June 28, 2005

Minutes from GPCT 6-28-05 SCC Meeting
no quorum
Hamden Government Center
2750 Dixwell Ave. Hamden, CT
7:15PM- 8:40PM

Facilitator: Thomas Sevigny

Those Attending:
Tolland: Karin Norton O’Connor, Tim McKee, Photia Dalamagas;
Greater Hartford: Barbara Barry, Mike DeRosa; Hamden: Francis Bravnlick, Aaron Gustafson, Kelly McCarthy;
Northwest: Judy Herkimer, Kim Herkimer, Thomas Sevigny;
New Haven: Ralph Ferrucci, Allan Brison;
Shoreline: Lindsay Mathews and Grace Limoncelli

1. The introductions/identification of chapters, recruiting of timekeeper and stacker took place.

2. Identification of voting and non-voting members was done.

3. It was determined that no quorum existed (this continued throughout the meeting)

4. During the adoption of rules, an objection was raised about the recording of minutes using a tape recorder by Judy Herkimer. A 35 minute discussion then took place. Two people said that some people had problems with the use of a recorder during our SCC meeting. The person raising this argument would not identify who had objected to this procedure and would not discuss the reasons for their objections. Also it was stated that our meetings were “private” and not public meetings. People on the other side of this discussion pointed out that a proposal had been passed in August 2003 that allowed SCC meetings be recorded using a tape recorder for the purpose of taking notes for the secretary and that a tape recorder was purchased by a member of the CTGP for that purpose. The location of this recorder has not been founded. The people supporting the view that a recorder should be used, also, pointed out that in the past people had complained about the inaccuracy of minutes and that the use of recorder was put into place to make our minutes more accurate. Lastly several people stated that our meetings were not private but public events. Allen Brisson and the facilitator suggested a vote on this matter, but several people objected to this since it would violate our proposal process. It was proposed by Kelly McCarthy that since no consensus was reached to move on to the speaker slot in our agenda.

5. Speaker Slot: Phil Sherwood of CT Citizens Action Group spoke on Campaign Finance Reform in this year’s CT General Assembly. Summary of his talk:

1. There has been a move in CT General Assembly, in the last few months, to radically change the way people run for public office in CT. There have been major procedural problems in the legislature with getting this effort to produce clean elections legislation.

2. CT came very close to creating the most “radical” change in clean elections in the nation, but it “fell through because or negotiations at the last minute”.

3. According to Phil Sherwood the legislature has refused to address the “corrosive” effect of lobbyist money on our electoral system (ex. “perverse incentives that made John Rowland vetoed campaign finance reform in the past” i.e. in 2000) and the corruption found in both parties in the legislature.

4. John Rowland was able to raise three times the money that the Democrat Bill Curry raised in the last election for Governor. “This is not an election it is an auction”.

5. State contractors used our present campaign finance system in a “play to pay” system to get contracts. They knew who they had to put money in the hands of.

6. John Rowland was put in jail for accepting illegal gifts. “But the really egregious things unfortunately are perfectly legal. Legal bribery is allowed under our present system.” (“factoid: The Tomasso Company and subcontractors gave John Rowland over $500,000 in campaign contributions, perfectly legal. At the same time the Tomasso Company and its subcontractors received over $100,000,000 in no-bid contracts”). “We should not simply blame Rowland but system that allows this to happen.” (another example Enron-CRRA deal)

7. Quick update on campaign finance reform at the legislature: The momentum has been huge. We at CCAG felt that this was the best year for reform.

Presently there are two other states that have clean elections laws (AZ and Maine). Major benefits: More women and minorities are running in these states. The playing field has been leveled. Elections are being determined by issues instead who has the most money. Voting participation has increased. Reduces the power of lobbyists.

When January 2005 started Gov. Rell said campaign finance was a priority (was not yet supporting clean elections fund). Democrats in the House and Senate came forward with public financing. House went further. The house had partial public financing for legislature and full financing for the constitutional office and governor. Senate had public financing for constitutional offices and governor races. We did not have the votes for the house bill.

AZ and Maine got financing through referendum. We do not have referendum in CT.

More difficult in CT because of the self interest of legislators. We also had new and better legislative leaders this year compared to last year. (Don Williams, Chris Donovan, to some extent the Speaker of House Jim Emmens). “We wanted one bill to reach the governor instead of two clean elections bills. For a variety of reasons the Dems could not get their act together”. Democrats had two bills. “Gov. Rell called the Dems on their bluff” and she said she would support full public financing. “I believe that she would sign full public financing for personal reasons. Not because she believes in it but because she stood to gain a lot politically.” Then the Republicans said they would support it also. The Dems could not handle it they did not know what hit them. In the final analysis we “just ran out of time”. There is still a house bill and a senate bill, each one passed in their respective chambers. But these bills did not get the governor’s desk. “So we are at a point where we are demanding a special session.” Public outrage has caused the legislators to take this legislation seriously.

EX: “Legislators have come up to us at CCAG and told us they have gotten more phone calls, letters, e-mails, etc than on the issue of civil unions.” CCAG is knocking on 1800 doors a night on this issue. Some national money has come into this campaign for clean elections. Eyes are on CT nationally.

We are optimistic that they will address this in the special session. What is needed is to target certain legislators who will be on a negotiating team appointed by the legislature and the governor. No specific date for them to report back but this is the only forum to address campaign finance reform. “ We don’t know all their names. Some are known. Rep Caruso of Bridgeport and Sen. Don DeFronzo (both of G & E committee). Also Sen. Roraback, Senator McKinney, L. Floran, Sen. Mc Donald, Jim Emmens-Speaker of House, Rep Hegley. And others”. “They have agreed to do this in public ,but I don’t believe that is going to happen.

They are going to just stand in front of microphone and say certain things with other things cut in the back room.”

“The Message: Call the governor and others. Especially the governor because of her popularity if she turns up the heat the other elected officials will jump.”

Question: What were the specific details of the bills and what did they require?

How would these bills impact the Green Party and how can we help pass this legislation?

Answer: “ At the end the House bill and the Senate bills were very similar bills.

There were things in the house bill that left us concerned, about the constitutionality of it.

House bill banned state parties from contributing any money to campaigns. That raises questions, for example could a party give a voter file to a campaign? That’s a contribution. Parties have role and the Supreme Court has ruled against these kinds of prohibitions. It bands all leadership and caucus pacs. PACs are bad. You cannot ban PACs that is unconstitutional.

It stripped minor parties from cross endorsing (this would effect the Working Families Party).

Biggest problem with house bill was it was designed to benefit wealthy people by cutting out all private money right away before public financing kicked in. There would be an election cycle where there is no public financing but elected officials could not get money where they used to get money. What does that mean? Independent wealthy individuals could run for public office using their own money (Buckley case). Country club legislature. Senate did not have these thinks in their bill. The actual dollars need to qualify for matching funds changed a lot during the debate so I don’t have actual numbers. Here’s how it works, you have to agree to raise small amounts of money from many people over a period of time. A percentage must come from inside your district. This proves you have support. Once you reach a threshold then you get a grant to run from the clean elections fund. Depending on what office, you get a certain amount of money. What’s good about this is, if you run against a person who wants to spend their own unlimited personal money(legal under Buckley case i.e. “money is free speech”?), the fund can match dollar for dollar this rich person’s spending(up to a certain limit under the law). Equalizing the playing field and acts as a disinfectant to those who do not become a clean candidate. This is a beautiful system and constitutional.

Question: If a candidate does not become a clean candidate will not this cause a problem for that candidate?

Answer: Yes, it was an issue in AZ and Maine if you did not run as a clean candidate. It adversely effected those who did not participate in the clean elections fund. What can a Green Party do? Go and meet and greet the governor and go to these public hearings on Clean elections. We need help from you to help put pressure on these legislators.

Question: You say we ran out of time. Does this mean that the bills did not have the power behind them? What was lacking to get these on the floor? It is strategically better to go to special session or regroup and come back in the next legislative session?

Answer: The reason clean election legislation did not pass is because we are asking legislators to change the system that they have benefited under. But, specifically why did the senate bill not pass? Because house legislative leaders refused to take it up. They refused to pick it up because Gov. Rell said she would veto the senate bill. (because of loop holes in the house bill that benefited rich people). So the house bill passed and the senate refused to take it up. So the senate got blamed for it. The senate has been historically the weak link with this legislation. I do not believe they are the weak link here. I believe that Don Williams has been beat up in the media, he was a true believer. I think that Chris Caruso (the champion of the House bill) is not as skilled a negotiator as the others. Caruso knew that we were going to get public financing and he tried to get everything that everyone wanted, and it failed for that reason. Also there was a time factor in this also. The house bill enacted campaign finance reform sooner (2006-08), the senate bill later (2010-12).” There may have been an attempt to destroy the bills by creating problems that would later destroy the bill(either legally or legislatively) in the future. Some Republicans and Democrats feel that if they are forced to vote for campaign finance reform will do everything they can do to make sure that ultimately it becomes a failure.

Special session: Momentum is the greatest now for this legislation. This year was the perfect year to pass this legislation. We can come back next time but Rell stands to gain most by signing now and we are not ready to show our hand for next year. Both bills banned ad books. This is not about party it is about issues. We want to force this new joint committee on campaign finance reform to come out with their recommendations as soon as possible for a special session. We need your help.

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