(Updated) The State Elections Enforcement Commission Wednesday granted Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele the additional $312,500 in public funding for his gubernatorial bid.
The decision by the commission follows yesterday’s state Supreme Court decision which helped clear the way for him to receive the funds.
Fedele had already been granted $2.18 million from the Citizens’ Election Program when his opponent, Republican frontrunner Tom Foley, filed a state, then federal lawsuit against both Fedele and the commission to block the distribution of the funds.
Wednesday’s additional $312,500 grant based on Foley’s spending brings Fedele’s total for the campaign up to $2.5 million.
Even though the Second Circuit Court ruled last week that the additional funds given to participating candidates are unconstitutional the commission said it is obligated to hand them out until a lower court judge receives the decision from the federal appeals court. The court will hand the decision down in 21 days, then U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill must issue a ruling complying with the appeals court.
“We should continue operating the program as it exists on the books, including issuing supplemental grants, until he tells us otherwise,” Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, said.
Once Underhill issues his decision things will likely change and the system won’t look like it does today. Even if it is preserved, it won’t work exactly as it does today, since the supplemental grant provision will likely be eliminated.
“I think that this will be a situation probably incapable of repetition however hard one might try,” Rotman said.
In the meantime, Underhill has asked the parties in the case to submit briefs regarding the severability of the provision which triggers additional funds for opponents. If he doesn’t believe the provision can be separated without harming the entire clean elections system it’s possible things will revert back to the way they were before the law was passed in 2005. The legislature has 30 days from the time Underhill issues his decision to make changes to the law or possibly save it, if Underhill finds the trigger provision can’t be severed.
Tom Foley, Fedele’s opponent who lost two lawsuits to block Fedele from receiving the money, is still asking his opponent to return the money.
“It is unbelievable that the SEEC would continue to award a supplemental grant to Mike Fedele’s campaign after those grants have been found unconstitutional,” said Justin Clark, Foley’s campaign manager said Wednesday.“The Lieutenant Governor is a wealthy man who has the money to fund his own campaign. Yet he continues to ask his friends at the SEEC for more money from hard working taxpayers to pay for bumper stickers and TV ads. We ask Mike Fedele to do the right thing and not accept these funds. And we ask one more time – Mike, have you returned the unconstitutional money, yet?”
In addition to Fedele, Democrats George Jepsen, candidate for attorney general; Mary Glassman, candidate for lieutenant governor; and Kevin Lembo, candidate for comptroller, will receive $375,000 in public grants from the commission.
Lembo’s request for funding was challenged earlier this week by his opponent, Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura’s campaign. Jarjura’s campaign manager alleged that Lembo shouldn’t be able to use the $15,000 he raised in his exploratory committee toward the $75,000 threshold he needed to qualify for the public funds.
Commission officials said Lembo qualified without counting any of the funds from his exploratory committee. Two men from the Jarjura campaign sought to object, but were unsuccessful in interrupting the commission’s proceedings Wednesday.
A complaint has also been filed against Glassman’s campaign. The complaint filed by Bud Salemi, the Treasurer for Nancy Wyman’s campaign, alleges Glassman failed to report both the production costs and percentage of the media buy for a television ad she appears in with Ned Lamont.
The complaint which is still pending didn’t impact Glassman’s ability to qualify for the $375,000 grant Wednesday.