Christine Stuart photo
SEEC Executive Director Michael Brandi exits Hartford Superior Court. (Christine Stuart photo)

A Superior Court judge warned the attorney for the Democratic Party against giving a political speech Thursday during his examination of a state regulator.

David Golub, an attorney for the Connecticut Democratic Party, continued to fire the same question at State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi Thursday during a court hearing on adispute over whether the party illegally spent money on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2014 re-election bid.

Golub asked Brandi if a party or a candidate engaged in federal election activity and fully complied with federal law could still be found in violation of state law.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina, who asked if it was necessary to even call witnesses in the case, said he doesn’t know what he would even do with the answer to the question.

Robaina reminded Golub that the State Elections Enforcement Commission hasn’t made a determination that the Democratic Party or Malloy violated state election law.

“He hasn’t done it yet,” Robaina said.

Christine Stuart file photo
Attorney David Golub (Christine Stuart file photo)

Golub was allowed to continue and Brandi told him it’s possible to follow federal election law and still violate Connecticut’s clean election laws.

“We’re only in an investigatory phase at this point,” Brandi said.

Golub was adamant and animated in his opening arguments that federal election law pre-empts state law even though the mailers the party sent to voters in 2014 featured a state candidate.

The mailers, paid for with the Democratic Party’s federal account, featured Malloy and a get-out-the-vote message.

Malloy was a publicly financed candidate for state office when the Democratic Party used its federal account to pay for nearly $300,000 in mailers just weeks before the election. 

Golub argued Thursday in Hartford Superior Court that state election regulators have no ability to regulate federal election activity, which includes get-out-the-vote messages.

Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne said even though the mailers were paid for with the federal account, the State Elections Enforcement Commission still has the ability to investigate the Republican Party’s complaint regarding the mailers.

Osborne reminded the court that the State Election Enforcement Commission is seeking to enforce an investigatory subpoena, which the Democratic Party refused to comply with in June. The subpoena seeks records related to the federal account, which can include donations from state contractors.

“The subpoena is clearly within statutory authority,” Osborne said. “The documents sought related to bank records and communications and may be relevant to the investigation.”

She said regulators “can investigate a complaint and follow the facts wherever they lead. “

She said the “iron curtain” doesn’t drop every two years and allow candidates and committees to essentially operate on “an honor system.”

Golub insisted the Democratic Party tried to cooperate with state regulators in February 2015.

“We tried to cooperate with the commission. We gave the commission the mailers and documents to show how it was paid for by the federal account,” Golub told the court.

However, at the end of the day, Golub believes the party doesn’t have to disclose any documents related to the subpoena.  Golub said the SEEC requested documents that spanned two years and countless communications between top officials in the Democratic Party.

“It’s OK for you to do wholesale intrusion into the internal communications of the Democratic Party?” Golub asked Brandi.

Brandi said the subpoena asked for information he felt was within the commission’s authority.

Brandi was the only witness to take the stand Thursday. Democratic Party Executive Director Michael Mandell is expected to take the stand on Nov. 17 when the hearing is continued.