During the past four congressional elections, U.S. Rep. John Larson has raised $2.80 in campaign cash for every penny that his Republican challengers have collected.
No doubt that fundraising advantage helped Larson, an East Hartford Democrat whose 1st District includes Bristol, crush each of his opponents.
Since 2001, he has raked in nearly $4 million in campaign cash compared to the $14,000 hauled in by Republican hopefuls.
Three of Larson’s GOP challengers four opponents in these races didn’t raise any money at all.
Oddly. though, given his success with the current campaign finance system, Larson is taking steps to make the playing field fairer.
The Fair Elections Now plan that he’s trumpeting would essentially ensure that his challengers have the same campaign money that he gets as long as they can clear some relatively minor hurdles.
"Elections should be decided on the basis of who the best candidate is, not just who raises the most money,” Larson said last fall. “And, members of Congress should be freed to spend their time legislating rather than fundraising.”
Larson and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, are the main sponsors of the bill in the U.S. House.
In a letter to House colleagues recently, Larson wrote, “There is no question that public confidence in Congress is being eroded by the perception that big contributions from Washington insiders have come to dominate our campaigns. Many of our constituents are left to wonder if we represent their needs or the needs of our big donors.
He said the “never-ending pressure we face to raise money cuts into the time we have to meet with our constituents and take the considerable time needed to study, understand, and offer common sense solutions to our country's growing problems.”
Switching to public financing of campaigns would help, Larson argued.
The proposed measure is modeled on the state campaign finance programs already in place in Connecticut, Arizona, Maine and North Caroliina, supporters say.
If the federal program were to pass as proposed, House candidates who qualify would wind up getting as much as $900,000 to fund their congressional campaigns – less than Larson collected last year to thrash Joe Visconti, the little-known West Hartford town councilman who took him on.
To qualify, a House candidate would have to take in at least 1,500 contributions from people in their own states and raise a total of $50,000.
Once a candidate qualifies for funding, the measure would provide matches for donations up to $100 on a four-to-one basis until it reached the ceiling for spending on the race.
Candidates could collect an unlimited number of donations of $100 or less from individuals.
After qualifying, small donations, up to $100, would be matched on a four-to-one basis, up to a ceiling at which matching funds would no longer be dispersed. Candidates would be permitted to collect an unlimited number of $100 contributions from individuals. The proposal covers both primary and general elections. The funding for the proposal comes
The plan calls for a small fee to be assessed on firms getting government contracts in order to fund the entire program.
For more information about the Fair Elections Now proposal, check its website at fairelectionsnow.org.
Larson has represented the 1st District since 1998. Though he began to represent Bristol only in 2002, following a post-Census redistricting, The district also includes Berlin, Newington, Southington, Wethersfield and Rocky Hill.
The money race
John Larson - $1.61 million raised
Joe Visconti - $14,000 raised
John Larson - $984,000 raised
Scott McLean - $0 raised
John Larson - $644,000 raised
John Halstead - $0 raised
John Larson - $673,000 raised
Phil Steele - $0 raised
John Larson - $769,000 raised
Bob Backlund - $83,000 raised
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