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Conn. governor vetoes bill to fix campaign law

By Susan Haigh
Associated Press Writer / August 2, 2010

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HARTFORD, Conn.—Gov. M. Jodi followed through Monday with her promise to veto a bill that attempts to fix Connecticut's campaign finance law after a federal appeals court founds parts of it unconstitutional.

The Republican governor issued her veto on the same the day the measure arrived on her desk. The Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed the legislation Friday night, attempting to save the underlying law, which includes the state's public financing program and other election reforms.

She said she "disagreed profoundly" with the legislature's decision to increase grants for gubernatorial candidates in order to make the law constitutionally palatable.

"They have taken a program that was intended to remove the taint of special interests and corruption from political campaigns and turned it into a welfare program for politicians," Rell said in her three-page veto message.

House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said he is talking with his fellow House Democrats about their availability for a possible override of Rell's veto.

"We will come back to resolve this," he said.

Rell had warned legislators prior to Friday's special legislative session that she would veto the bill if they increased the base grants for gubernatorial candidates who participate in the state's voluntary public campaign financing program for statewide and legislative races, known as the Citizens Election Program.

But proponents of the legislation said they hoped that Rell, a supporter of the public financing system and the various election reforms, would change her mind.

"I am disappointed that in one of her last acts as governor she fails to rise above the negative campaigning she criticizes in her veto message," Donovan said.

The bill called for increasing the grants for governor candidates from $3 million to $6 million because the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it was unconstitutional to give extra money or matching grants to participating candidates who face well-funded opponents.

Two of the five candidates for governor, Republican Lt. Gov. Mike Fedele and former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, the endorsed Democrat, are participating in the public financing program. Proponents said it wouldn't be fair to either candidate, should they win the Aug. 10 primary, to not provide them with at least some of the funds they were expecting for the general election to combat a wealthy self-funding opponent.

About $40 million has been budgeted for the Citizens Election Program this year. The money comes from unclaimed monies, such as old bank accounts, that revert to the state.

Among other changes in the bill, the legislation allows lobbyists and their families to contribute to political campaigns but only up to $100. The appeals court ruled that a prior ban on lobbyist contributions was unconstitutional because it violated free speech rights.

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