Joint Committee of Connecticut Legislature Approves Cutting-Edge Law Challenging Super PACs and Foreign-Influenced Corporate Political Spending

Last night, a joint committee of the Connecticut General Assembly took a big step in the movement to push back against Citizens United. The legislature’s joint Government Administration and Elections Committee approved House Bill 5589. With the leadership of Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. and House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Connecticut has taken a big step toward ending super PACs and foreign corporate political spending.

Free Speech For People worked closely with Sen. Kennedy and Speaker Aresimowicz on the bill, which limits contributions to independent expenditure groups to $70,000 per year and prohibits political spending by foreign-influenced entities. (The bill also contains several improvements to Connecticut’s disclosure, coordination, and governance rules, and we are grateful to Craig Holman of Public Citizen for assistance drafting these provisions.) See here for a video discussion with Sen. Kennedy on the importance of this bill.

As we’ve written before, super PACs and foreign-influenced corporate political spending can be tackled even while Citizens United stands, and no matter who is confirmed as the next Supreme Court Justice. Super PACs were created not by the Supreme Court, but by lower court decisions that are vulnerable to being overturned. As for political spending by foreign-influenced corporations, the Supreme Court has, even after Citizens United, upheld bans on political spending by foreign interests. And we have reason to believe that one or more Supreme Court Justices from the Citizens United majority would vote to uphold these provisions. As Speaker Aresimowicz noted, “If some of the individual aspects of this bill are challenged in court we’re all for it. We’re going to pass the strongest bill that we think is necessary to protect our elections and our citizens here in the state of Connecticut.”

Professor John Coates of Harvard Law School and Professor Albert Alschuler of the University of Chicago Law School submitted written testimony in support of the bill, and Sen. Kennedy and Free Speech For People’s President John Bonifaz testified live before the committee in February.

We look forward to continued deliberations on this bill in the Connecticut General Assembly and expect that many Connecticut voters will seek to be heard on this critical matter.

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