Thursday, December 22, 2005

CT Greens: Fair, or unfair? Dollars and no sense.

I am contacting you on behalf of the Green Party of CT. I am the co-chair of
the CT party and I have been asked by our membership to find resources to
defend us from what we consider to be unfair and unconstitutional provisions
of the recently passed CT Campaign Finance Law. We support as a party the
concept of Campaign Finance Reform and the idea of a Clean Election Fund but we believe that we are being unfairly discriminated against by this Law.

To qualify for the public financing under this law, major party candidates
would have to earn a place on the ballot and further show their viability by
raising seed money. Third Parties and independent candidates would not only
have to petition to get on the ballot (CT has no way to get permanent ballot
access except by getting 1% of vote on a district by district basis),and
raise the money required to qualify for matching funds, but would also have
to collect 20% of signatures in a district from registered voters in order
to qualify for funding under the clean election fund. Collecting 10% of the
registered voters would give third parties and independent candidates
"partial" funding. House and Senate candidates (including third party
candidates) would need to raise $5,000 and $15,000, respectively, in
contributions of no more than $100, with 90 percent of the money raised
within the state. In addition, House candidates would need to raise 150
contributions of $5 or more and Senate candidates would need to raise 300
contributions from within their district. In 2010, a gubernatorial candidate
who raised $250,000 in small contributions would be eligible to receive
$1.25 million for a primary race and $3 million for the general election.

What's wrong with this picture? We feel quite a bit. Third Parties, like
the Green Party of CT are being legislated out of fair and full
participation in the political process unconstitutionally with this
provision. Now the state of CT, in our opinion, is being required to
create two kinds of parties: The Two Major Parties and everybody else. We
believe this is a direct violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US
Constitution (14th amendment). To put it another way: All political parties
in CT are equal but some political parties are more equal than others. The
provision of the bill that creates a 10% to 20% petitioning requirement is
probably also a violation of Jenness vs Fortson (403 US 432-1971). The
Jenness vs Forson case has hurt legal challenges of third parties against
discrimination in the US since 1971, but even this flawed case does not
support petitioning requirements above 5% for entry on to the ballot
anywhere in the US and may be used to question the high petitioning rate
required under this legislation.

Also their is no provision in the present CFR bill for third parties to gain
money through primaries. Any candidate that runs for governor from a major
party, who raises $250,000 in small donations is given $1.25 Million for a
primary. Third parties get nothing for primaries under this law.

There are other aspects of this law that are violations of the Equal
Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and are harsh and onerous on
their surface. No other state that has passed a Clean Election Fund has
required additional petitioning for third parties.

Lastly, The Helsinki Accords, which the U.S. signed, pledge all nations to
“respect the right of citizens to seek political or public office without
discrimination” and to “provide political parties and organizations with the
necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on a
basis of equal treatment before the law.”

I am writing to you in hope of stirring up some interest in a selective
challenge of this law. While I understand that your resources are limited,
we are interested in finding help on a pro-se or pro-bono basis to fight
what we think is a unconstitutional and discriminatory law.

Please contact me if you can direct us toward some legal assistance in these
matters.

Sincerely,
Mike DeRosa
co-chair
Green Party of CT
860-209-1000(cell)
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