First Amendment group criticizes ‘pay-to-play’ decision

Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) President Sean Parnell criticized the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut decision on a challenge to so-called “pay-to-play” legislation in Connecticut.

“The U.S. District Court today unfortunately found that some are, in fact, less equal than others when it comes to enjoying the full protections of the First Amendment,” Parnell said. “In limiting the free speech rights of those who make a living representing the interests of the Nutmeg State’s citizens before their government as well as those who agree to provide services or goods to the government, the court has turned on its head the idea that every American citizen has equal rights under the law.”

The law, enacted in late 2005, was a reactionary response to the indictment and guilty plea of then Gov. John Rowland. Rowland acknowledged conspiring with contractors to award state contracts in return for vacations and other perks. The law bans lobbyists, state contractors and potential state contractors from making contributions to certain candidates, committees for legislative and statewide offices, candidate-affiliated political action committees (PACs) and party committees. The Association of Connecticut Lobbyists, along with the Green Party, argued that the contribution and solicitation restrictions on state contractors, lobbyists and their families are unconstitutional.

“Instead of relying on proven solutions to corruption like transparency in contracting and enforcing existing corruption and bribery laws, it’s unfortunate the court found that restricting the free speech rights of Connecticut contractors and lobbyists will solve the age-old problem of corrupt government officials,” Parnell said.

The case is Green Party of Connecticut v. Jeffrey Garfield, et al and a copy of the court’s summary judgment can be found below.