Priceless piece from Hearst Newspapers political reporter Neil Vigdor about the enticement of public moolah for state election campaigns. Connecticut’s Citizens Election Program of publicly funded campaigns will eclipse $50 million in public grants with this year’s gubernatorial cycle since the start of the program following the fallout from former Governor John Rowland’s conviction on corruption charges. Under the voluntary program state campaigns can accept donations from $5 to $100 raising a small percentage that triggers a larger public grant.
The idea is to level the playing field and keep candidates and public officials honest. Will you sell your soul for $100? The program has a few quirks, however. You can make your donation in cash.
If candidates work earnestly to raise the money and qualify for public financing early they can focus totally on campaigning in the months leading to election day. The influence of money and legislation is still a formidable force in some campaigns especially with the powerful money sources coming from independent expenditure now legal courtesy of a federal Supreme Court decision a few years ago. Theoretically you can spend as much as you want to further or defeat a candidate for public office as long as it’s not a “coordinated” effort. Translation: there’s supposed to be a communications firewall between your activities and that of the campaign you’re supporting. Independent expenditures are now influencing local elections as well. There is no public financing program for municipal elections in Bridgeport.
Since the 2006 inception of the Citizens’ Election Fund, which is flush with money recovered from the sale of abandoned property and unclaimed bottle deposits, the state program has handed out $48 million to candidates in races from governor down to the General Assembly.
And the lure of public dollars for those seeking office at the state level is so irresistible, even millionaires are lining up for the taxpayer-subsidized campaign money.
Full story here.