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Public Financing Scheme Unconstitutional

Yankee Institute’s Policy Director Welcomes the District Court Ruling

HARTFORD – District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill ruled today that the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), Connecticut’s Public Financing Scheme for political candidates, is unconstitutional. Yankee Institute Policy Director Heath W. Fahle offered his reaction:

“The ruling today is a great victory for people disenfranchised by the system,” said Fahle. “The Citizens’ Election Program unfairly discriminated against minor party and petitioning candidates and gave an unfair advantage to Republicans and Democrats.”

Judge Underhill’s ruling featured four major points:

CEP granted funds beyond historic campaign expenditure levels

According to an upcoming study by the Yankee Institute, in 2008, CEP grants represented a decrease in the amount of money spent by a campaign in only 14 of 70 cases (20%).

CEP strengthens major party candidates that otherwise would not have the public support or success to run for office

While the number of major party candidates has held steady over the last several election cycles, the number of minor party candidates running for State Senate in 2008 dropped to a ten year low – just five candidates.

CEP regulations for a qualifying minor party candidate are impossible
CEP distribution formula discourages minor party candidates

In order for a petitioning candidate or minor party candidate to qualify for a full grant under the Citizens’ Election Program, State Senate candidates had meet the program qualification thresholds (raise $15,000 in $100 increments from 300 in-district donors) and acquire signatures equal to 20% of the total votes cast for that office in the previous election. Consider that for statewide candidates, they are required by the state to collect 7500 signatures to get on the statewide ballot. For State Senate races, 7500 signatures would not be enough to qualify for the full CEP grant in 47% of the districts.

“This ruling is a victory for those who want to participate in the political process but are left out because of who they choose to associate with,” concluded Fahle. “The principle of limited government has prevailed once again.”
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