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AN EQUAL SAY AND AN EQUAL CHANCE FOR ALL
FRESH START: THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC CAMPAIGNFINANCING IN CONNECTICUT
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April 19, 2013|J. Mijin Cha
Connecticut has offered a voluntary public financing system forstate-wide constitutional and General Assembly offices since 2008.Through financing from the Citizens' Election Fund, candidates thatobtain the required number of small donations can receive a lumpsum to fund their campaign. The program is very popular and in2012, 77 percent of successful candidates were publicly financed.This report looks at the impact public financing has had oncampaigning, the legislative process, policy outcomes, and thedynamics of the legislature. Empirical data is supplemented withinterviews with current and former legislators from bothRepublican and Democratic parties, elected state officials, andadvocates to highlight the impact of public financing in the state.While only a few electoral cycles in, it is clear that public financingis a fundamental step towards a more representative legislativeprocess that is more responsive to constituents.
Public financing allows legislators to spend more time interacting withconstituents.
As one legislator recounted, “I announced my reelection bid in February and by April, I wasdone fundraising. So, from April to November, I could focus only on talking to constituents.Without public financing, I would have been fundraising through that entire period.”
Public financing increases the number of donors.
In contrast to fundraising from just a few big donors, publicly financed candidates mustreceive donations from a minimum number of in-district donors (150 for State House and 300for State Senate) resulting in a larger donor pool.
Lobbyists’ influence begins to decline with public financing.
A former legislator recalls, “Before public financing, during the session…there were “shakedowns” where lobbyists and corporate sponsors had events and you as a legislator hadto go. That’s no longer a part of the reality.”
More people are able to run for office because of public financing.
In 2008, there were the fewest number of uncontested seats since 1998, indicating that morecandidates are running.
Public financing helps a more diverse set of candidates get elected.
Public financing is resulting in a legislature that is more representative of the state’sdemographics. For example, the Latino representation in the state legislature reached itsgreatest level in 2012 and women make up 32 percent of the current legislature.
Public financing allows for a more substantive legislative process.
As a current Republican legislator states, “Now, people concentrate more on the issues, readthe issues. You see more votes that are bipartisan and the big issues get bipartisan votes.”
Policies adopted after public financing was implemented are more aligned with thepublic’s preferences and the needs of the people of connecticut.
With public financing and the alignment of the governor with the legislature, Connecticutpassed mandatory paid sick days, increased the minimum wage, adopted an Earned IncomeTax Credit, passed in-state tuition for undocumented students, and reversed a nearly 30-yeartrend that gave bottle deposits back to distributors and redirected the money to public
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