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Special Interests Trump Connecticut’s Tax-Funded Campaign Program
The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP) today released a study on Connecticut’s tax-funded election program that found the law had no measurable impact on legislative voting behavior.
“Supporters of tax-funded elections claimed it would cut special interest influence, and there’s no evidence that it has had any effect,” said Matt Nese, CCP’s Director of External Relations. “The legislature and the public were sold an expensive bill of goods.”
The report, “Meet the New Legislature, Same as the Old Legislature: A Quantitative Analysis of the Connecticut Citizens’ Election Program,” (CEP) measured changes in the voting patterns of legislators who served in the ConnecticutGeneral Assembly during the 2007–2008 and 2009—2010 legislative sessions and accepted taxpayer dollars for their 2008 reelection campaign. By identifying significant interest groups in Connecticut and comparing their legislative priorities to legislative voting patterns both before and after the CEP went into effect, any noticeable change in voting since the beginning of the CEP would potentially provide evidence that freeing legislators from private, voluntary contributions has indeed made legislators more responsive to citizens and less responsive to supposed ‘special interests.’
The CEP was born out of a late 2005 campaign finance reform package instituted in response to gift-giving and bribery scandals involving four elected officials in Connecticut. Touted by its proponents as a way to eliminate ‘special interest’ influence in state politics, CCP’s study not only finds that the CEP failed to achieve this goal, but casts great doubt on the alleged necessity of these programs, given the scant evidence to suggest that private donations allow the “buying” of elections or lead either to corruption or the appearance thereof. In fact, CCP’s study finds that the voting patterns of legislators were actually influenced by tax-funded donations in a more obvious way than by so-called ‘special interest donations.’
According to Jason Farrell, a former Research Fellow at CCP and one of the authors of the report, “after comparing voting results with the legislative priorities of five of the biggest ‘special interest’ spenders in Connecticut politics: the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), the AFL-CIO, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM), the Connecticut Hospital Association, and the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, our analysis found that CEP participant lawmakers often dramatically increased their support for interest groups (as with CBIA), or remained mostly unchanged (as with CCM). If the program was effective, one would expect that legislators would begin ignoring the agendas of these allegedly deep-pocketed interest organizations. That has not been the case.”
Ultimately, what Farrell and the other authors conclude is that “if tax-funded programs like the CEP, which minimize large donations and introduce strict regulations, produce a dramatic increase in support for the largest pro-business lobby in the state (CBIA), it’s only logical to conclude that the pro-regulation bloc’s claims are false.”
CCP hopes that this study will be useful to legislators and citizens alike in evaluating existing programs in Arizona and Maine and when considering similar tax-funded election program proposals in other states.