Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim.
Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim talks to his fellow Connecticut delegates at the Democratic National Convention. mark pazniokas /

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim intends to file a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court challenging the constitutionality of a law that bars convicted felons like him from seeking public financing for a potential run for governor in 2018.

In a draft of the lawsuit provided to CT Mirror, Ganim seeks a declaratory ruling allowing him to participate in the voluntary Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), which provides public financing for campaigns to qualifying candidates who agree to abide by strict spending and fundraising limits. He says the ban undermines the goals of the program.

“The statute prohibiting Mr. Ganim from receiving funds from the CEP fails to accomplish the intent of the statute, and in fact works contrary to the intent of the statute,” the suit says. “He seeks to run for Governor without using funding from special interest groups, donations from outside Connecticut, from lobbyists, or anyone who might expect later favor.”

Ganim served seven years in prison after his conviction in federal court on corruption charges related to his involvement in a bribery and kickback scheme during his first stint as mayor. He was released from prison in 2010 and elected as mayor again in 2015 after his voting rights were restored.

State law bars a candidate convicted of a crime related to his office from seeking public financing through the Citizens’ Election Program, which was created in response to the corruption scandal that forced the resignation of John G. Rowland as governor.

Ganim, who unsuccessfully petitioned the State Elections Enforcement Commission for a ruling that he was eligible for the program, claims the prohibition violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution and his constitutional right to free speech.

“Mr. Ganim’s Right to Free Speech is impaired because the statute excluding him from funding is irrational, does not further a legitimate public purpose or interest, is not narrowly tailored, lacks a rational basis or relationship to a legitimate state interest, is unnecessarily harsh, undermines the CEP’s goals of combatting public corruption and promoting clean elections, and imposes an unfair and unnecessary burden on him by not allowing him to participate in the CEP,” the suit says.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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