CTNJ File Photo
Gov. Malloy on right and his former advisor Roy Occhiogrosso (CTNJ File Photo)

Election enforcement officials agreed Wednesday to investigate a complaint by a Newington man claiming Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been running for re-election all year through “de facto campaign operation.” 

Malloy has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election next year and has not filed the necessary paperwork with the state to be a candidate.

However, the State Elections Enforcement Commission decided Wednesday to investigate a complaint by Ben Ancona of Newington, alleging that Malloy has nonetheless been campaigning since January. Ancona claimed Malloy has solicited contributions and has allowed others, mainly his former adviser Roy Occhiogrosso, to make expenditures aimed at re-electing him in next year’s election.

Ancona is a lawyer from Newington who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican challenger to Democratic Rep. Sandy Nafis last year. In the complaint, Ancona said Malloy should have already registered to form a candidate committee to report fundraising and expenditures with SEEC.

“Multiple persons have engaged in activities and speech with Malloy’s consent demonstrating that he is seeking re-election, and they have made expenditures with the intent to bring about his re-election,” he wrote.

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Malloy, said in a statement that the administration did not “feel compelled to give a substantive response to a baseless complaint.”

“Governor Malloy is not a candidate,” Doba said.

The complaint points to a poll conducted in January by Global Strategies Group, a public affairs firm where Occhiogrosso has served as managing director since he left the administration in December.

Ancona said the poll was designed to weigh public opinion of Malloy and his policies, in particular his education reform efforts. The poll was paid for by Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now. It’s a school reform group that Ancona says Malloy helped raise money for in the past. He alleges it constituted a campaign expenditure and should have been paid for and reported by a campaign committee.

Last month, the SEEC reached a settlement with likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley over a similar issue. Foley and his 2010 campaign manager agreed to pay the commission $15,504 for a poll conducted last February before it formed a campaign committee.

In a statement, Jennifer Alexander, executive director of ConnCAN, said her organization is a non-partisan group focused on making sure all Connecticut kids receive quality public education.

“We conducted the survey in question to gauge public opinion around common-sense education policies that are necessary to ensure all kids have access to great schools,” Alexander said.

Ancona claims Malloy also gave Occhiogrosso and his firm consent to engage in other activities like opposition research and media communications intended to promote Malloy’s re-election. Ancona accused Occhiogrosso of running a “de facto campaign operation” for Malloy since leaving the administration last December.

“Much, and perhaps all, of Occhiogrosso’s time while at GSG has been spent on advocacy for Malloy and preparing for an upcoming gubernatorial campaign,” he wrote. “. . . Occhiogrosso is not only Malloy’s agent, but he is known as Mr. Malloy’s alter-ego and/or the ‘voice’ of Dan Malloy.”

In an email, Occhiogrosso called the complaint “frivolous.” 

Ancona estimated that Occhiogrosso and his firm have spent more than $400,000 on behalf of the governor and suggested that the spending could disqualify Malloy from the public campaign finance system, if he chooses to use it.

The SEEC also agreed to investigate another complaint against Malloy, this one filed last month by the Connecticut Republican Party. It alleges that Malloy and state Democrats violated campaign laws when the governor met with a state contractor on a fundraising trip to California on behalf of the Democratic Party.