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Cuts to Public Campaign Funds Prompt Election Worries
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The pot of public money set up to finance electoral campaigns in Connecticut is $12.5 million smaller after two rounds of spending cuts, and the program's director worries that funding questions may discourage future participation.

2010 will be the first time that statewide candidates will be eligible for public campaign funds in Connecticut. The voluntary program provides public money if candidates abide by limits on expenditures and contributions.

That is, if the there's enough left in the Citizen's Election Fund at the end of this fiscal crisis.

The General Assembly redirected money from the fund in a November special session. It took another 7 and a half million dollars in its budget bill passed this week.

That last cut was a compromise offered by the State Elections Enforcement Commission. The governor wanted to seize about $10 million more. Beth Rotman is the program's director.

"We absolutely know that the state has to look everywhere, and that's exactly why the commission did the work to say, look, we know some money, some give back is appropriate."

Rotman says the Commission told the governor it could forgo another 7 and a half million dollars in the next budget year - but no more after that.

"And our candidates need to know right now that the money is going to be there for them. Otherwise they're going to go out and get the large special interest contributions that they are allowed to get if they don't join the voluntary citizens election program."

The Commission expects to distribute 52 million dollars during the 2010 election cycle. General election grants range from $25,000 for House races to $3 million for gubernatorial candidates.

Governor Rell's office would not say whether she will ask for more money out of the fund. She proposes her budget on February 4.