Fasano To Malloy: Tell Democrats To Comply With Subpoena For Campaign Documents [Courant]

June 22, 2015

Hartford Courant
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano called on the governor Friday to order the release of subpoenaed documents concerning his 2014 re-election campaign that the state Democratic Party has refused to turn over to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

“The governor has repeatedly talked about his commitment to transparency and open government, but he draws a line in the sand when it comes to his own campaign dealings,” Fasano, R-North Haven, said in a statement. “True transparency means openness across the board. … It means when information is requested, let alone subpoenaed, that information is made available and accessible — not hidden.

“If the governor has nothing to hide, why is he refusing to share this information? I am calling on the governor to request that all those involved in his re-election campaign release the records sought by the SEEC immediately.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office declined comment and referred questions about Fasano’s comment to the state Democratic Party.

The party’s spokesman, Leigh Appleby, responded Friday: “It should come as no surprise that Len Fasano is using hypocritical attacks to score cheap political points. Fasano clearly knows nothing about the underlying facts surrounding this case or the laws under which both Democratic and Republican parties are governed. Remember, this is coming from the leader whose members sent out — according to SEEC — illegal attack mailers using public funds.

The elections enforcement commission issued a subpoena to the state Democratic Party on May 29 as part of its investigation of a complaint by Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr.

Labriola complained that Democrats illegally circumvented the state’s ban on contractor contributions last year by collecting contractors’ money in a “federal account” and using it to pay for mass mailings on behalf of Malloy.

The subpoena sought documents and communications, including emails, among Malloy and several of his top aides, and it said the party’s record-keeper needed to appear at the enforcement agency’s Hartford office on Thursday at 2 p.m. with the records.

But the lawyer representing the Democratic State Central Committee, David S. Golub, wrote to the commission on Monday to say the party wouldn’t comply with the subpoena.

“The DSCC believes that the ‘investigatory subpoena’ is without lawful basis and respectfully declines to comply with the subpoena,” Golub wrote.

Thursday’s deadline came and went with no response to the commission’s subpoena. That sets up a likely confrontation in court, in which the commission would seek to force the Democrats to comply with the subpoena. Election enforcement officials have not yet said when they will meet to decide how to proceed.

The commission would normally be represented in court by the office of state Attorney General George Jepsen, who ran for re-election on the same Democratic election ticket as Malloy.

Jepsen has recused himself from personal involvement and turned the matter over to his top deputy.

The commission has not said whether it will seek an outside law firm to represent it in any court confrontation with Golub, who recently concluded negotiations with Jepsen’s office to reach a lucrative settlement in a decade-old lawsuit on behalf of state employee unions. The lawsuit related to ex-Gov. John G. Rowland’s allegedly illegal layoffs of state employees more than a decade ago.

Fasano, in his statement Friday, said that when Malloy “first announced his interest in running for office in 2006, he emphasized transparency as [the] way to prevent repeat scandals similar to the situation involving former Governor Rowland. He was quoted as saying, ‘I’m talking about a fundamental change in our approach to government. … When government becomes a closed insider game, this kind of stuff can play itself out.'”

“It’s time for the governor to stop running around the question and playing closed insider games,” Fasano said. “We want Governor Malloy to lead the way to transparency. He has blocked clean elections and now he is trying to block transparency regarding his own campaign.

Refusing to comply with a subpoena, sent out by a government agency that holds full authority to oversee election happenings in our state, shows a complete disregard for the very office the governor, himself, holds.

“The public deserves to know if campaign funds were misused. Certainly a state agency responsible for overseeing state elections deserves the freedom to investigate. If our state is committed to transparency, openness and clean elections, Governor Malloy needs to release those documents now.”

Late in the 2014 campaign, the Democrats sent mass mailings that were dominated by photos and assertions aimed at re-electing Malloy, but that also contained small print telling voters when polls would be open on Election Day and a phone number to call to get a ride to the polls.

Democrats said that federal election laws required that the party’s “federal account” be used to pay for the mailings, because such get-out-the-vote efforts could also help Democratic candidates for Congress who were running for re-election on the same ballot line with Malloy.

Republicans called that a dodge, saying Democrats are evading the same state clean-election laws they once championed — especially the ban on state contractors financing campaigns for state offices. In addition to filing the elections enforcement complaint in October, Republicans sued to block the mailings. A judge dismissed the suit and said the complaint had to be pressed with the elections enforcement agency before moving into court.

But now the Democrats, through Golub, are saying that only the Federal Election Commission has jurisdiction over get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activity and messages such as those in the small print of the party’s mass mailings that featured Malloy.

Federal law “provides for exclusive federal jurisdiction over GOTV activity where a federal candidate is on the ballot,” Golub said in Monday’s letter. “State campaign finance restrictions applicable to federal election activity, like the mailer here, are expressly ‘superseded and pre-empted'” under federal law. “Accordingly it is the DSCC’s position that the commission lacks the authority to proceed with its investigation of Mr. Labriola’s complaint and the subpoena issued by the commission is without lawful basis,” Golub wrote.

The elections enforcement commission has rejected Golub’s interpretation and says that state laws and restrictions apply.