Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a controversial campaign finance disclosure bill Friday, saying it would have a “chilling effect on issue advocacy.” The veto provoked disappointment by legislative leaders and a stinging denunciation of Malloy’s commitment to reform by Common Cause. The bill pitted Common Cause and other campaign reform advocates against the ACLU, newspapers and business groups, which argued that the legislation was poorly written and overly intrusive. The goal was to provide greater disclsoure about independent expenditures. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill opposed elements of the bill that essentially would have allowed voting by fax or email. “This is not Gov. Malloy against the world,” said Roy Occhiogrosso, the governor’s senior adviser, defending the veto and responding to Common Cause. “There is a coalition, an interesting coalition…they have identified any number of problems with this bill.”
Malloy declined to comment earlier Friday when asked about the bill, but his veto message said the bill defined independent expenditure so broadly that could apply to almost any communication involving a public office within 90 days of an election. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association and ACLU opposed the bill, later joined by the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association. “Gov. Malloy recognizes that meaningful reform of campaign finance is possible without compromising the right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” said Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “The bill didn’t achieve that balance. The governor’s veto provides a chance to try again, and to get it right.”
Schneider said the bill would have required organizations to disclose names of major contributors as a condition of speaking about elected officials or issues. While the intent of the bill was to force the disclosure of unlimited, independent expenditures meant to influence elections, it would have applied to organizations that advocate only on issues, never supporting or opposing political candidates, he said.