Courtesy of the Comcast Spectacor website
Edward Snider, CEO of Comcast Spectacor (Courtesy of the Comcast Spectacor website)

In the face of criticism and calls to withdraw a request for $1.8 million in state bonding, the Connecticut Democratic Party will refund a $10,000 donation from Edward Snider, CEO of Comcast Spectacor.

Snider, whose Pennsylvania-based Comcast Spectacor is the parent company of Global Spectrum, made a donation of $10,000 to the state Democratic Party in August. It was the maximum donation amount allowed under the law.

Global Spectrum has been contracted by the state to manage the Hartford XL Center and Rentschler Field in East Hartford. The company is further poised to receive $1.8 million from the state Bond Commission on Friday.

Less than an hour before Democrats announced the decision to return the donation, Republican House Leader Lawrence Cafero called upon the Bond Commission to delay approving the item until the issue over whether Snider was a state contractor could be settled.

“There is a contract to manage the XL Center by a subsidiary of Snider’s parent company and state contractors are barred from giving money to the state party accounts. This needs to be addressed immediately,” Cafero said.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the party relies upon the information provided by its donors on the state contribution form. In Snider’s case, “we had a fully-completed and signed non-federal contribution form.” In addition, Hallinan says it cross-referenced the donor information with the list of prohibited state contractors provided by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

“Spectacor, which Mr. Snider listed as his employer, does not appear on any of the prohibited contributors lists,” Hallinan said. “After learning further financial information regarding Comcast Spectacor’s relationship with Global Spectrum, the Connecticut Democratic Party has decided to issue a refund to Mr. Snider for his contribution.”

The Capital Region Development Authority, a quasi-public agency Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy created last year, awarded Global Spectrum the contracts to operate the two facilities in February. Malloy also sets the state Bond Commission’s agenda.

Republican gubernatorial hopeful and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney called Snider’s donation to Democrats’ state PAC a clear violation of campaign finance laws because he is considered a state contractor. He said the donation should be investigated.

“Mr. Snider doesn’t live in Connecticut and has never given to the Connecticut Democratic Party before. But, all of the sudden, at the same time his company is bidding for a multi-million dollar state contract, he decides to write a check for the maximum contribution of $10,000 and, lo and behold, is awarded the contract to manage the XL Center and Rentschler Field,” McKinney said in a Tuesday statement.

House Minority Leader Larry Cafero echoed McKinney’s comments.

“This bond appropriation ought to be pulled until the questions surrounding the donation of $10,000 by Mr. Snider to the Democrats can be resolved,” Cafero said in a letter to OPM released by his office. “There is a contract to manage the XL Center by a subsidiary of Snider’s parent company and state contractors are barred from giving money to the state party accounts. This needs to be addressed immediately.”

The contract was awarded by the state before the Aug. 23 donation by Snider.

Asked about the contribution earlier Wednesday, Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Jonathan Harris said “we follow all the rules and regulations under state and federal campaign finance laws.”

He said the party will continue raising money “within the law.” He declined to elaborate on whether he thought Mr. Snider was a state contractor. But after further review, the party opted to refund the donation.

Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut which spearheaded the landmark 2005 changes to campaign finance law, said the donation is a “problem” if Mr. Snider is a state contractor. She said the law prohibits state contractors and lobbyists from contributing to state party accounts.

The changes to the law came about after former Gov. John G. Rowland resigned and later pleaded guilty to corruption charges for accepting gifts from state contractors.

On Tuesday after a speech to the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has not announced his reelection bid but has been fundraising on behalf of the party said he would continue to follow the law.

“The standard to apply is whether we are compliant with the law, and we’ll hold ourselves to that standard,” Malloy said.

McKinney called that a a pretty low standard.

“In his own words, the governor established a low ethical standard for his fundraising efforts yesterday,” McKinney said Wednesday. “And today, he and his party have admitted that they have failed to meet even their own low standard. They have broken campaign finance laws.”