Connecticut's Relentless Fight for Clean Elections

Written by Erin Hughes, Common Cause intern, on July 21, 2017

For a state formerly known as “Corrupticut,” Connecticut has become a national leader in clean, transparent elections with its model public financing program, the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP).

Passed in 2005 following then-Gov. John Rowland’s conviction in a pay-to-play scandal, the CEP is a statewide public financing program. The program provides public campaign funds to candidates in exchange for their agreement to increased disclosure requirements, smaller donation limits, and guaranteeing that a majority of their contributions will come from their prospective constituents. Since its implementation, the CEP has been used by more than 80% of eligible candidates; including over 76% of current legislators from both parties.

Despite its popularity among candidates, the CEP has been put on the chopping block repeatedly during state budget negotiations. It has survived threatened cuts thanks to the tireless efforts of Common Cause CT and our allies. With this year’s negotiations running long past the July 1 deadline however, the fight to protect full funding for the CEP is tougher than ever. Both parties have proposed either a funding cut or complete elimination of the program; either proposal would be a devastating blow to the integrity of the program and Connecticut government.

The CEP represents hope, change, and real democracy for Connecticut, and for the country. Particularly in Connecticut after the Rowland scandals, we know that democracy is a choice - not a privilege. Americans are fortunate to have a full-fledged, functioning democracy; it’s up to us to live by, and further the principles, values, and actions that keep such a democracy alive.

In 2005, Connecticut chose to strengthen our democracy with the Citizens’ Election Program; candidates choose democracy each time they participate in the CEP, a gleaming source of Connecticut pride. Any cut to the CEP opens the door a little wider to special interests and private money gaining influence in Connecticut elections, and suppresses the volume of citizens’ voices in the legislature. Letting special interests in and shutting citizens out violates the principles, values, and actions of fair, open democracy.

Our choice to protect the Citizens’ Election Program is not about party, politics, or money, it is about democracy. It is a choice to never go back to the days of “Corrupticut,” to never have elected officials who do not truly represent their constituents, and to never open government’s doors to threats to democracy. When money is tight, the CEP may seem like elective spending, but this program really is a necessary function of democracy; we have no choice but to protect it.


Office: Common Cause Connecticut

Issues: Money in Politics

Tags: Fighting Big Money, Disclosure, Empowering Small Donors

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