HARTFORD — Matt Lesser could never have raised the money to compete in a legislative election in most states. He was a 25-year-old local planning commissioner facing a former secret service agent for Richard M. Nixon who had been a fixture in local politics for two decades.
Yet he won an improbable victory in 2008, partly as a result of his home state’s solution to what some observers call the gravest threat facing American democracy: the ever-rising influx of millions of dollars in campaign funds.
At a time when a handful of anonymous super-rich individuals can secretly finance political committees, and when more money than ever saturates campaigns, Connecticut helped fund Lesser’s campaign with an innovative public financing system.
“I tried to get other people in my area to run,” said Lesser. “I found out about the public financing program and realized if nobody else wants to do it, I could.”
So far, however, Connecticut stands out as an exception in a nation awash in private campaign dollars.
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