Campaign Finance Reform Becomes Law
Governor signs landmark legislation
Her own party was largely absent, but Democrats and
progressive activists applauded Wednesday as Republican
Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law one of the nation's most
sweeping campaign finance bills.
Rell chose the Old State House, sitting at a table beneath
a Gilbert Stuart portrait of a watchful George Washington,
for a ceremony marking the unlikely passage of a bill
hailed as a national model of reform.
FLANKED BY LAWMAKERS and state officials, Gov. M. Jodi
Rell signs the stateâ€™s new campaign
finance reforms into law in a ceremony beneath a
Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington at the Old
State House in Hartford Wednesday. Lawmakers who helped
pass the legislation, including House Speaker James A.
Amann, D-Milford, left, and Senate President Pro Tem
Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, right, applaud.
The new law bans contributions from lobbyists and state
contractors and creates a voluntary system of publicly
financing campaigns for state office, beginning with the
2008 legislative races.
"By signing this bill into law today, perhaps we can ignite
another revolution - perhaps we can revolutionize our
system of elections and how they are financed," Rell
For much of the year, Rell and the legislature's Democratic
leadership worked at cross-purposes, offering competing
plans and blaming each other for the failure to adopt
reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal that forced
Gov. John G. Rowland from office.
On Wednesday, House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford, and
Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr.,
D-Brooklyn, complimented Rell for repeatedly reviving the
issue when it seemed ready to die.
"For a woman, you've got pretty good muscles that you
flexed," Amann said, sending laughter through the old
Senate chamber. Williams praised Rell for her courage in
"helping us to see this through."
Neither man mentioned that only eight Republicans - four in
each chamber - joined Democrats in passing the measure,
27-8 in the Senate and 82-65 in the House after combined
debates of nearly 14 hours.
House Minority Leader Robert M. Ward, R-North Branford, and
Senate Minority Leader Louis C. DeLuca, R-Woodbury, opposed
the bill as riddled with loopholes, such as allowing the
major parties to pump unlimited funds into individual
Critics have also charged that the bill discriminates
against minor party candidates. A legal challenge over its
treatment of minor parties, and the blanket ban on
contributions from lobbyists and contractors appear
"It is true. No bill is perfect and we will find that it
will be necessary to make adjustments and changes,"
But he urged Rell and the others present to enjoy their
accomplishment and focus for a while on how the legislation
was greeted by reformers across the country.
"They cannot believe what we have done. No other state has
taken this kind of strong action to clean up politics,"
Rell appreciated the sentiment.
"We're spending so much time focusing on what's wrong with
the bill," Rell said. "Let's focus on the fact that we
actually got this bill passed in Connecticut. So many
people thought that it would never happen. It
After the House passed the bill last week, Amann belittled
Rell for failing to deliver more Republican votes. On
Wednesday, he acknowledged after the ceremony that the
persistence of Rell and the advocates kept the issue
He told Democrats, many of whom voted for the measure
reluctantly, that the issue would dog them until they
"I tried to tell my legislators if we didn't do that this
would be a cloud, a dark-cloud issue hanging over our heads
the whole election," Amann said. "That's why I said, `Do it
now. Do the bill now. It's not going away. It's inevitable
we are voting on this bill, so step up to the plate and do
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., one of Rell's
Democratic challengers for governor, attended the ceremony
to remind reporters that his city already is embracing
public financing for mayor. City aldermen voted unanimously
Monday to apply for inclusion in a pilot program for
municipalities authorized by the new law.
Jeffrey B. Garfield, the executive director of the State
Elections Enforcement Commission, peeked over Rell's
shoulder as she signed the bill. He had just returned from
an international ethics conference in Boston, where, he
said, the legislation was well-received.
"There is no question we are now the model for the country
to follow," Garfield said. "It was nice to see Connecticut
get credit for cleaning up its own act."
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant
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