Cut of CEP from the budget is an assault on democracy

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When legislators recently passed the anti-worker, anti-family budget, they didn’t just attack workers’ rights, higher education, tax relief for low-income families, teachers, our capital city’s fiscal health, and job training programs. They attacked democracy itself. Their plan eliminates the vital Citizens’ Election Program (CEP), one of Connecticut’s greatest achievements, and our single greatest safeguard against corruption.

And make no mistake – this slashing of the CEP has absolutely nothing to do with the budget. The CEP constitutes less than .0001 percent of the budget, and cutting it would cost us far more than that, both in dollars and ethics.

This isn’t a budget measure; it is an assault on the core values of democracy.

While in this fight, we should take a moment to reflect on how far the CEP has taken us. Public financing makes politicians less beholden to special interests and gives them more time to listen and respond to their voters. It makes our elections cleaner and more competitive. And it makes our politicians more accountable.

The 2016 election had merely half the uncontested seats that pre-CEP elections had. On top of that, incumbents also had to start taking primary challenges more seriously. This transformation has strengthened the very core of our democracy, promoting competition between candidates and their ideas. Voters are presented with more choices and a more vigorous debate. This increases turnout and participation, making our democratic process stronger and more meaningful.

The evidence of the CEP’s effectiveness is everywhere. Qualifying requires earning small contributions from local constituents, making CEP funded candidates more reflective of the values and interests of the communities and voters they serve. And because the CEP enables more primary challenges and more general election competition, our politicians are more accountable to the people they serve. If legislators disappoint the people they represent, those legislators may quickly find themselves in serious fights with CEP -funded challengers ready to do a better job.

Gov. Dannel Malloy should be applauded for his vow to veto this catastrophic budget. The amount of damage this budget would do to our lives, economy, and democracy is immeasurable. We must urge him to take a step further and commit to only support a budget that preserves clean and fair elections through the Citizens’ Election Program.

Zack Campbell is Media and Outreach Director for the Connecticut Working Families Party.

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