The Connecticut Republican Party filed a complaint Friday alleging that the Working Families Party broke state and federal election laws by making illegal monetary transfers to the campaigns of several state officers before last year’s elections.
The complaints, which were filed with state and federal election commissions, said the Working Families Party illegally gave money to the campaigns of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Treasurer Denise Nappier, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill.
According to a Republican Party statement, the transfers were filed as “coordinated with reimbursement sought,” but the money was never reimbursed.
“The Working Families Party has been long known to be a hollow organization which merely exists to prop up Democrats by funneling money to liberal candidates,” said Republican State Party Chairman Chris Healy. “It appears the WFP doesn’t believe it has to play by the same rule.”
However, correspondence between the Connecticut Working Families Party and the state Elections Enforcement Commission shows that the party had reached out in advance to the commission for guidance on how to proceed with a petition drive. In a written response dated August 11, the SEEC said that in some cases the money does not require reimbursement back to the WFP.
The party also requested information on how it should go about properly filing when some of its petition contained the names of more than one candidate and the already-complicated rules become more complex when candidates who receive public financing are thrown into the mix.
Different campaign finance rules apply when a candidate is receiving public campaign funds. One such rule dictates that campaigns receiving public funds are restricted from transferring funds to another party.
So the party asked how it could split the costs of a consultant between five candidates who would by law be required to reimburse a percentage of the money if some of the candidates weren’t permitted to transfer the funds back.
To avoid that Catch-22 the SEEC recommended the campaign pay the percentage to the consultant who would then reimburse the party.
“In other words, in the scenario in which there are five candidates on the petition, 20 percent of the total expenditure would be attributable to each candidate, regardless of whether the expense is reimbursed by the candidate committee to the WFP state committee and reported as a payment to another committee or the expense is not reimbursed by the candidate committee and instead is reported as an organizational expenditure of the party for the benefit of the candidate,” SEEC Legal Compliance Director Shannon Clark Kief wrote.
Kief noted that the opinion was an informal one and not an official declaration by the commission.
Connecticut Working Families Party Executive Director Jon Green called the Republican statement “classic sour grapes.” He said that the Healy and the Republican Party are bitter about poor results last year.
“It’s no surprise that Healy is lashing out at the end of his term as GOP chair,” he said. “The facts in this case are clear: In 2010, the WFP sought the advice of the State Election Enforcement Commission regarding a planned petition drive to place statewide candidates on the ballot. We received clear instruction from the SEEC, initially verbally and subsequently in writing. The WFP carefully followed that instruction and complied with the letter and the spirit of the law.”
Healy’s statement further alleged the Working Families Party made $30,000 worth of transfers to the Connecticut Working Families Federal PAC D/b/a Take Back Congress, which never appeared on the Federal Elections Commission report on the PAC’s income.
Green said that money was for shared expenses.
“The Working Families State Committee reimbursed our federal committee for the appropriate share of general staff expenses, which is legal and reasonable. One thing we don’t spend our limited resources on is frivolous complaints to smear political opponents,” he said.
According to the party’s filings with the SEEC, the group made five payments to the federal PAC over the past year totaling a little over $23,000. Many of the payments were listed as “reimbursement for staff services/payroll” and all were marked with a purpose code of “POC,” which the state’s campaign laws define as including expenses “for the cost of the salaries of the other committee’s salaried employees who were loaned to the committee, etc.”