Both the Chairman of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, Stephen Cashman, and former State Rep. Jonathan Pelto have keyed in recently on big changes to the State Elections Enforcement Commission included in the budget deal between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly.
There is no doubt that the State Elections Enforcement Commission needs significant reforms. Stories of campaign committees living in fear of the byzantine and seemingly arbitrary rules enforced by SEEC are an omnipresent part of modern campaigns and elections.
As a recent Raising Hale article highlighted, these stories aren’t just the stuff of local lore. SEEC finally wrapped up their 2008 campaign committee audits and launched investigations into the finances of two elected officials in March 2011, more than two years after the fact and subsequent to each lawmaker’s re-election in November 2010.
The wheels of justice sometimes turn too slowly, but that pace – even for government work – seems more like existence justification.
Reform is also required for the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), the crown jewel of SEEC’s bureaucratic empire. Passed in 2005 as one of the furthest-reaching campaign finance reforms in the nation, CEP provides government money to pay for political campaigns. Though ostensibly purposed as an anti-corruption program, the real effect of the law has been to crowd out independent candidates, increase the difficulties faced by challengers, and make fundraising much easier for incumbents.
The argument that these anti-corruption aims could be achieved at a lower cost by repealing CEP, implementing term limits and enhancing accountability measures has been largely ignored.