Former chairman of Connecticut’s Democratic Party Ed Marcus writes in a commentary that “Whether you support (Joe) Ganim or not, the hard fact is that the existing law is clearly unconstitutional and the State Election Enforcement Commission should issue a declaratory ruling that Ganim has the right to participate in its Citizens Election Program just like any other candidate.” The mayor and Marcus were close when Marcus was head of the party during Ganim’s first tenure as mayor when Marcus’ daughter served as a city lobbyist.
Ganim has formed an exploratory committee for statewide office with a fundraiser planned for late June. The SEEC issued a draft ruling that Ganim is prohibited from receiving public financing because of his 2003 conviction on public corruption charges. Marcus, an attorney, asserts the law is unconstitutional in part because it enacts retroactive punishment. The SEEC is expected to issue a final ruling in a few weeks after a public comment period. Ganim will likely seek a court remedy. This editorial was written for the CT Post:
I would guess that not too many people outside of Bridgeport have followed this issue: Joseph Ganim wants the same public financing as any other candidate, should he become a candidate for governor.
The General Assembly, in 2013, passed legislation prohibiting public financing for any candidate who had committed “felonies related to their public office.” Ganim was convicted and served some seven years in prison for felonies that fit within that General Assembly’s language.
Ganim certainly won both a primary and the general election in Bridgeport and now serves as its mayor. Bridgeport with all its problems as a big city in Connecticut, actually appears to be doing well under his leadership.
Whether you support Ganim or not, the hard fact is that the existing law is clearly unconstitutional and the State Election Enforcement Commission should issue a declaratory ruling that Ganim has the right to participate in its Citizens Election Program just like any other candidate.
The entire concept of trying to avoid corruption in government is based on candidates participating in public financing. The idea is to keep candidates away from both special interests and heavy-hitting private financing. Public financing also gives a candidate the tremendous advantage of being able to concentrate on running for office and not attending one fundraiser after another.
The General Assembly was trying to make the point that someone convicted of a felony related to their public office should not ever be treated the same as any other candidate.
The first and 14th amendment make it abundantly clear that government cannot create different rules relating to different classes of people in the protection of political free speech. All candidates who qualify for public financing should be entitled to–and required to–follow the same rules.
I do believe in second chances but I also believe that once a judge’s sentence is complied with, the General Assembly cannot create a basis for further punishment or bar to seeking public office. The only bar to public office should be set by the voters. It’s whether or not you have their support that counts. So far Ganim has met that test in the city of Bridgeport and is clearly entitled to the same right to participate in state public financing as every other candidate.
I want to make it clear that this is not in any way to be construed as an endorsement of Joe Ganim. It is simply my endorsement of what I see as fair play. Ganim has paid the price to society for his previous behavior, giving up seven years of his life. If he now wants to run for any public office, he should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as any other candidate.
I do not expect my position to be a popular one, but it is the right one.