmakers were crafting legislation that would help them funnel more money to political party committees, legislative leadership committees, and political action committees.

According to Rep. Ed Jutila, who co-chairs the General Administration and Elections Committee, the “essence” of the bill is an attempt to address the Citizens’ United decision that allowed unlimited amounts of money to be spent by Super PACs either for or against candidates — even if those candidates participated in the public campaign finance system. Close to $700,000 in independent expenditures from Super PACs was spent in the 2012 election cycle.

“It’s one way to try and even the playing field,” Jutila said Tuesday.

Jutila said the amount of money individuals can give to the candidates participating in the Citizens’ Election Program will not change under the omnibus campaign finance bill, but the amount of money individuals can give to the two major parties, leadership PACs, and town committees will increase under the proposal.

The proposal comes just one week after a federal corruption trial demonstrated exactly how much sway money has over Connecticut politics and policymaking. During that trial, a cooperating witness detailed how he was able to use the donations to former House Speaker Chris Donovan’s failed congressional campaign and three Republican leadership PACs controlled by House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero in an effort to kill legislation detrimental to the interests of smoke shop owners…

The bill is an aggregation of a number of the concepts from four pieces of legislation introduced earlier this year by the General Administration and Elections Committee.

One of those bills would increase the amount of money an individual could donate to a State Central Committee from $5,000 to $10,000. The amount a town committee or leadership committee could receive from an individual would go from $1,000 to $2,000, and all other PAC limits would increase from $750 to $1,000.

It would also allow State Central Committees for the Democratic and Republican Parties to sell ad books as another way to raise money. The ability to sell advertising space in booklets handed out at public events was removed from the parties in 2005 when the Citizens’ Election Program was created.

Another bill, which has been lumped into the campaign finance package, would lift a ban on donations from state contractors and would allow them to give up to $1,000 to their local town committee. The 2005 law prohibited anyone doing business with the state from donating money.

In addition, the bill would include Sen. President Donald Williams’ ban on cross-endorsements by third parties. It would also prohibit the use of certain words such as “Independent” from the names of political parties in the state.

So a bill designed to counter some of the effects Citizens United will actually increase the money flowing from state contractors into elections. Worse it would end cross-endorsements and make the name of an existing political party illegal. The cross-endorsement bill was the subject of almost uniform opposing testimony and statements from Committee members who then voted for that bill.

At minimum these concepts/bills deserve individual debate and up and down votes. The only concept that should be adopted is a good disclosure bill.


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