Mike DeRosa (presented at "Campaign Finance Reform in Connecticut," conference at CCSU 10/26/17)
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•       Minor parties and independent candidates have to meet a more difficult standard to qualify for the CT Citizens’ Election Program (CT CEP). Minor parties must collect the petition signatures of 20% of the registered voters who voted in the last election for any state or state-wide office in order to qualify for a full grant. If the Green Party wanted to qualify next year for a full grant for governor of CT we would have to collect more than 218,412 valid signatures. How many signatures do our Republican and Democratic opponents have to collect under this CT CEP’s rules to get their huge grants? The answer is none. 

•       Our candidates are banned under this law from even applying for the CT CEP’s majestic and copious major party primary election grant money because minor parties and unaffiliated voters in Connecticut cannot participate in our state-sponsored and state-paid-for primaries.

•       Federal Judge Stefan Underhill in his insightful and prescient 138 page August 2009 decision declared this law unconstitutional because he properly recognized the unfair burden and difficulty the CT CEP places on third-parties and their candidates. He also pointed out how the CT CEP law artificially enhanced the strength of the two major parties and the “windfall” nature of the funding it provided to these parties while simultaneously excluding minor parties. Under the CT CEP law third party candidates collecting signatures equal to 10 percent of the votes cast in the last election get one-third of the full grant that is guaranteed automatically to major party candidates. Candidates that gather signatures representing 15 percent of the vote cast in the last election get two-thirds of a full grant under this law. These one-third or two-thirds grants do not fulfill the constitutional requirement of equal protection guaranteed under the 14th Amendment and it turns smaller parties and independent voters into third-class citizens. Only by collecting signatures amounting to 20 percent of the vote can these third party candidates receive a full grant. Third-party candidates may also qualify for partial or full grants based on the number of votes their party received in previous elections under this law. Judge Underhill’s decision also declared CT’s CEP law unconstitutional because it violated the Green Party’s 1st amendment rights. During oral arguments the judge presented a very interesting legal metaphor about the case:
“If three candidates go into a public park to speak and two of the candidates get a PA system and other money from the state to enhance their speech and the third candidate does not get these state sponsored advantages, does this increase the free speech rights of the two candidates and reduce the free speech rights of the third candidate?”

•       A later ruling by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Judge Underhill’s decision and propped up a discriminatory, state-sponsored campaign subsidy program that increases the free speech rights of Connecticut's large political parties while reducing the free speech rights of smaller parties. It is important to note that the appellate court decision was not unanimous; one of the three 2nd Circuit Appeals judges voted for Judge Underhill's view that the petitioning requirements of the election program violate the 1st and 14th amendment rights of Connecticut's minor political parties. The Green Party brought this suit to require party neutrality in the handing out of political grants by the CT CEP.  Instead, we are left with a final decision that gives short shrift to the more than 42 percent of Connecticut's voters who are unaffiliated or registered with a minor party. 

•       Similar Arizona and Maine public campaign finance laws require a much smaller fundraising requirement for entrance into their programs, and neither state has any petitioning requirements or minimum percentage of electoral results for full smaller-party participation in their public financing systems. Years of experience in these states give us observable and measurable evidence that equal and fair treatment of smaller political parties does not confuse the ballot or the voters, does not create political divisiveness, and has not led to the destruction of the two party system. 

•       Candidates from the Green Party of CT have won offices in many recent local elections and have had important voting results in CT elections. Third-party candidates have been elected in CT in recent years, including a U.S. senator and a governor. Nationwide, hundreds of candidates who were not the nominees of either of the two major parties have been elected governor, elected to the US Senate or to a state legislature over the last 25 years. Yet we are treated as a separate and unequal class under this law.  In our winner take all electoral system one of the major party candidates will always lose. If the losing major candidate get’s less than 20% of the vote in a CT state election why are the losing party’s future candidate in the next CT state election exempt from the petitioning requirements to get their state grant under the CT CEP?  The Green Party of CT and other minor parties believe that elections are also about issues and having an evidenced based discussion with voters about their real environmental, economic, social, and peace options. If democratic elections are about anything they are about giving the electorate important information and choices.  By making it very difficult or impossible in some cases for minor parties to qualify for grants under the CT CEP we are radically diminishing the political opportunity for voters to make informed decisions and are limiting and diminishing the right of certain candidates to be treated fairly and equally. As has been stated before, this law gives major parties more free speech rights and opportunities and diminishes the free speech rights and opportunities of minor parties and independent candidates. Reducing the constitutional rights and political opportunity of smaller political parties and their candidates will not decrease the amount of corruption found in the two most popular parties in Connecticut. Many of us in the third-party movement know the CT public campaign finance law in its present form is a rigged game benefiting Democrats and Republicans while excluding legitimate candidates from equal and fair funding.  After ten years it is time to give equal opportunity to all parties in CT even ones we don’t agree with. Otherwise we will go down in history as the state that supports the Orwellian notion that all political parties in CT are equal, but some political parties in CT are more equal than others.