Hugh McQuaid Photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday the Democratic Governors Association’s recent legal action against state election regulators is an appropriate response to what it sees as a misinterpretation of Connecticut campaign finance laws.

“I’m not weighing in on the lawsuit. It is important that the laws be enforced and that the right laws be enforced in the right way. In this case [the DGA] feels that there is a misinterpretation of the law. So they’ve responded, I think appropriately but, you know, I hope for a swift decision,” Malloy said when asked about the complaint. 

Malloy, who is seeking reelection this year, has been a fundraiser for the DGA and member since winning his election in 2010 and the group is seeking to spend money to help his reelection bid. It filed a preemptive lawsuit in federal court Wednesday contesting the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s interpretation Connecticut’s campaign finance rules.

The lawsuit prompted Common Cause and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group to call on the governor to ask the DGA to drop the complaint. In an opinion article, Karen Hobert Flynn,  a senior vice president of Common Cause, questioned the group’s complaint.

Hobert Flynn said it is difficult for the DGA to make a case that its spending is independent of Malloy’s campaign. She pointed to the fundraising relationship and a common consultant, in Global Strategies Group.

Malloy’s former senior adviser Roy Occhiogrosso left the governor’s office in 2012 to return to Global. The DGA has paid Global about $258,000 for research and polling services over the past two years, according to its filings with the Internal Revenue Services.

“The problem for the DGA is that [Malloy] served as its Finance Chair in 2011 and helped them rake in more than $20 million; and at least $1.4 million of that came from Connecticut donors. So if the DGA spends millions on behalf of Malloy when he runs for Governor, can they say with a straight face that these expenditures are ‘independent?’” Hobert Flynn wrote.

On Friday, Malloy acknowledged that he has an interest in the matter.

“I don’t pretend to be a passive bystander. I’m a Democrat and I’m a governor and I’m standing for reelection. Having said that, with respect to this matter, folks have the right to do what they believe is their right to do,” he said.

The governor said the DGA was attempting to make sure it did not violate Connecticut law.

“They want to make sure there’s an agreement on what the law is. They want to protect themselves,” he said.

Asked if he felt Connecticut’s law should be changed, Malloy said he could not offer an opinion on the subject.

“First of all, what law would you change? There’s a disagreement as to what that law means,” he said.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who chairs the DGA, did not return calls for comment.

In its 32-page lawsuit the DGA alleged that Connecticut’s campaign laws had “forced” it into “a constitutionally untenable choice: it can avoid protected speech in which it seeks to engage; it can forego the support and participation of Connecticut’s citizens in raising the funds that it needs to maintain a robust national program; or it can entertain very real threats of investigation, fines, and criminal prosecution.”

The lawsuit names members of the SEEC as well as Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and Attorney General George Jepsen whose office is representing the regulators in the case.