(Updated) The State Elections Enforcement Commission, which has been criticized for being too lenient when it comes to approving public funds for candidates, denied its first grant application of the 2010 election cycle.
At its meeting Wednesday, the commission voted to deny Republican Christopher LaRocque’s application for a $26,000 public campaign grant to run against the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Chris Lyddy of Newtown.
“There were material improprieties made on the application,” Dianna Kulmacz, Citizens’ Election Program audit director, told the commission.
Charles Urso, a former FBI agent and lead investigator in the SEEC case, said there were at least 18 straw contributors listed on the application which were funded by the solicitor.
According to a complaint received by the commission, Lyddy campaign manager Sarah Hemingway said she asked Katherine Pineau, the owner of Katherine’s Kitchen in Newtown, how Lyddy could regain the support of her family. Pineau told Hemingway that her family loved Chris Lyddy and that he had not lost their support. Hemingway then asked Pineau why her sons, Ryan, Cory, and Connor, had given $5 each to Mr. LaRocque’s campaign.
After speaking with her sons, Pineau told Hemingway that her sons hadn’t contributed any money to LaRocque’s campaign. Her son told her the campaign was only looking for signatures.
Beth Rotman, executive director of the Citizens’ Election Program, said more than 10 percent of the 150 contributions were falsified, which allowed the commission to deny the application with prejudice. That means LaRocque can’t reapply for the money.
LaRocque, 26, said his campaign worker made a mistake and his campaign takes full responsibility for it. He said the worker didn’t understand some of the rules. However, LaRocque said he’s not going to appeal.
“I’m not concerned about it at all,” LaRocque said in a phone interview.
“It is deceitful. It is disappointing. It is fraud. It is exactly what we don’t need in Hartford,” said Hemingway. “Newtown deserves better.”
LaRocque said Newtown does deserve better and he’s running to bring “common sense” to Hartford. He said the complaint isn’t going to impact his campaign and he’s going to continue pounding the pavement and talking to voters about the issues that impact his town and the state.
In 2008 the commission denied two grant applications.