The legislature’s Democratic majority released a proposal Monday to close a $350 million budget shortfall by, among other things, suspending Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance system for the 2016 election cycle. The suspension of the program would only help close $11.7 million of the $350 million to $370 million budget gap. But Michael Brandi, the head of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, said the one cycle suspension would start the “death spiral” for the program. “The CEF has been a huge success and this move would put it on life support if not kill it entirely,” Brandi said in a statement. “It will not leave the fund enough money to fund the 2018 elections — so this is not a one-time suspension, it’s a permanent weakening, that will likely result in a death spiral — and it will return all of our elected officials to the culture of soliciting special interest money to fund their campaigns. This is not what the citizens of Connecticut signed up for when the Citizens’ Election Fund was created.”
House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said in theory they could revert back to the old 2005 system or they could impose limits on how much money a candidate could raise. The only catch is that the money would have to be raised through private sources without a public grant. “That’s all subject to further discussion and negotiation,” Sharkey said.
The Citizens Election Program was implemented following the resignation of former Gov. John G. Rowland, who went to jail for taking gifts from state contractors.
“Make no mistake, we all pay the price when we turn government over to lobbyists and wealthy special interests,” Karen Hobert-Flynn, senior vice president of Common Cause said Monday. “At a time when upwards of 90 percent of voters in both major parties say money in politics is a problem, Connecticut Democrats are going backwards toward corruption and the era of John Rowland.”