Screengrab of ad
Tom Foley and his wife, Leslie (Screengrab of ad)

(Updated 3:47 p.m.) The Connecticut Democratic Party filed an election complaint against Republican Tom Foley on Monday alleging that the campaign violated the clean election laws. Specifically, the Democrats say the Foley campaign spent more money than they could have had on hand, citing the campaign’s purchase of TV ads before it receive public funds.

Reserving time on TV with public funds isn’t against election laws, but the Democratic Party alleges that Foley’s campaign did it when most all of the $250,000 it raised in order to qualify would have been spent. Or at least that’s what they think happened.

According to the complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, on June 28 the Foley campaign disclosed that it had spent about $259,081. That would leave the campaign with about $10,918 to spend between June 29 and July 2. On July 1, Foley’s campaign spent more than $50,000 reserving airtime on all four major TV networks.

The ad, which features Foley’s wife Leslie bragging about how smart she thinks her husband is and what a good father he is to his kids, started airing today.

The Foley campaign called the complaint a distraction from the record of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“The Foley campaign has worked closely with the SEEC staff since opening the campaign to assure that we are compliant with the Commission’s rules and regulations,” the campaign said in an emailed statement. “We are confident we have been and remain compliant with the SEEC rules and regulations.”

The Democratic Party disagrees.

“If you dissect Mr. Foley’s expenditure practices, he undoubtedly exceeded the $270,000 limit between June 28, 2014 and July 2, 2014. There are notable expenditures Foley for CT would have needed to pay prior to qualifying on July 2,” the complaint states.

The two large unreported expenditures that Democratic Party highlights in the complaint are payroll for Foley’s campaign staff and production expenses for the television ad the campaign created.

The complaint states that Foley did not report paying his six staff at all between June 1 and June 27. If he paid these staff the complaint alleges that the campaign would have exceeded the $270,000 spending cap prior to receiving approval for the $1.35 million in public funds.

In 2010, Foley spent about $11 million of his own money on his campaign against Malloy. Foley gained statewide name recognition when he came within 6,404 votes of Malloy. This year he decided to use public financing instead.

That means he had to raise more than $250,000 in small donations under $100 per individual in order to qualify for public funds. After three tries, Foley succeeded at qualifying on July 2.

Entry into the Citizens’ Election Program has been viewed as essential to making a gubernatorial run. Last month, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton abandoned his primary challenge of Foley when it became clear he would not be able to raise the donations needed to qualify for public financing.

When Foley announced last year that he would seek a rematch against Malloy, he signaled he would also be seeking to meet the public financing qualifications.

“Why should I pay for my own campaign?” Foley said. “I know I can, but why should I?”

He continued: “They’ve made the rules in Connecticut so that you pretty much can’t win unless you take the public financing or you write a huge check of your own.”

The Connecticut Democratic Party, which has become the attack dog for Malloy, is using the complaint as an example of why they don’t believe Foley is fit to be governor.

“We know Tom Foley has been cavalier in his fundraising, reckless in his filings, and incompetent in his organizational management, so this blatant campaign finance violation should come as no surprise. He’s trying to circumvent the rules,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said.