The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Judge Rules Connecticut Campaign Finance Law Unconstitutional

Law Unfairly Discriminated Against Minor Party Candidates


federal judge today struck down unconstitutional portions of
Connecticut's campaign finance law because they unfairly discriminated
against third party candidates. The American Civil Liberties Union and
the ACLU of Connecticut filed a lawsuit challenging the law on behalf
of the Green and Libertarian Parties of Connecticut and several
individuals in July 2006.

"We are all for laws that increase
the ability of more people to participate in the democratic process,
but Connecticut's law did the opposite by creating a different set of
rules for unaffiliated and minor party candidates that made
participating even more difficult," said Andrew Schneider, Executive
Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. "All we want is for minor parties
to have a seat at the table. Today's ruling is a victory for free
speech and equal protection for all candidates."

The ACLU's lawsuit challenged the
constitutionality of Connecticut's 2005 campaign finance law, which
established a "Citizens' Election Program (CEP)" to provide for public
financing of campaigns for state legislative and executive offices
beginning in 2008 for some offices and 2010 for other offices. The
lawsuit charged that the system created unduly burdensome eligibility
requirements that effectively excluded participation by minor party

"Connecticut's campaign finance law
explicitly discriminated against minor party and independent candidates
by providing direct governmental subsidies to major party candidates on
terms that deny the same benefits to minor party and petitioning
candidates," said Mark Lopez, a cooperating attorney with the ACLU.
"The state might decline to fund candidates altogether, but once it has
decided to fund some candidates it must do so on terms that are

The ACLU charged that, instead of
leveling the playing field as it was meant to accomplish, the public
financing law unfairly made it very easy for major party candidates to
qualify for public funding while at the same time making it
substantially more difficult for minor party candidates. For instance,
the law established qualifying thresholds, such as the collection of
'qualifying contributions,' at levels that effectively excluded minor
party candidates.

In today's ruling, U.S. District
Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the District of Connecticut found
that "the CEP imposes an unconstitutional, discriminatory burden on
minor party candidates' First Amendment-protected right to political
opportunity by enhancing participating major party candidates' relative
strength beyond their past ability to raise contributions and campaign,
without imposing any countervailing disadvantage to participating in
the public funding scheme."

"We're very pleased the court ruled
that real campaign finance reform requires a level playing field," said
Michael DeRosa, Co-Chair of the Green Party of Connecticut.

Attorneys on the case are Lopez of
the New York law firm Lewis, Clifton & Nikolaidis, P.C., Ben Sahl
of the national ACLU and David McGuire of the ACLU of Connecticut. The
lawsuit was filed against Jeffrey Garfield, Executive Director and
General Counsel of the Connecticut Elections Enforcement Commission,
and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, on behalf of
DeRosa, the Green Party of Connecticut, the Libertarian Party of
Connecticut, Elizabeth Gallo and Joanne Philips.

Judge Underhill's decision is available online (.pdf) at:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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