(Updated 7:38 a.m.) The price of admission to the Democratic Governors Association Northeastern Policy Conference in Greenwich isn’t prominently listed on its website, like it was in December for a similar event in Hartford.
But things have changed. The Hartford conference was months before the DGA filed a federal lawsuit against state election regulators questioning the informal advice it has given to groups when it comes to fundraising and what may or may not be considered a violation of the laws.
Lawyers for the Democratic Governors Association argue in their opposition to the state’s motion to dismiss that they will be harmed if the court doesn’t act to protect them from regulatory action.
Last week, the two sides were ordered by U.S. District Judge Janet Hall to work out their differences outside the courtroom. Neither side has been willing to talk to reporters since their meeting when they made their arguments in open court.
The DGA wants to make sure state regulators won’t accuse them of illegally spending money on Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign. Malloy has raised money for the group in the past and there are some who believe that if the DGA spends money on the governor’s re-election campaign, it could violate Connecticut’s campaign laws related to coordination.
Two provisions of campaign finance law “presumes DGA’s interactions with the Governor on other matters to be evidence of illegal coordination, even when those interactions have nothing to do with any public communication, while the other treats the DGA’s issue advocacy communications as expenditures subject to substantial state regulation, unless DGA registers as a lobbyist,” according to the latest motion. If the court doesn’t intervene then the DGA will be at the “mercy of the regulators.”
The DGA was hoping for a settlement prior to the start of the Northeastern Policy Conference, which kicks off Wednesday evening with a reception at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.
By Thursday, those who are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars will be rubbing elbows with Malloy, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, who chairs the DGA, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
At the winter policy conference in Hartford, those who spent $100,000 got six tickets and were able to participate in policy discussions where they were given preferred seating as platinum sponsors. There are no “sponsorship” levels listed for the conference at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich.
Malloy, who is seeking re-election this year, has been a fundraiser for the DGA and a member since winning the governor’s office in 2010. The group is seeking to spend money to help his re-election bid. But whether it can do that legally at the moment is a question the DGA wanted the court to answer before today.
There’s a difference of opinion about whether Connecticut law, as it’s currently written, would allow a group Malloy has raised money for in the past to spend money on his 2014 re-election campaign.
In 2010, the group spent more than $1.7 million on television ads criticizing his Republican opponent, Tom Foley.
The DGA was unable to coordinate with the Malloy campaign, but the negative ad ran at saturation levels. Court documents say the state Elections Enforcement Commission investigated the DGA after that 2010 ad buy “and encouraged it to seek permission before distributing similar communications in the future.”
Malloy went on to become the finance chair of the DGA. As finance chair, Malloy helped raise $20 million in 2011.
At an unrelated event Wednesday, Malloy said there’s no restrictions on him being an active participant at the meeting in Greenwich. He said there will be three specific policy discussions, including one on energy.