Contact: Adam Joseph
March 26, 2012
The General Assembly’s Government Administration and Elections Committee heard testimony today from a panel of experts on the corrupting influence of unlimited corporate political spending unleashed by the Citizens United case.
State Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) and State Representative Russell Morin (D-Wethersfield), co-chairs of the GAE Committee, invited experts from around the country to speak on the topic ahead of this week’s expected vote on proposed campaign finance reforms here in Connecticut.
“The impact of the Citizens United case on elections has been devastating,” Senator Slossberg said. “We need to take the money out of politics and restore democracy for the people. The public has a right to know who is spending money to influence elections and how much, especially when those donors are big corporations and wealthy individuals.”
“The snowballing influence of corporate money in our elections is alarming,” Representative Morin said. “I thank our panel of experts for sharing their insights into the post-Citizens United world and the fiasco of unlimited corporate spending enabled through Super PACs.”
The panel of experts who submitted testimony included:
Chris Heagarty, election law attorney from Raleigh, N.C., former state representative, and founder of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education;
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an assistant professor of election and Constitutional law at Stetson University in Florida and former counsel in the Democracy Program of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law;
Donald J. Simon, an attorney from Washington, D.C., with expertise in campaign finance and election law and former executive vice president and general counsel of Common Cause;
Nick Nyhart, co-founder and president of Public Campaign and veteran of the national election reform movement.
“Despite the fact that roughly half of the states, including Connecticut, banned corporate political expenditures pre-2010, in Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court imposed a one-size-fits-all approach, thereby permitting corporate political spending in all elections based on the contested theory that independent spending cannot be corrupt,” said Torres-Spelliscy.
“The Citizens United decision in 2010 has ushered in a new era of big money politics,” Simon said. “Whether intended or not by the court, it has returned American campaigns to the pre-Watergate days where corporate interests used their vast treasury funds to buy access and influence with elected officials.”
“As Super PACs and ultra-wealthy donors attempt to drown out the voices of everyday Americans, I encourage you to continue fighting to ensure that elections truly are in President Lincoln’s words ‘of, by, and for the people,’” Nyhart said.
When the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations in the 2010 case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Connecticut responded swiftly by creating legislation to set disclosure rules for independent expenditures.
New proposed legislation before the GAE Committee includes provisions to strengthen disclosure rules for independent expenditures by political action committees.
The legislation also protects shareholders by requiring corporations to obtain authorization from shareholders before making a campaign contribution. Similarly, corporations would be required to notify shareholders of all spending on political campaigns.
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