Over the past month, Governor Malloy’s strategy for raising money for his potential re-election bid has become increasingly clear.
Not only does he intended to take the millions in public financing but he is seeking to augment that amount with millions more in donation from those who do business with the state, have received funds from the Malloy administration or hope to ingratiate themselves with Malloy or his inner circle.
One of the most offensive examples came to light recently when the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender reported that the CEO of Northeast Utilities had emailed his subordinates urging them to donate to Governor Malloy by giving money to the Democratic State Central Committee’s “Federal Account.”
According to news accounts, the email produced over $50,000 in checks for the State Democratic Party.
This maneuver by Northeast Utilities, Malloy’s political operation and the Democratic State Central Committee raises serious legal questions since funds deposited in to the Democrat’s “Federal Account” can only be used to benefit federal candidates or as part of a broader non-candidate specific voter registration or get out the vote effort.
In addition, since the NU CEO’s email makes clear the contributions were to benefit Governor Malloy’s campaign, the effort raises a second set of problems related to the fact that while directed donations are allowed for under federal law for federal candidates, it is not legal to direct donations through a political part to benefit a particular state candidate.
While the Federal Election Act is a complex document, the rules are certainly understandable.
One of the most basic rules relates to the use of the “Federal Account” itself.
The law is that the Federal Account may only contain funds that are “subject to the limits, prohibitions and reporting requirements of the Act and are used to finance activities in connection with federal elections.”
Secondly, according to federal laws, “A (State Party) Committee may choose to set up both federal and non-federal accounts. Again, only funds permissible under the Act may be deposited into the federal account. The committee must use the federal account…for all disbursements, contributions, expenditures or transfers in conjunction with any federal election.”
Having served as the State Central Committee’s Political Director form 1986-1992, I know what the federal law allows and what it prohibits.
In this case, Malloy and the Democratic State Central Committee are pushing the legal boundary, especially since the NU CEO’s email was so clear on who was going to benefit from the funds.
But even more important than the apparent violation of federal law is the fact that Malloy and Connecticut Democrats claim to support campaign finance reform, clean elections and the on-going efforts to remove “big money” from American politics.
There is absolutely no question that the scheme concocted by Malloy, NU and the State Democrats undermine the fundamental commitment to an open, honest and reformed campaign finance system.
But the truth of the matter became apparent late this week when the Democrats finally respond to this growing controversy?
According to the CT Mirror;
“James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the NU contributions are legal under state and federal law, as is how the money is being used.”
The CT Mirror articled noted that Hallinan added,
“Labriola is complaining because of the GOP’s struggles, he said.
‘Due to his own inept fundraising, Jerry’s Republican Party is now officially broke,’ Hallinan said. ‘His response to that is to call on the Democratic Party to return money that was raised following all laws, rules, and regulations? What’s next? Will he call on Democrats not to nominate candidates in order to give the Republicans a better chance at winning?’”
So let’s get the Democrat’s political spin right.
According to the spokesperson for the Democratic State Central Committee, the controversy is not about Malloy, the Democratic State Central Committee and Northeast Utilities.
Instead the controversy is the result of the Republican State Chairman who hasn’t raised enough money for his party and is therefore complaining about what the unethical, immoral and potentially illegal fundraising strategies that are being conducted by the Democrats.
And rather than addressing those unethical, immoral and potentially illegal practices, the Democrats response is “the NU contributions are legal under state and federal law, as is how the money is being used.”
It is hard to imagine the Connecticut Democrats could have come up with a more lame explanation.
Like Governor Malloy, the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee is voiding its ability to say that it represents the values and beliefs of the members of the Democratic Party in Connecticut.
Unlike Malloy and the leadership of the Connecticut Democrats, there is no doubt that the vast majority of registered Democrats in Connecticut do not want a system in which the CEO of NU, a company with all broad range of issues pending before state government, tells his senior employees to support Malloy’s re-election aspirations by funneling money through the Democratic State Party.
You can read about the Democratic Party’s official response in the CT Mirror: https://www.ctmirror.org/political-mirror/2013/12/05/gop-dems-wrangle-over-propriety-nu-contributions
And you can read some of the Wait, What? posts on Malloy’s campaign finance strategy via the following links: