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Hausladen Pushes For More Democracy (Dough)

by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 6, 2013 11:31 am

(15) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Politics

Thomas MacMillan Photo Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen said he thinks public campaign financing should be available for aldermanic races. The Democracy Fund administrator calculated how much that might cost: A pretty penny.

According to calculations by Ken Krayeske, who administers New Haven’s public campaign financing program, extending the program to aldermanic races could cost upward of half a million dollars.

Alderman Hausladen said he thinks the actual number would prove much smaller, since Krayeske’s upward estimate is based on an election in which races in all 30 wards are contested, and both candidates take part in the Democracy Fund. Costs could come down further with new technology to help track campaign donations, Hausladen said.

Krayeske (pictured below) offered his figures as part of a briefing to aldermen on Monday evening. The topic: The past, present, and future of the Democracy Fund.

The fund is a pot of money set aside for mayoral candidates who pledge to abide by certain fundraising standards, and meet small-donor collection targets. The point of the program, Connecticut’s first: To limit the influence of wealthy special interests on elections (and therefore government),  to hold down the cost of campaigns, and to enable more candidates to participate. Candidates who collect at least 200 donations of at least $10 can quality for a $19,000 grant from the Fund plus matching dollars. The Fund matches the first $25 of donations at a rate of two to one.

So far, the fund exists only for mayoral races. Krayeske offered a hypothetical rundown on what publicly funded aldermanic races might look like.

Krayeske said the idea of public campaign financing for aldermanic races has been the subject of ongoing debate for several years, “most recently spurred by the high spending in the 2011 aldermanic races.” Click here for more on that. 

Krayeske, who is a part-time administrator earning $25,000 per year, said administering 30 aldermanic elections would cost $168,000 in administrative costs. That figure assumes 60 candidates, two elections (primary and general), and 20 hours of administration pre-candidates, at $70 per hour. Krayeske said it takes him about an hour to match 50 submitted donation records with voter registration rolls.

Krayeske’s calculations represent the busiest possible scenario. Most aldermanic election years don’t have contested races in every ward (or some years in most wards), and they often don’t go past the primary election.

As for the money that might be given out to aldermanic candidates, with 60 candidates in two elections getting $4,000 each, the Democracy Fund would be shelling out $480,000, Krayeske said.

Krayeske said he does not have an opinion on whether the Democracy Fund should finance aldermanic elections. As an administrator, he said, “I make no recommendation either way.”

“I think we should have public financing for every election in America,” said Alderman Hausladen.

He said the Democracy Fund will be able to cut down administrative costs with software that can process and track donations faster than a human administrator.

Hausladen said he doesn’t have plans to submit a proposal to expand the Democracy Fund to aldermanic races, but he wants to “explore” the notion.

At least a couple of his colleagues at the briefing were less enthusiastic.

“I think in general that it’d be great to see more publicly finance elections,” said East Rock Alderwoman Jessica Holmes. But the figures laid out by Krayeske “made it seem very expensive. We’d need to look at that in more detail.”

“I’d want to see more about how much it was going to cost,” Holmes said. “It’s rough month to talk about starting anything that will cost the city ... The state budget has all of us pretty nervous.”

Asked if aldermanic candidates should receive public financing, East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker (pictured) said, “My sense is that they shouldn’t.”

“I don’t think you need much money to run an aldermanic campaign,” he said. Ward elections are decided by so few people, he said. “The most important thing is knocking on doors” and talking to voters.

Elicker, who will receive public funding for his current campaign to become mayor, said it could be “quite expensive” to the city to have public funding for aldermanic races. Some wards, for instance, could have as many as three or four candidates running, he said.

“I would love to see it for aldermanic campaigns, but I worry about it being realistic,” Elicker said.

Money can be more of a game-changer in larger elections, so the cost-benefit ratio of doling out a lot of dollars for aldermanic races might not work out well for the city.

Fun Fund Facts

Other highlights from Monday’s Democracy Fund briefing:

+$200K?: The mayor’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year includes $200,000 for the Democracy Fund.

Krayeske said that of the $400,000 deposited in the fund in $200,000 installments in 2006 and 2007, $270,000 now remains. With both declared mayoral candidates participating in the fund, that money could diminish rapidly, Krayeske said.

Early Modern: Alderman Elicker is due to receive about $29,000 from the fund, but the city won’t cut a check until April 1, Krayeske said. The ordinance covering the Democracy Fund states that April 1 is the earliest date by which a candidate can receive money.

Krayeske said that’s an outdated condition that doesn’t reflect the realities of modern campaigning, in which the election season starts earlier and earlier. He said moving that date is one of a number of changes to Democracy Fund rules that he’d like to see after this election year is finished. (Another is closing the exploratory committee loophole.)

Elicker agreed that the April 1 start date should be changed. If two candidates in the race have each raised $5,000 or more before April 1, participating candidates should get a check, he said.

Elicker said his campaign has no problem waiting until April 1 for its money. “We’re not worried about it at all. We have more than enough money to do what we need to do.”

Free Seats!: Krayeske asked aldermen for help recruiting new members to the Democracy Fund board, which currently has only four of seven seats filled. Earlier Monday, Patricia Kane was elected chair of the board.

Another Elm City First: Krayeske said New Haven has the country’s only “hybrid” public campaign financing program. Elsewhere, public campaign funding consists of either matching funds or grants. New Haven’s system does both.

Millionaire’s Choice: Alderman Hausladen said he plans to draft a proposal for an aldermanic resolution asking all mayoral candidates to take part in the Democracy Fund. Looking for a co-sponser, Hausladen approached Dixwell Alderwoman Jeanette Morrison.

“I like choice. I’m a choice person,” Morrison said. She didn’t give Hausladen a definite answer. She said she wants to reserve the right of millionaires to fund their own campaigns. Not that she necessarily approves of millionaire’s throwing their fortunes into the race, she said. “I don’t like to corner people.”

Krayeske said he will be meeting with the Democratic Town Committee and plans to ask members if they will make Democracy Fund participation a condition of a mayoral endorsement by the committee.

 

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posted by: Greg-Morehead on March 6, 2013  12:08pm

Alderwoman Morrison said,
“I like choice. I’m a choice person,” Morrison said. She didn’t give Hausladen a definite answer. She said she wants to reserve the right of millionaires to fund their own campaigns. Not that she necessarily approves of millionaire’s throwing their fortunes into the race, she said. “I don’t like to corner people.”

What millionaire ran for Alderman/Alderwoman in the past 50 years?  The last time that I checked, only the UNIONS were pumping out thousands of dollars into Aldermanic campaigns. 
Are those the millionaires that she is referring to?  Alderwoman Morrison, please respond.  Also, with the statement, I don’t like to corner people..  Didn’t the Unions do that to the Union employees by saying that they had to vote for their pick?  That’s true “cornering” in its finest, right there.

I’m just saying.

posted by: robn on March 6, 2013  12:21pm

It wouldn’t be so expensive to run an aldermanic campaign if Alderperson Holmes’ union coalition hadn’t dropped a money bomb on the last election.

Nor would it be so expensive if we’d just cut the number of alderpersons in half (to a sane ratio like most other cities).

posted by: Webblog1 on March 6, 2013  3:00pm

Asked if aldermanic candidates should receive public financing, East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker said, “My sense is that they shouldn’t.”

What, Justin taking a position?

“I would love to see it for aldermanic campaigns, but I worry about it being realistic,” Elicker said.

Justin, while stressing realism here, you’re actually taking both sides of the issue!

“Money can be more of a game-changer in larger elections, so the cost-benefit ratio of doling out a lot of dollars for aldermanic races might not work out well for the city.

Justin, now you pose a third issue which juxtaposes the earlier two. But you’re right about the cost-factor to the city.

I thought you might be making progress with your getting REAL comment and the cost to the city, but in the end… its one step forward, two steps back. You blew it.

Just another reality check….!

@ Morehead:
HAUSLADEN ACTUALLY SAID:
Millionaire’s Choice: Alderman Hausladen said he plans to draft a proposal for an aldermanic resolution asking all mayoral candidates to take part in the Democracy Fund.

Morrison’s response and your post are out of bounds.

posted by: Fair and Honest on March 6, 2013  3:05pm

>Krayeske said he will be meeting with the Democratic Town Committee and plans to ask members if they will make Democracy Fund participation a condition of a mayoral endorsement by the committee<

YES YES YES!

We desperately need this to escape cronyism and entrenched special interests. 

You think the Democracy Fund costs so much?  The inefficiencies of a “pay to play” city administration cost us much, much more.

posted by: 32knot on March 6, 2013  3:39pm

.What if I don’t agree with any of the canidates running for mayor/alderman??  why are my tax dollars going to fund their run for office??  this is a slippery slope!!  it is not the same as ” i don’t want my tax dollars going to fight that war”. the politicians voting on those issues have already been elected. now we are forcing people to support, with their taxes, canidates whose positions on the issues they may not/do not agree with. yes, big money can corrupt the process but trying to fix one problem is causing another problem with free choice. what happens when some obvious nutcase runs on the public’s dime. When Rush Limbaugh’s brother runs, what will the liberal heart of the city say when their taxes have to go towards a conservative campaign??
A very slippery slope

posted by: Bditman on March 6, 2013  4:20pm

I like the idea of a fair fight and I think jibes with our civic ideals. The investment seems a small price to pay as citizens to increase the likelihood ( but obviously not guarantee) of having our leaders elected on merit.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 6, 2013  5:49pm

Ditto on Fair and Honest comment!

posted by: HhE on March 6, 2013  9:33pm

Webblog1, I am unable to square Justin Elicker’s nuanced answer; public funding for aldermanic campaigns could have merit, but is unnecessary (mostly knocking on doors) and unrealistic (read: expensive),  with your critique; shock that he would take a position, taking issue with a thoughtful response, and then a declaration that he is not getting real. 

Exactly how is Greg-Morehead’s post out of bounds?  I find his post to be on point, well said, and not impolite.

posted by: Mike Slattery on March 7, 2013  12:44am

I’m concerned with keeping the total cost of gaining office down for everyone, rather than driving the cost of governing up.  Public campaign finance is the best way I know of to accomplish that.  I’m glad that Alder Hausladen is asking for and getting numbers, so the discussion can be fact-based. 

I doubt Alder Democracy Funding is in the cards, but I can see why a person would explore it.  If it ends up costing an Alder 4K or more every two years to compete, then that limits who can take part in that system.  I’d hope that anyone who supports keeping our 30 Alder system, in the name of better representation, would support order-of-magnitude equity among candidates running for a given seat.  The question is how to arrive at that equity.

The incentive today to participate in that more level playing field involves candidates getting funding from a neutral source, in return for turning down other large funding sources.  Presently the barriers to gain public financing involve enough ‘sweat equity’ that candidates with no chance probably won’t get it.  Those that do must figure they have a real chance to connect with voters and will put in the work.  As far as taxpayer outlay, the theory is that having fewer large donors in elections saves taxpayer money in the long run - since an office holder can say ‘no’ to things more easily without those relationships.

I support public finance in this mayoral election, and sincerely hope each candidate agrees to be bound to it.  (So far, so good!)  Large funding sources in a plurality election have the potential to give disproportionate advantage to one candidate over the others in the field, especially if the field is large.  Reading NHI it looks like we might gain some more candidates. 

I hope for some practical way to cap Aldermanic campaigns. The money it takes to make a race disproportional is a fraction of the cost of a mayoral: small enough for anyone to try, but big enough to be beyond the reach of most New Haveners who don’t have access to a few thousand dollars.

posted by: HhE on March 7, 2013  9:46am

Well said, Mike Slattery, very well said. 

32knot, I am very sympathetic to your position.  In the past, I have held the same view.  I have shifted to some degree, please let me explain why.

I find that many elections are being hijacked by large donations.  How can this be addressed?  One answer might be to incentive taking only small donations, and running a fairly low cost campain.  How to achive that?  Tax payer dollars. 

I think it is a far from ideal solution, to a very sticky problem.  Given how destructive the problem is, I will accept this solution.

posted by: 32knot on March 7, 2013  10:34am

Freedom of speech also means freedom not to speak. contributing to a political campaign has been defined as a freedom of speech issue. NOT contributing is also freedom of speech. by forcing me to contribute to candidates i do not support violates my BASIC political rights. trying to solve an election problem that only a part of the political spectrum believes exists by forcing the entire spectrum to support in violation of their speech rights is wrong in any political philosophy. if we are that passionate about getting big money out of the local races than ban ALL spending and let the power of the ideas espoused sway the masses. restrict the campaigning to media sponsored forums and volunteers knocking on doors. i am coming around to supporting 3/5ths idea of parliamentary style of elections. two party rule is bad enough but the local single party absolute domination is tyranny

posted by: Threefifths on March 7, 2013  11:45am

posted by: 32knot on March 7, 2013 9:34am

Iam coming around to supporting 3/5ths idea of parliamentary style of elections. two party rule is bad enough but the local single party absolute domination is tyranny.

Along with TERM LIMITS and Instant-Runoff Voting.In fact parliamentary style elections cost less money.

posted by: robn on March 6, 2013 11:21am

It wouldn’t be so expensive to run an aldermanic campaign if Alderperson Holmes’ union coalition hadn’t dropped a money bomb on the last election.

And how about the Non union administrators who work for king John and put money into his relection campaign and the Alderpersons who also did the same and some of them and there family members got jobs.I do not hear you speaking on that.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2013  12:28pm

3/5,

The union coalition spent $13,000 per candidate not including “volunteer” hours. This is far beyond what aldermanic candidates have spent in the past (it was hard enough for a normal person to run when the stakes were a couple of thousand dollars.)
As far as volunteering goes, Local 34 has a track record of exchanging footsoldiers with of other northeastern unions in their political efforts. I find the idea of imported footsoldiers being used to overwhelm local candidacies extremely disturbing. Much more disturbing than the local party machine sending local footsoldiers around town (a bad precedent but at least composed of local voters).

posted by: Threefifths on March 7, 2013  6:36pm

posted by: robn on March 7, 2013 11:28am

3/5,

The union coalition spent $13,000 per candidate not including “volunteer” hours. This is far beyond what aldermanic candidates have spent in the past (it was hard enough for a normal person to run when the stakes were a couple of thousand dollars.)

Can you show proof of this.Also the people still vote for them.This is why proportional representation is need it.

P.S.My Bad you said the unions are in control.Who was in control before the unions as you say got in.

posted by: robn on March 7, 2013  10:12pm

3/5,

You prove me wrong.

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