Connecticut Campaign Funding System in Peril

A very complicated case from Connecticut may have implications for federal campaign finance law. An appeals court upheld restrictions on campaign contributions from government contractors, threw out part of the state’s public campaign financing law, and struck down a ban on lobbyist contributions. According to BNA Money and Politics ($$), "the decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appeared to increase the likelihood that the U.S. Supreme Court would weigh in on the constitutionality of public campaign financing systems."

The court upheld higher thresholds for third-party candidates who try to qualify for public funds and a ban on political contributions from state contractors. This bodes well for the DISCLOSE Act, which includes a provision restricting campaign activity for government contractors with more than $10 million in annual contracts.

A ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists and their families was also struck down. Meanwhile, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that "twenty-eight members of Congress and congressional candidates have received at least $100,000 from lobbyists during the first five quarters of the 2010 election cycle."

Further, the court decided that candidates who participate in the program should not receive extra funds once their opponent spends or raises more than what the publicly funded candidate is allowed to spend. This is known as the "trigger provisions." The New York Times was not pleased with this ruling and in an editorial, said it "made it even easier for wealthy candidates to dominate politics."

The Campaign Legal Center issued a statement after the court ruling. "Decisions like these, permitting lobbyists to make campaign contributions and allowing lobbyists and government contractors to solicit contributions, demonstrate why it is so important to enact the DISCLOSE Act at the federal level and similar disclosure laws at the state level. Deep pocketed special interests are hard at work in our nation’s capital and in state capitals across the country, and it is vital to our democracy that we know who is attempting to buy access to our elected officials."

 

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