Silencing the minor parties won't fix the major-party corruption
When the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently reversed federal Judge Stefan Underhill's decision, a reversal that will allow minor parties to have to meet a more difficult standard to gain public campaign finance funding, it proved to be a major disappointment for both the Green and Libertarian parties in Connecticut. The real losers in this decision, however, are the state's independent voters and taxpayers.
This decision props up a discriminatory state-sponsored subsidy program that increases the free-speech opportunities of the most popular political parties, while simultaneously reducing the free speech rights of smaller political parties.
It is important to note that the appellate court decision was not unanimous. One of the three judges supported Judge Underhill's view that the Connecticut Citizen Election Fund violates the 1st and 14th amendment rights of Connecticut's minor parties.
More than 42 percent of registered voters in the state are not affiliated with a political party or are a member of a minor party. These citizens are being given short shrift when it comes to equal and fair participation in the Citizen Election Fund.
Recently the Green Party nominated me as their candidate for the office of Connecticut secretary of the state. I am on the ballot based on the fact that I received almost 18,000 votes for that office in 2006 on the Green line.
Under CEP my Republican and Democratic opponents have to raise $75,000 in small donations to get $375,000 grants for the August primary and $750,000 grants for the general election.
Not only do I have to raise the $75,000 in small donations, as my opponents, but under the public campaign finance rules I am required to collect more than 208,000 valid signatures to qualify for a $750,000 grant for the November election. How many signatures do my Republican and Democratic opponents have to collect under CEP to get their huge grants? None.
I am also banned from applying for CEP primary grant money because minor parties and unaffiliated voters in Connecticut cannot participate in in the state-sponsored and state-financed primaries.
I can minimally participate in the program, getting one- third of a full grant, if I collect the valid petition signatures of 10 percent of the people who voted in the last election or by getting 10 percent of the vote in an upcoming election. But this one-third grant from CEP does not fulfill the constitutional requirement of equal protection guaranteed under the 14th amendment.
The voting rules for full participation in the CEP require us to get 20 percent of the vote in order to avoid having to petition.
Parenthetically, the similar Arizona and Maine public campaign finance laws require a much smaller monetary requirement for entrance into their program and neither state requires petitioning requirements or minimum percentage electoral results for full participation in their public financing system.
The years of experience in these states gives us observable and measurable evidence that equal and fair treatment of smaller political parties does not confuse the voters, does not create political divisiveness and does not cause the two-party system to collapse.
Reducing the constitutional rights and political opportunity of smaller political parties will not decrease the amount of corruption found in the two most popular parties in Connecticut.
Many of us in the third-party movement know the public campaign finance law in its present form is a rigged game intended to protect the Democratic and Republican parties.
Mike DeRosa is a litigant in the Green Party vs. Garfield lawsuit and is a candidate for secretary of the state on the Green Party line. His website is www.mikederosa.org.