"At the national level, we are seeing the most outrageous string of pay-to-play scandals in a generation," wrote Nick Nyhart, co-founder and Executive Director of Public Campaign, on TPMCafe. "Unfortunately, in Congress, no one is focusing on the kinds of reforms that would shift power away from well-healed lobbying interests."
At the state level, however, it's a different story. On Wednesday night, after seven hours of debate, the Connecticut Senate voted 27 to 8 in favor of passing the most comprehensive campaign finance reform bill in the country. The breakthrough legislation comes on the heels of a deeply damaging corruption scandal in Connecticut, where former Governor John Rowland is serving a one-year prison sentence for accepting gifts from state contractors.
Taking effect in December of 2006, the bill bans political contributions from lobbyists and state contractors and creates a publicly funded election system that encompasses all statewide races. What's truly remarkable about Connecticut is that, for the first time, a legislature passed a campaign finance bill that affects its own seats. "It will truly make Connecticut's elections about the voters and not about the donors," said Sen. Gary LeBeau, D-East Hartford.
We declared a "Sweet Victory" in Connecticut back in June, when Governor Jodi Rell announced the sweeping proposal but months of deadlock in the legislature followed. Thanks to a massive and persistent grassroots effort led by the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Connecticut Common Cause, the Connecticut League of Women Voters, civil rights, labor, and environmental organizations, the call for reform was finally met. "The Connecticut law is the strongest campaign finance law in the nation," says Nyhart, "[It] gives ordinary people, without connections to big money, a greater role in the electoral process while ratcheting down the clout of lobbyists and powerful state contractors."
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Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.