After a former FBI agent called up cash contributors to verify their donations, Gerry Garcia’s request for $375,000 in public campaign dollars was approved Thursday.
Garcia, a former New Haven alderman who is running for Secretary of the State, was the last statewide candidate to submit his fundraising totals to the State Elections Enforcement Commission for approval. And his application raised some eyebrows since the campaign ended its push with piles of hundred-dollar bills.
Dianna Kulmacz, Citizens’ Election Program audit director, said Garcia raised a total of $77,600 when he needed $75,000 to qualify.
“Every contribution was looked at once, twice, three, and four times,” Kulmacz said.
Charles Urso, a former FBI agent and lead investigator, said he got as many of Garcia’s cash contributors as he could on the phone. Of the ones he reached Urso said they all acknowledged they had given to the Garcia campaign.
“There was a significant amount of cash toward the end of the campaign,” Kulmacz said. She said percentage of cash is one of the trends the State Elections Enforcement Commission staff monitors.
When Garcia’s contributions were totaled up, Kulmacz said about 40 percent were cash, “which is not an exorbitant amount of money.” Especially when the Garcia campaign said it was their strategy to ask for cash.
Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, said she wants to be clear that it wasn’t more rigorous on Garcia than any other campaign with cash contributions.
She said she understands the strategy the Garcia campaign was using toward the end of the fundraising period. She said sometimes campaigns don’t want to accept checks because the address on the check may not match the address given on the certification card, which could disqualify a contribution. Checks also take longer to clear and Garcia just beat last Friday’s deadline to submit his application.
State Rep. Jason Bartlett, D-Bethel, said Garcia was able to raise about $3,000 in contributions online with less than 24 hours to go before the deadline.
“There’s nothing like a deadline,” Bartlett, who is managing Garcia’s campaign, said Thursday. He said the Garcia campaign received a lot of help from candidates that had already qualified for their grants, but he didn’t want to publicly acknowledge any of them. He did say the campaign received some help from the Row B alliance.
Bartlett said the bad thing about the public campaign system is that there’s no money to hire staff, so he walked into the SEEC last week at 4:15 p.m. with just 45-minutes to spare, hoping that the stacks of contributions were properly organized.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Bartlett said he’s really excited about the next phase of the campaign.
Garcia will be running against Majority Leader Denise Merrill of Mansfield in the Democratic primary Aug. 10.
Click here to read the New Haven Independent’s report this morning on the issue of the cash contributions.