Rell Exults After Vote
GOP legislators parted with governor
Gov. M. Jodi Rell celebrated the passage of far-reaching
campaign finance reforms Thursday, even though fellow
Republicans largely abandoned her on the issue and a court
challenge is possible.
"We have set the standard," Rell said. "We are now a role
model for the rest of the nation. I think that Connecticut
can be very proud of this bill."
The Democratic-controlled Senate and House combined for
nearly 14 hours of debate Wednesday night and Thursday
morning, concluding at 2:44 a.m. with passage by the House
on an 82-65 vote.
Seven hours earlier, the Senate voted 27-8 to approve the
legislation, which bans contributions from lobbyists and
contractors and creates a voluntary system of publicly
financing campaigns for state office.
Only four Republicans in each chamber supported the bill,
which was drafted by Democrats.
House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-North Branford,
rebuffed overtures from Rell's senior staff and led a
vigorous floor fight against a bill that he described as
The political parties and legislative leadership's
political action committees will be permitted to make
unlimited expenditures, such as paying for direct mail
appeals, on behalf of candidates who accept public
"I found that loophole to be so overwhelming I couldn't
support the bill," Ward said.
Rell said that she also was troubled by those provisions,
but that bans on lobbyist and state contractor dollars, as
well as public financing, go far to minimize what she
called the corrosive influence of special interests in
"I believe we got 85 percent or more of what I had hoped we
would be able to have in a bill at the end of June," said
Rell, who intends to sign the bill in the next few
The legislature had ended its regular session in June
deadlocked over campaign finance reforms, an issue that
Rell had made a priority soon after succeeding John G.
Rowland as governor in 2004.
Rell said that she would seek legislation in the 2006
regular session to correct flaws in the bill. She wants to
limit party and leadership expenditures and lower the
threshold that petitioning and minor-party candidates must
meet to qualify for public funds.
Petitioning candidates must gather signatures from 20
percent of affected voters, nearly an impossible task, to
qualify for the same public funds available to Democrats
The Green Party is considering challenging the provision in
court, said Michael DeRosa, the co-chairman of the
The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut is
exploring a challenge on two grounds - the unequal
treatment of major and minor candidates, and the violation
of lobbyists' free speech rights. Courts have held that
political contributions are a form of speech.
"We are obviously concerned about the constitutional issues
raised by the law," said Roger C. Vann, executive director
of the state's ACLU chapter.
Vann said that he expected no decision on a lawsuit for
"This kind of case potentially would go all the way to the
U.S. Supreme Court. It would be potentially a long and
difficult battle," he said. "We don't take these decisions
Passage of the legislation was a personal victory for the
Democratic legislative leaders, who had been repeatedly
outmaneuvered by Rell on the issue, most recently by her
calling legislators into special session to tackle reform
after they had refused to do so on their own.
House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, and Senate
President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn,
delivered on a promise made Monday: If necessary, Democrats
could have passed the measure without a single Republican
The strong Democratic votes gratified the two leaders, who
had been long frustrated by the Republican governor's
taking the lead on campaign reform and chiding Democrats
for failing to act.
Among the Senate's 24 Democrats, only Joan Hartley of
Waterbury voted against the bill. The Democratic majority
was joined in passing the bill by four Republicans: John A.
Kissel of Enfield, Thomas J. Herlihy of Simsbury, Leonard
A. Fasano of North Haven and Anthony Guglielmo of
Only four House Republicans voted for the measure, despite
Rell's support: Al Adinolfi of Cheshire, Antonietta Boucher
of Wilton, Raymond C. Kalinowski of Durham and Diana S.
Urban of North Stonington.
Amann belittled Rell's efforts on behalf of the bill.
"She delivered four votes today," he said. "It's
unfortunate we didn't get more Republican support."
Democrats also needled Rell by including language banning
any elected official from appearing in a state-funded ad
one year before an election. Current law imposes a ban five
months prior to the election.
The immediate impact is to immediately take television
commercials featuring Rell off the air.
Rell shrugged off the provision.
"I'm fine with it. Let it go," she said.
Reform advocates praised Rell for keeping campaign finance
reform alive beyond June by calling a special legislative
session and Democratic leaders for delivering the votes for
They took no chances, however, on Wednesday.
At one point, they called Stamford Mayor Dannel P. Malloy,
a Democratic gubernatorial candidate and a supporter of
public financing, and asked him to intercede with reluctant
members of the Stamford delegation.
Malloy was seen on the House floor, talking to his local
delegation. Both Malloy and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano
Jr., the other Democratic gubernatorial candidate, support
After the vote, Rell's chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody,
embraced Tom Swan, the executive director of the
Connecticut Citizen Action Group. Swan was a strident
critic of Rell's former running mate, Rowland.
It was those unlikely alliances that made reform supporters
say that a far-reaching public financing bill could not be
rejected over even some significant loopholes.
"To have the stars aligned on this piece of legislation
after 15 years is a major step," said Rep. Christopher
Caruso, D-Bridgeport, a leading reform proponent. "Those
stars don't often align on campaign finance reform.
Sometimes opportunity knocks once."
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant
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