Frenzied Reform

Posted on March 01, 2006
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At first, reformers hailed Connecticut's new Clean Elections law as a major victory for advocates of public campaign financing. Now two unlikely allies are raining on the reformers’ parade.  State lobbyists and the Green Party both oppose the law on well-reasoned constitutional grounds.

That’s not surprising.  Even Arizona’s Clean Elections law hasn’t received the constitutional green light yet ’" serious claims remain before the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  And Connecticut’s system hardly respects constitutional boundaries.  Clean Elections systems, of any variety, might be fatally flawed from the get-go. 

Lobbyists oppose the Connecticut law because it prohibits them from making campaign contributions.  But the courts have long held contributions to be constitutionally protected ’" they let citizens show their support for candidates.  Connecticut’s Clean Elections boondoggle ignores that constitutional truth. 

The Green Party is upset because the new law effectively excludes third parties from the funding program, letting Republicans and Democrats run off with the money. Rather than embrace competition and open politics to new candidates, the Connecticut system slams the door on political opportunity.   

So reformers will return to the drawing table in an attempt to fix Connecticut’s Clean Elections system.  But the fatal flaw of any publicly financed election system is the increase in government micromanagement of democracy and the resulting burdens placed on citizens, candidates, and grassroots organizations.

The First Amendment, and the liberty it protects, needs no reform. 

Key Links:

-Goldwater Institute: “Is Cleanliness Political Godliness?  Arizona’s Clean Elections Law After Its First Year” 
-Institute for Justice: Association of American Physicians and Surgeons v. Brewer
- Hartford Courant: “GOP Senators Propose To Fix Reform Law”
-Newsday: “’Abramoff-itis’ prompts state lawmakers to revamp lobbying laws”

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