Connecticut Settlement Affirms States’ Ability to Enforce Tough Campaign Money Laws

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
$325K Payment Should Boost Reform Nationally, Common Cause Says

Connecticut’s groundbreaking election reform laws have passed a critical test with the agreement of state Democrats to pay $325,000 to settle a lawsuit accusing them of skirting the rules to use donations from state contractors to boost Gov. Dannel Malloy’s reelection campaign, Common Cause said today.

“This is great news for the integrity of our elections,” said Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn. “The settlement affirms that candidates for governor and the legislature cannot accept aid from companies doing business with the state; that was the intent of the law that we and our allies worked so hard to pass after the scandals of the Rowland administration.”

There may be some who are frustrated that the Democratic Party was not found to have violated state law, but a protracted legal battle does not ensure the integrity of the Citizens’ Election Program. And beyond Connecticut, the deal sends Democrats and Republicans alike a message that states can pass and enforce campaign finance laws that are tougher than federal law, Hobert Flynn added.

Citizens United and other decisions of the Roberts court, along with the partisan paralysis afflicting the Federal Election Commission, have convinced too many Americans that nothing can be done about the dominance of big money in our elections,” she said. “This settlement says otherwise – loudly – with a payment to the state at least 10 times larger than in any previous election law case.”

Connecticut law bars state contractors from contributing to state candidates who oversee the awarding of contracts. Democrats argued it could not block their use of contractor donations to a separate federal election account maintained by the Connecticut Democratic Party. The Democrats tapped the account to finance mailers supporting Malloy’s 2014 campaign.

“The bipartisan reforms the legislature passed after the Rowland era are a model for the nation,” said Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause Connecticut. “So it was particularly distressing to see Gov. Malloy’s allies make this attempt to subvert them; I’m delighted that they’ve effectively acknowledged their mistake by settling the case and accepting the authority of the State Elections Enforcement Commission.”

Under the agreement, Democrats agreed that all future mailings or media spending on behalf of state candidates will be financed from a state-only account or a separate “compliant account” that will be subject to state and federal oversight. The Democrats had argued the federal account they used to help Malloy was beyond the reach of the Elections Enforcement Commission.

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