HARTFORD – House Republicans today slammed Democrats for gaming campaign finance rules to their advantage, and called their chief election bill hypocritical because it does nothing to clean up the system.
“The majority party has systematically mangled the so-called ‘clean election’ laws they so fiercely endorsed for years, and this latest effort does nothing to make both sides play by the same transparent rules,’’ House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said. “This proposal does not represent reform in anyway.’’
Republicans opposed the bill that Democrats said would impose greater reporting standards for donations. Republicans said it would continue to allow unlimited political action committees, PACs, by members. During the last campaign Republicans discovered that Democrats had formed numerous PACs. The individual PACs were used to circumvent campaign laws that limited how much money could be given to candidates and other PACs.
“The same people that called for clean elections have created all these ways to raise more money than they otherwise could and get around the restrictions they claimed to endorse,’’ Klarides said.
The Democratic legislation was passed on a party line vote 79-70 after four hours of debate.
The taxpayer-funded Citizens Election Program was intended to limit how much each candidate for state office could spend. Since it was instituted, the majority party has come up with numerous ways to get around those limits. The CEP was also intended to limit the amount of money lobbyists and special interests could contribute.
Republicans proposed several amendments that constituted real reform today that Democrats rejected on party line votes:
- Eliminate taxpayer funded grants for unopposed candidates;
- Limit expenditures by state party organizations to candidates. One Democratic Senate candidate, Ted Kennedy Jr., famously raised more than $200,000 privately, gave the money to the Democratic State Central Party and had that money sent back to support his campaign. He still took the CEP grant.
- Ban sitting lawmakers from having control of their own PACs.