Who among us is not concerned about the influence of ‘big money’ in our electoral process; local, state and national? Now more then ever we see the peril when big money and politics intermingle. We see it in elections and we see it in the impact of lobbying. So what is the alternative? A long-standing choice has been the concept of public financing of elections. Since 1972 taxpayers have had the opportunity to contribute to presidential elections by check the Presidential Election Campaign box on their tax return.
But what about state elections? Also in the 1970’s, Connecticut General Assembly created a five-member bi-partisan and independent State Elections Commission to ensure the integrity of the state’s electoral process. Through this commission came the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP) created in 2005 following a period where ‘big money’ impacted Connecticut elections. This is a voluntary program, which provides full public financing to qualified candidates for statewide offices and the General Assembly.
Before CEP, unions or corporations could donate as much as they wanted directly to candidates, and expect favors in return. Some current legislators are proposing the program’s elimination as a way to save money during the current budget negotiations. However, CEP is funded by the sale of abandoned property in the state, not tax dollars, and its funding constitutes only 0.0001 percent of the state budget.
Fully funding the CEP is crucial to Connecticut’s ability to transcend the days of “Corrupticut.”
Joan Means lives in New Haven.