(Updated 6:39 p.m.) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy did his best Wednesday to brush off questions about a federal judge’s decision dismissing parts of the Democratic Governors Association lawsuit against the state.
Malloy, who raised money for the DGA and benefited from about $1.7 million in advertising from the DGA for his 2010 campaign, said he’s not investing any time “on this particular subject matter.”
“I’ll take a bye on getting into this any further,” Malloy told reporters. “The DGA thought they were doing the right thing bringing the action. The judge thinks at the current time that they don’t have standing and, quite frankly, go to a lawyer and get a good explanation.”
Malloy became the DGA’s finance chair in 2011 and helped it raise $20 million that year. His tenure as finance chair has since concluded, but he remains an active member of the group which by all accounts had planned to spend money on Malloy’s re-election campaign this year.
As a publicly financed candidate, the maximum amount Malloy will receive for his race is $6.5 million. All of the Republican gubernatorial candidates have also promised to use the public financing system. But each of the candidates could also receive a boost in funds from outside groups like the DGA and PACs, as long as those groups don’t coordinate their message or spending with the candidate.
In what is expected to be a tight gubernatorial election year, every penny could make the difference.
Malloy said the DGA took the action against the State Elections Enforcement Commission to better understand how the law would be applied. He said he hasn’t read Tuesday’s decision and referred questions about the lawsuit to the DGA.
A spokeswoman for the DGA said Wednesday that they are still reviewing the decision. It later issued a statement saying it was pleased with the decision.
“Throughout this process, we’ve said that our intent is not to undermine the state’s campaign finance law,” Democratic Governors Association Communications Director Danny Kanner said in a statement. “With this ruling, we’ve received the clarification we have been seeking, and the law remains intact. For those reasons, we will not be appealing the decision.”
U.S. District Court Judge Janet Hall concluded Tuesday that a plain language reading of the law showed that even if a candidate had solicited money for an organization in the past, it wouldn’t necessarily force election regulators to conclude there was coordination between the candidate and the organization.
Hall sided with the state and concluded that the DGA’s fear that the state would accuse it of illegal coordination with the Malloy campaign was unfounded since the law was not based solely on the statutory scheme and didn’t force the state to reach that conclusion.
“We’re very pleased with the court’s ruling, which allows us to continue to enforce the law that the legislature passed,” Michael Brandi, executive director and general counsel of the SEEC, said.
He said the ruling is of particular importance in upholding Connecticut’s public financing system, in which candidates voluntarily forego contributions from special interests. The maximum amount a candidate can receive is $100.
An adverse ruling by the court could have hobbled the SEEC’s ability to enforce such restrictions, especially the making of coordinated expenditures by outside groups to support clean election candidates, according to the SEEC.
The public financing program is in its fourth full year of operation statewide. Despite changes to the program in 2013 that allowed the two major political parties to raise more money and use unlimited amounts to promote its candidates, the SEEC believes the program is still “a barrier to corruption in Connecticut campaigns.”