The Government Administration and Elections Committee will begin its investigative hearing Wednesday into an Election Enforcement Commission decision on a fundraising mistake made by Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s chief of staff and subsequent settlement negotiated by her campaign manager.Republicans described the hearing as a “witch hunt” motivated by a desire to elect a Democrat governor.
Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore John McKinney, R-Southport, said Friday that it’s a political ploy and “there’s no need for the hearing.” He said the matter was already investigated by the Elections Enforcement Commission and that should be the end of it. McKinney said the problem is the Democrats “didn’t like the outcome of that decision.” GAE Committee Co-chairman Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, and Vice-Chairman Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, denied that party politics are at play. Caruso, who was called “Joseph McCarthy” by Republicans said the investigative hearing may be uncomfortable for some people. But there’s no need to start calling each other names and making things personal. Caruso said he’s not hiding any information from the press, unlike McCarthy who used to claim the documents were under seal when asked for information by the media. “Everything I’m stating is a fact,” Caruso said. “I have never made this personal,” he added. Meyer and Caruso said Friday there’s been nothing but bipartisan cooperation from all the parties involved including Rell. Rell’s counsel, Kevin Rash, waived attorney/client privilege for any of the staff who have been asked by the committee to provide documents for testimony, Meyer said. He said the committee has already received 300 to 400 pages of documents it requested and did not have to hand out one subpoena in the process. It’s possible two or three commissioners will be called to testify, Caruso said. He said 14 people in all have been called to submit documents or testify. He estimated about three will be called during the first few days of the hearing. The hearing is estimated to last a week to 10 days, Caruso said. It was unknown Friday if Lisa Moody, Rell’s chief of staff, who gave the invitations to the commissioners to handout to their subordinates, would testify. Caruso said he doesn’t anticipate having to call Rell. “We may not need her,” he said. If Rell was called to testify she has said she would, but Caruso said he doesn’t want to make the hearing into a circus. The 20-member committee will look at why Jeffrey Garfield, executive director of the state Elections Enforcement Commission, sent information about election violations to Rell’s campaign manager, Kevin Deneen, who then helped negotiate a settlement on behalf of 16 commissioners in Rell’s administration.Each of the 16 commissioners who handed out the invitations to their subordinates was fined $500 by the commission. Moody was not fined by the commission, but she was suspended by Rell for two weeks during the Christmas Holiday season.