Common Cause: Democrats Are Not Above the Law

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  • Cheri Quickmire

Common Cause in Connecticut calls on the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee (CDSCC) to drop its challenges to the state’s successful Clean Elections Law, the latest lawsuit filed in Superior Court Monday. “The Clean Election Law works and is popular with everyone but partisan hacks,” said Cheri Quickmire, Executive Director for Common Cause in Connecticut. “The state Democratic Party seeks to undermine Connecticut’s 10-year old campaign finance laws, passed with strong bipartisan support in 2005,” Quickmire added.

This latest lawsuit comes in the midst of a 10 month CDSCC campaign to kill the SEEC’s investigation into the use of the Democrats’ federal contribution account for the state election campaign of Governor Dannel Malloy.  Republicans charge federal account money was spent in violation of Connecticut’s publicly funded elections program, which gave Malloy about $6.25 million under the promise that no contractor money would be used.

The State Party argues that the Malloy mailer at issue constitutes “get-out-the-vote” (GOTV) activity and is therefore “Federal election activity” that must be funded using federal funds.   The real issue here is that Connecticut law has stricter funding requirements for state campaign activities than Federal law has for Federal campaign activities.  State law prohibits contributions by state contractors from being used to influence state campaigns.

“Voters in Connecticut and across the country are outraged about the corrupting influence of money in politics. Our law is a model for the direction the country should go, but Connecticut Democrats are hoping to take advantage of more lax federal rules on fundraising by calling the mailer GOTV activity,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for programs and strategy of the national office of Common Cause. “The mailer was clearly a campaign piece designed to persuade voters to vote for Governor Malloy.  The GOTV portion of the card is a mere 15 out of 195 words in small type in the corner of the mailer.  Based on the FEC’s rules, those 15 words do not magically transform a mailer that promotes the reelection of Dannel Malloy into a GOTV piece. That’s the sort of sleight-of-hand voters see right through and rightly get angry that politicians won’t just play by the rules, or worse, that they don’t have to.”

The State Party has said that on a voluntary basis, it will not use funds donated by state contractors for this particular mailing.  Instead, it asserts that it will use funds from a Federal account that does not contain money from state contractors.           

“The Democratic State Central Party has refused to comply with a subpoena from SEEC requesting information and is clearly trying to set a precedent that would allow it to avoid compliance with Connecticut’s strong campaign finance laws,” said Quickmire. “We hope the state party’s effort to evade Connecticut’s strong campaign finance law fail.”

Common Cause Connecticut is an organization that works for reform of the campaign finance and ethics laws in Connecticut.  Common Cause Connecticut strongly supported the adoption of the Connecticut Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2005, which provides for comprehensive public financing for state elections and other related reforms, and the organization has advocated for effective implementation of that state campaign finance reform law.