Recently, my campaign completed the process of receiving a contribution from 150 different people within Berlin and Southington and raising a total of $5,000 in small donations. This meets the goal required to receive a $28,000 grant from the State of Connecticut to fund the rest of my campaign, a grant I have decided not to apply for. This would be one grant of the many that are given to state legislature candidates in Connecticut, grants that add up to a total of nearly $8 million.
The state legislature decided against cutting this program in the spring, a mistake in my view. I think that spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to subsidize political campaigns is wrong and that this program should be ended.
I recognize that my decision leaves me with more than a 5-to-1 funding disadvantage against my opponent, and I recognize that this may make it far more difficult to win this election. However, it is not right that in an average race for State Representative, enough money to pay for a four year degree at any state college is spent in taxpayer dollars between the two candidates.
It is not right that in the midst of our budget crisis you have been asked to pay more in taxes, or that our hospital funding has been cut, or that hard working people are being laid off, while still millions of taxpayer dollars are spent to enable politicians to lob insults at each other. None of this is right, and I know it. I am funding my campaign only through small donations, and I feel that other candidates should follow suit.
Some may say that this program is in place in order to protect our taxpayers from political corruption. I once felt that this may be the case, but now realize that this is far from the truth. This program does not stop lobbyists from donating to political campaigns, nor does it have strict enough controls for how candidates can spend the taxpayer money they receive.
Not only that, do we really think that with public financing our legislators are not beholden to the special interests that can offer them a high paying job when they finally leave the government, or even worse, can legally employ them while they still work for the government?
Instead of a clean government free from special interests, we have the illusion of a clean government. In reality, we have a government just as, if not more corrupt than ever. Worse still, we also have a taxpayer subsidy of political campaigns. We need real reforms to keep our government clean. We need term limits and a ban on legislators working for special interests both during and after they are in office.
Most of all though, we need new voices in our state legislature, voices that speak for the people.
Some may say that this program costs only a few million dollars each election year. But if every one of our 187 state legislators finds $10 million of savings each, we will have a budget surplus next year. I am not naive enough to believe that one person cannot solve all of our problems. However, I am still naïve enough to believe that one person can make a difference.
Chris Morelli is a Republican state representative candidate for the 30th District.