New Report: CT Public Financing Experience Makes Case for Reform in NYS

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New Report: CT Public Financing Experience Makes Case for Reform in NYS

WASHINGTON - Connecticut’s public campaign finance program is making the state legislature more responsive to voter priorities, helping lawmakers spend more time with constituents, and reducing the power of moneyed special interests, according to a compelling report released today that underscores the potential impact of similar reform in New York State.

From the national policy center Demos, “Fresh Start: The Impact of Public Campaign Financing in Connecticut” details how, after only three election cycles, the state’s voluntary public financing program is successfully helping decrease the influence of lobbyists and shift campaign and legislative processes toward more substantive debate that better reflects the needs of constituents.  As such, the program is seeing high levels of bi-partisan participation with 77 percent of lawmakers and all state-wide constitutional officeholders using the program in their most recent elections.

Read the report: http://demos.io/ctfairelex

Co-authored by Miles Rapoport, President of Demos and former Connecticut Secretary of the State, “Fresh Start” combines empirical data with interviews of current and former legislators to paint a complete picture of the promise of public financing programs. “As a former legislator and election administrator, I understand the pressure fundraising puts on a candidate’s time – time that could be spent with constituents – and I’ve seen how high-dollar interests can frustrate constructive debate,” said Rapoport. “Public financing is a critical part of the answer to those challenges, and Connecticut’s program is already changing the legislative culture to the benefit of voters and lawmakers.”

The experiences of the current and former Republican and Democratic Connecticut legislators quoted in “Fresh Start” draw a clear line from public financing to the state’s shifting political dynamics:

  • “Before public financing, during the session...there were ‘shakedowns’ where lobbyists and corporate sponsors had events and you as a legislator had to go. That’s no longer a part of the reality.”  - Former Rep. Juan Figueroa (D)
  • “What is different now is that there is less pressure because you don’t have to worry about offending special interest donors. You can just raise the money locally and then vote how you want to.” – Former Speaker Chris Donovan (D)
  • “Now, people concentrate more on the issues, read the issues. You see more votes that are bipartisan and the big issues get bipartisan votes.” – Rep. Al Adinolfi (R)

With public financing and the alignment of the Governor and legislature, Connecticut has been able to pass laws that better reflect the public’s preferences, including a bottle deposit bill that returned $24 million to public services but had been held up by special interests for nearly three decades, and a minimum wage increase that was long delayed despite the support of 70 percent of the state’s voters.

“The Connecticut experience shows that public financing is a fundamental first step toward a more responsive legislature and policymaking process,” said J. Mijin Cha, co-author and Senior Policy Analyst at Demos.  “It’s clear that robust campaign finance reform with public financing can change the way money moves through politics, increase the voices of voters, and create a better system for lawmakers.”

“The early success of Connecticut’s public financing program should encourage New York State’s lawmakers to follow Governor Cuomo’s lead in pushing for a comprehensive campaign finance package centered on public financing,” said Rapoport.  “While wide-spread change takes time, the voters and legislators of New York State can start reclaiming Albany from special interests now.”

“Fresh Start” also details how public financing is bringing more voices into the political system by increasing the number of donors for most candidates, encouraging more people to run for office, and increasing the diversity of those who do run. “Public financing definitely made the legislature more diverse,” said Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill. “There are more people of color, more young people, more women, and more young women.”

Read the report: http://demos.io/ctfairelex

Fresh Start: The Impact of Public Campaign Financing in Connecticut” is part of Demos’ on-going work to reduce the role of wealth and corporate power in politics and policy. Demos is a public policy organization working for an America where we all have an equal say in our democracy and an equal chance in our economy.

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A multi-issue national organization, Demos combines research, policy development, and advocacy to influence public debates and catalyze change. We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance innovative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.

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