An attorney for the Connecticut Democratic Party told state election regulators Monday that the party won’t comply with its investigatory subpoena regarding get-out-the-vote campaign mailings prominently featuring Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2014.
Attorney David Golub, who represents the Democratic Party, said federal law — rather than state law — dictates the use of get-out-the-vote communications in campaign mailings.
“It’s crystal clear that federal law regulates any kind of communication, including mailers, that have get-out-the-vote activity,” Golub said. “This is not something that reasonable people would disagree about.”
The mailings featuring Malloy were delivered last October when Malloy was in a re-election battle against Republican challenger Tom Foley. The mailing included a phone number for a ride to the polls on the back.
Late last month, investigators with the State Elections Enforcement Commission sought documents from the Democratic Party and top campaign operatives related to the mailings featuring Malloy. The mailings were paid for through the Democratic Party’s federal account.
Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission last year alleging that the mailings violated the state’s clean election laws because the federal account includes money from state contractors who are banned from donating to state campaigns.
According to Golub’s letter to state regulators, the Democratic Party believes the “Commission lacks the authority to proceed with its investigation of Mr. Labriola’s Complaint and the subpoena issued by the Commission is without lawful basis.”
It goes onto say that the commission needs to take action on its request for a declaratory ruling about whether federal election law trumps state election law. The commission declined in April to rule on that request because it would pre-empt its decision on the Labriola complaint. The Democratic Party appealed the commission’s refusal to rule to Superior Court in May.
“This is typical nonsense from the Connecticut Democrat Party,” Labriola said Tuesday. “Yet again, they believe they are above the law. The voters need to know what really happened in last year’s election.”
Golub’s letter to the SEEC goes on to state that even if the SEEC had the power to issue an investigatory subpoena, its request for information is “wildly overbroad and impermissibly intrudes on protected First Amendment communications.”
In the letter informing regulators the party wasn’t complying with the subpoena, Golub wrote that the subpoena purports to request the production of documents “on any subject, whether related to the mailer at issue or not, over the course of 2½ years — before and after the election — between Jonathan Harris and Governor Malloy and others.”
It also goes on to detail an encounter between the Democratic Party’s in-house attorney, Arnold Skretta, and one of the SEEC investigators. It says SEEC Investigator Charles Urso conducted a “ridiculous, multi-hour examination of Mr. Skretta, focusing ultimately on asking Mr. Skretta to describe his meeting with the Commission’s staff attorneys last year.”
Golub also alleges that the staff at the SEEC encouraged the Republican Party and Labriola to file the complaint and leaked the investigatory subpoena to the media.
“The conflict can be resolved through discussion with Connecticut political parties, as I have repeatedly suggested, or by litigation of the federal pre-emption and First Amendment issues. The Commission’s attempt to avoid the legal issue by resorting to an improper subpoena will, ultimately, further no legitimate interest,” Golub wrote.
Specifically, the subpoena requested information about how the mailings were funded and any information about how the message was developed. Regulators also requested all documents and communications related to contributions over $1,000 received by the Democratic State Central Committee that were solicited by Malloy for any federal account.
Further, the subpoena seeks information related to meetings between Malloy, Harris, Campaign Manager Jonathan Blair, Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian, and Roy Occhiogrosso, a consultant with Global Strategies Group and a former Malloy adviser.
The subpoena also seeks copies of any polls conducted during the 2014 election and paid for by the Democratic Party from “any account.”
The information was due back to election regulators by 2 p.m. June 12.
The SEEC declined to respond to the allegations in Golub’s letter or provide comment about its next steps.