Thursday, March 26, 2015

Democrats Reject Clean Election Proposals

Many election campaign finance related bills were submitted to the Government Administration and Elections Committee of the Connecticut legislature this year but only one is moving forward with no Republican input.
Connecticut's Citizen Election Program is funded with taxpayer money and provides campaign grants to candidates. My state senate reelection campaign received nearly $100,000 from the program. The program was designed to eliminate outside influences in state political campaigns by forbidding businesses and lobbyists from a key role in the campaigns.
In 2013 Connecticut Democrats who control the legislature blasted bus-size loopholes into the Citizen Election Program with changes that received no Republican legislators vote.
Last year I talked about Democrats changing the campaign finance rules and then suing the campaign finance regulators.
Not only did the Democrats increase donor limits, lower safeguards and allow lobbyists to take a prominent role in campaigns again but they did all of this saying they must fight against the terrible impact of "Citizens United" - a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed freedom of speech for businesses.
The reality is we don't have a problem with Citizens United money in political campaigns in Connecticut. What the Democrats did was raise the issue as a major problem so they could create loopholes in our clean elections program and claim "we had no choice."
Senate and House Republicans proposed a package of reforms to election laws this year, including the following changes: 
  1. Cap organizational expenditures by state political parties (SB612)
  2. Rollback the Democrats' increase of donor limits to state parties from $10,000 to $5,000 (HB6084)
  3. Stop state contractor's political donations from being used in state races (SB385)
  4. Eliminate public campaign financing grants to unopposed candidates (SB224)
  5. Reduce all public financing campaign grants by 25% ((SB225)
Instead of bi-partisan support for clean elections in Connecticut like we had when the program was created in 2005 under Governor Rell's leadership we have the majority party running roughshod over the program.

An amazing proposal in SB1126 this year is limiting audits of the taxpayer-funded grants to a political campaign. The Democrats don't think they should be audited this year if they had an audit last year. It seems the way state government currently audits businesses, state grant recipients, state contractors and even taxpayers should not apply to the politicians.

How brazen is that?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NO to Casino Expansion in Connecticut

Casino expansion is the wrong direction for Connecticut. Danbury is the wrong location for a new casino in Connecticut. This proposal is a desperate move that offers no long-term benefits for our state.

Danbury’s economy is better suited to high technology and financial services expansion. Danbury consistently has the lowest unemployment rate in the state of Connecticut. Casino jobs offer no enhancement to western Connecticut’s economy.

New casino expansion in Connecticut proposed today will give us supermarket-sized casino parlors – not the same casinos we’re accustomed to at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Our state doesn’t need casino parlors dotting the landscape.

Slot machine revenues at Connecticut’s casinos are dropping precipitously due to the poor economy and new competition in the gambling market. We’ve seen this happen across the country and state government’s response elsewhere has proven Connecticut’s expansion proposal is a dead end.

Looking across the country we can see gambling parlors along interstate highways. These facilities are much smaller than the casinos within a casino we have in Connecticut. Picture a supermarket converted to a casino.

Atlantic City overbuilt their casino market and now they’re closing one after another. The gambling business is changing dramatically across the country. The Connecticut monopoly in the northeast is over and this proposal will not change our reality.

Should the Democrat majority of the Connecticut General Assembly insist on moving forward with this ill-advised idea then our state must renegotiate the tribal compact. Currently, state government shares in only a small portion of revenues generated by Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. This must change.

A new tribal compact must include state participation in all revenues at casino facilities in our state. Slot machines generate only 30% of casino revenue and we are currently limited to a piece of slot revenues. Table games like Poker, Blackjack, Baccarat and Roulette generate a large share of casino revenues and should be subject to a new compact. Negotiations for a new compact must include existing facilities at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun - not just expansion casino facilities.

A better idea is scrapping casino expansion in our state. Connecticut should help our two existing casinos focus on bringing tourists to their destination facilities. Allowing our casino operators to expand will only further erode their existing business.