Monday, May 14, 2012

Something Rotten in the State of Connecticut

Last week, the Connecticut legislature passed HB5556, An Act Concerning Changes to Campaign Finance Laws, commonly known as the Disclosure Act. The Act requires disclosure of who is financing political advertisements occurring within 90 days of an election, and that this disclosure be made within 12 hours of the advertisement. This effectively ferrets out the real people behind these ads and affords the voters (i.e. the governed) the opportunity to divine the real interests said people are promoting. The fiduciary bond between the government and the governed, as we know from the Declaration of Independence, is based on consent. With the Disclosure Act, Connecticut voters can know the parties to whom they are truly giving consent. Further, the Act requires that organizations engaged in making political expenditures reveal the names of all donors giving $1000 or more. This does not place overly onerous reporting requirements on these organizations, nor does it reveal the names of smaller donors. The Act also requires that the names of the top 5 donors to these organizations be given in the advertisement. Clearly, the Act seeks to prevent people like Sheldon Adelson or George Soros from tilting the electoral playing field behind the cape of purposefully vague organization names such as “People for Freedom”.

The Act that has also become known as “disclosure on steroids” would be a nice addition to Connecticut's Clean Election Law, making Connecticut just about the cleanest place in America to hold an election. This would be a welcome change from the years of being known as “Corrupticut”. But current Governor and hypocrite-in-residence Dannel Malloy doesn't want the voters of Connecticut to have the information with which they can give informed consent. Malloy has indicated he will veto the bill based on unspecified constitutional issues. Apparently the opinion of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law regarding the constitutionality of this Act is not persuasive for the Governor and his counsel. This Act puts no greater restriction on free speech than did the Citizens United decision – the very decision our legislators have tried to counteract. Perhaps Malloy, who was a huge beneficiary of Connecticut's public election financing system in 2010, is now finding the trappings of power a bit too appealing to risk losing them in 2014. Like myriad “Washington outsiders” elected to the US Congress on promises of change, Malloy's tune changed once he was on the inside. Like the leaders of his party on a national basis, Malloy decries the influence of big money but will gladly take all he can get; finding out where it comes from, and the favors expected in return, is your problem. Perhaps the fact that Malloy's star is rising within his party nationally has given him aspirations of higher office in 2016 or 2020; the best way to achieve those goals is to remain in office, and Malloy appears to be willing to sacrifice the voters of Connecticut in order to do it. Be afraid, Connecticut voters, be VERY afraid.

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