Opinion: Connecticut’s publicly funded campaign system is a joke

Suzanne Bates
Suzanne Bates

Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates

Here’s one last poll I’d like to see the numbers for — how many Connecticut residents woke up Wednesday morning excited about four more years of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy?

Unfortunately for Republican candidate Tom Foley, it appears voters chose the devil they know (or is it the porcupine?) instead of the devil they didn’t know. Foley claimed he released an agenda that would move the state forward, but it was an anemic agenda at best with few details and no inspiration. It certainly wasn’t enough to convince voters they’d be better off under a Gov. Foley than they are now.

Woulda shoulda coulda.

See the complete story at CT News Junkie.




5 responses to “Opinion: Connecticut’s publicly funded campaign system is a joke”

  1. Piberman

    Would our politically able Governor have had an easier time against a politically experienced opponent with a clear and understandable platform ? In 4 years a humbled CT GOP may not be so enthusiastic about inexperienced patrons.

  2. EveT

    Halfway through the entire article, Ms. Bates finally gets around to snarking at the Citizens Election Program: “Like so many well-intentioned government programs, the state’s publicly funded campaign system sounds so good on paper, …Think of the promises behind the law — cleaner government! Freer and more-open elections! More competition!… Ask the third party candidates how they feel about the public finance system, or the Republicans who couldn’t meet the state’s high barriers to entry in the primary and general election.”
    So, you don’t think there should be high barriers to entry? I didn’t even think the barriers were that high.
    Public financing enables candidates who are not millionaires to run without being beholden to moneyed special interests. That is a good thing.

  3. Oldtimer

    “Public financing enables candidates who are not millionaires to run without being beholden to moneyed special interests. That is a good thing.”

    That was the intent when the public financing law was written, but, allowing various PACs and Corporations to donate unlimited amounts to support a candidate has totally devised a way around the purpose of the public financing law.

  4. Steve Colarossi

    The public financing of elections provides a distinct advantage to the local major parties who can nominate candidates and then assist them in gathering the requisite signatures and small donations. To claim that it provides a “level” playing field can hardly be accurate when minor party and independent candidates receive far less than Republican and Democrat party candidates. Logically, if the goal is to “level” the playing field, then, arguably, an incumbent should receive less than a challenger (after all, the incumbent typically enjoys significant name recognition). And, to carry the “level playing field” argument to its logical conclusion, then the system should provide that incumbents who have won past elections by wide vote margins should have their public funding reduced (after all, how can a challenger possibly enjoy a “level” playing field, when a popular incumbent can match the challenger’s spending dollar-for-dollar?).
    But, those types of changes to the system would surely be rejected as anti-democratic and contrary to the fundamental belief that a candidate for elective office should earn each vote and not buy them.

    As the “level playing field” rationale fails, so too does the misguided belief that public financing removes the influence of big money donors. Because there is no limit to the number of candidates that an individual (and members of that individual’s family) may contribute, there still remains a lucrative market for professional fundraisers/campaign “consultants” who pitch their connections to these habitual political donors. Because only a small portion of the contributions which the candidate must raise need come from citizens within the district, connections to big money donors are important. After all, if one were to closely examine the fundraising reports for many candidates who participated in the public financing system, one would find on those reports husbands and wives who each make the maximum possible contribution, followed by their children who also make considerable contributions.

    The public financing program is highly inefficient. Major party candidates receive the same amount regardless of when they are approved. As a result, candidates who receive their grants in the final month of the campaign receive tens of thousands of dollars of our money- and, as long as the money is spent on “campaign” expenses, they can spend it without any accountability. Mailboxes can be flooded with mailers to undecided and unregistered voters alike. Mealtimes can be interrupted by an endless succession of robocalls. More doorbells can be rung by paid staffers, often with little information about “their” candidate (for it is the campaign treasure’s signature which appears on their paychecks). Whether the campaign is effective or wasteful hardly matters- for the candidate’s grant won’t be reduced in future years for wasteful or ineffective spending in prior elections.

    And, if that isn’t bad enough, incumbents who face no opponent can also receive a public campaign financing grant (albeit at a lower grant level). Yet, as long as money is given to incumbents assured of victory, incumbents are allowed, at no cost to them, to raise their public profile at public expense every two years. That hardly “levels” the playing field for any challenger the unopposed incumbent will face in future races.
    The public financing of elections fails to provide a “level playing field”, fails to remove the influence of big donors and professional fundraisers, and fails to assure that our money is spent efficiently. In fact, it solidifies the influence of political machines and local political parties, and provides a benefit to incumbents. Given the millions the program costs us, such poor results hardly justify its continuation.

  5. John Hamlin

    @Steve Colarossi — you are right on the money. It institutionalizes the dysfunctional and sometimes corrupt party system.

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