The League joined reform groups in urging the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to drop its legal challenge to a Connecticut law restricting political campaign spending. The letter, sent to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, head of the DGA, says that the lawsuit filed by the DGA put the governors in league with efforts “by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to eviscerate campaign finance laws.”
The League of Women Voters of Connecticut has called the lawsuit a threat to the "integrity of Connecticut’s Citizens’ Election Program and our state’s campaign finance laws."
Governor Peter Shumlin
Chair of Democratic Governors Association
1401 K Street NW
Washington DC 20005
May 2, 2014
Dear Governor Shumlin:
We are concerned that the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which you lead, has filed a lawsuit in federal court that would greatly undermine Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, passed with strong bipartisan support.
The lawsuit’s argument that Connecticut’s laws interfere with the First Amendment right of the DGA to spend millions of dollars in the 2014 gubernatorial race is without merit and represents an indefensible attack by the DGA on the Connecticut campaign finance laws which already have been upheld as constitutional in the federal courts .
We are very surprised that you would allow yourself to be associated with this lawsuit and with the effort it represents to evade and circumvent Connecticut’s strong disclosure and coordination rules as well as Connecticut’s groundbreaking public financing system.
We strongly urge you to withdraw the lawsuit and allow Connecticut’s campaign finance laws to work properly to prevent government corruption and protect the interests of the citizens of Connecticut.
Connecticut’s public financing law and state contractor and lobbyist contribution limits were enacted in the wake of a huge pay-to-play corruption scandal involving Republican Governor John Rowland. Connecticut’s Citizen’s Election Program, enacted in 2005 allows candidates for statewide and General Assembly races to run competitive campaigns by relying on small donations from people back home, rather than big money donors.
The success of the Citizens’ Election Program will be derailed if Connecticut candidates coordinate and raise large contributions for Super PACs and groups like the DGA to be spent on their elections.
Similarly, if candidates are allowed to solicit money from prohibited sources that is used to support ads by outside groups favoring those candidates, our campaign finance laws will be fundamentally undermined. The Connecticut candidates making the solicitations, furthermore, will be deeply indebted and obligated to the prohibited sources and large donors doing financial favors for them.
Many Democrats in Congress and across the country are strong supporters of small donor public financing, contribution limits, and strong coordination and disclosure laws. The Democratic Governors Association should be standing with reform Democrats in the vitally important efforts to prevent corporations, big donors and other special interests from completely dominating our political system. The DGA should be on the right side of these issues and not marching down the same path being taken by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court to eviscerate campaign finance laws.
In the past you have said decisions like Citizens United v. FEC are 'anti-democratic.' We hope you’ll consider these words and withdraw this damaging lawsuit that would severely undermine Connecticut’s strong and successful public financing system and contribution limits.
Campaign Legal Center
Center for Media and Democracy/Progressive Inc.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
League of Women Voters of the US