[box]by State Rep. Dave Yaccariono[/box]
Toward the end of the legislative session that ended in June, the majority party in the Connecticut General Assembly made significant and unfortunate changes to our state’s campaign finance laws that are eroding good-government provisions put in place just a few years ago.
In the wake of the scandal surrounding former Governor John Rowland, the legislature passed sweeping reforms to limit money in politics and increase transparency for political contributions.
The bill passed this year removes spending limits on political parties that contribute to candidates receiving public funding and doubles contribution limits to state and town party committees. Additionally, candidates can raise money for political action committees that will eventually be spent to assist their own candidacy. Organizations that spend money in legislative campaigns are also able to pay for negative campaigning which was not allowed under the previous law.
The result of these changes will be a jump in spending on political campaigns from outside sources and a reduction in oversight. Contributions from individuals are easy to track under reporting requirements but contributions from PACs are much more difficult to track for the average interested person. I understand the argument that money helps candidates reach out to and inform voters; however, often times in practice too much money, particularly in state races, can drown out the voice of the people.
In my own district, I work hard to keep an open dialogue with residents through monthly coffees, active constituent service and by going door-to-door. These aren’t things that require a lot of money; instead, they require time and effort, something all elected officials and all candidates should be capable of.
Next legislative session I will work to reverse some of the provisions of the campaign finance law that were changed this year so we can keep better control of spending by outside sources in political campaigns. Elections for office in our state should be decided by those that are directly affected by the results of the election and our law should reflect that.
Dave Yaccarino represents North Haven in the Connecticut General Assembly’s 87th Legislative District.