The state House of Representatives meets today in special session with a task at hand that is crucial for gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy and future candidates for governor who don’t have the multimillions in personal wealth to finance a campaign.
The House will try to override Gov. Rell’s veto of a bill amending the landmark 2005 campaign finance reform law, parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the US Court of Appeals- 2nd District. Sources on the House caucus staff say they have the numbers for the override.
Fixing the campaign finance reform law is crucial to the very spirit and intent of the original law—to remove “big money” and “special interests” from gubernatorial (and other) campaigns. The “fix” includes granting a qualifying candidate the entire amount of public funds up-front instead of granting a smaller, initial amount and then waiting for the wealthy, self-funded opponent to spend a certain amount to trigger the rest of the money for the qualifying candidate. The court threw out the “triggering provisions.”
The court also threw out the ban on lobbyists’ contributions and the prohibition on lobbyists and state contractors soliciting contributions. The “fix” limits the contributions to $100 and allows the solicitations.
From a “messaging” viewpoint, the Democrats who control the House and Senate (which has already overridden the veto) have done a poor job explaining just what this “fix” does. Republicans, including the governor, have been allowed to spin the bill as handing more public money to candidates who will only spend it on negative advertising.
One Democrat shooting it straight is Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney of New Haven. He points out to The Shad that the maximum amount of public money a candidate can get is less in the “fix” than it is in the original bill because the “fix” does not include the $3 million a participating can get if a third-party group spends money to attack the candidate.
As far as the negative advertising, it was the Republicans who pitched fits during the original debate, claiming that the legislature wouldn’t be able to resist telling a candidate receiving public money how to spend the money.
The override is of particular concern to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Dan Malloy. The Malloy campaign this week lost a bid to set aside an injunction preventing the campaign from getting “triggered” money while the legislature figured things out. Although in upholding the injunction, the judge practically invited the legislature to fix the law.
Malloy will certainly be outspent by his megabucks Republican opponent Tom Foley. But the public funds will at least allow Malloy to compete—maybe not on a level playing field but on one in which he can at least get his message out. Malloy was outspent nearly 5 to 1 by self-funded multimillionaire Ned Lamont but trounced him anyway. It’s worthy of noting again that Senate President Don Williams and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan both supported Lamont.
It should be noted that Gov. Rell’s veto of the “fix” contradicts her original support of public financing. She was willing to absorb the credit for the original bill even though it was Senate President Williams, state Sen. Don DeFronzo, Speaker Donovan and state Rep. Chris Caruso who drove the bill to passage. Rell went along unenthusiastically. Her veto shows that.