CCP files brief in Conn. taxpayer financed campaigns case

The Center for Competitive Politics has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with a federal appeals court in a challenge to Connecticut’s taxpayer financed campaigns system.

A federal judge ruled in August that the program discriminated against minor parties and infringed on the free speech rights of non-participating candidates. The ruling is stayed pending the state’s appeal

“Government does not further the interests of the First Amendment by razing the speech of some to amplify the voices of others,” said Center for Competitive Politics attorney Benjamin Barr, the brief’s author. “Connecticut’s innovative, but flawed, system of campaign finance reform runs head-on against the protection of the First Amendment, itself being historically hostile to any content-based regulation of speech.”

The Green and Libertarian parties sued the state after the Citizens’ Election Program was implemented in 2005, arguing that the law favored major party candidates and restricted minor party challengers. The program went into effect in 2008, doling out $9.2 million to candidates.

Earlier this month, the Center for Competitive Politics sent a letter to Connecticut legislators detailing constitutional and policy concerns with the state’s Citizens’ Election Program. Legislators were expected to consider changes to the program in a special session this month after a federal judge ruled the system unconstitutional in August but have delayed any potential action.

“The problem of this unconstitutional program of taxpayer subsidies to political candidates has an easy solution,” said Center for Competitive Politics President Sean Parnell. “It’s time to return to a true system of voluntary campaign funding — donations from citizens to candidates they support.”

The case is Green Party of Connecticut v. Garfield. A three-judge panel f the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will hear the case Jan. 13, 2010.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) is a non-profit organization which seeks to protect the First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition.

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