Courtesy of CT-N
Michael Mandell, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party (Courtesy of CT-N)

The executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party told the court Tuesday that the party had no choice but to use the federal account to pay for mailers featuring Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“These were very clearly get-out-the-vote mailers,” Michael Mandell, executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party, testified.

Mandell was the last witness to testify Tuesday in lawsuit filed by state election regulators against the Connecticut Democratic Party in an effort to try and get them to comply with a “broad” investigatory subpoena related to the get-out-the-vote mailer. The mailer featured Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was in a heated rematch with Republican Tom Foley in October 2014 when the mailings were sent.

At the bottom of the mailings, which the party has handed over to state election regulators at the State Elections Enforcement Commission, was a get-out-the-vote message and a phone number for a ride to the polls.

Mandell testified that the get-out-the-vote mailers were sent to voters they knew would vote for Malloy if they could get them to the polls. If those same mailers had featured one of the Congressional candidates, the Democratic Party arguably wouldn’t be in court over the mailings, but it also wouldn’t have had the same impact.

“If you put a federal candidate on a get-out-the-vote mailer this election would you have had the same security that voter would vote the entire ticket?” David Golub, the attorney for the Democratic Party, asked.

“We could not,” Mandell replied.

Mandell said in Greenwich if you were to get voters out to vote for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, “you couldn’t be confident that those same voters were going to come out and vote for Dan Malloy.”

“They might have come out to vote for Jim Himes and for Tom Foley,” Mandell said. “The converse of that, if we knew they were going to vote for Dan Malloy, we knew that they were going to vote for Jim Himes.”

The goal of the get-out-the-vote mailers was to get voters out to vote for Malloy and the federal officials. A persuasion mailer was sent the same week, paid for with the state account, and it featured a message about gun control.

“It was to target voters that would be moved by gun control and would be supportive of the governor over Mr. Foley,” Mandell said.

If the party had used the state account to pay for the mailers featuring Malloy, it’s unlikely they would have been in court Tuesday. However, they argue federal election law requires them to pay for any get-out-the-vote message with federal funds.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina said the intended audience for the mailers wasn’t relevant to state regulators and their investigation. How those mailers were paid for is the crux of the issue state regulators want to investigate.

Courtesy of CT-N
Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina (Courtesy of CT-N)

Whether they will get a chance is the question that went unanswered Tuesday.

Robaina didn’t make a decision. Golub, whose lengthy objections clearly irritated the court, asked for more time to formulate his thoughts for a closing argument, which will take place in the next few weeks.

At the very beginning of the hearing in October, Robania suggested getting rid of the witnesses and having arguments on the underlying case, but Golub and Assistant Attorney General Maura Murphy Osborne declined.

“I’m here for the ride. I’m going to keep going,” Robaina said. “But that’s [where] we are going to end up.”

The judge told attorneys they could put on witnesses if they were going to say something the court doesn’t already know, but “that’s not been the case so far.”

He said they know what the issue is so they should have the argument. They don’t need to make those arguments through the witnesses.

“There’s no mystery about what happened here and it was either right or wrong,” Robaina said.

Getting a ruling in the case would be beneficial to both sides.

Mandell testified that if they had to comply with the broad sweeping nature of the regulator’s subpoena it would “chill” the operations of the Democratic Party. The subpoena sought information about the names of solicitors who brought in more than $1,000 to the party over a two year period. The period outlined in the subpoena asks for information dating back to 2013, before Malloy even formed a candidate committee to seek a second term.

The mere existence of the subpoena has already impacted the party’s fundraising capabilities.

“The idea that donors might be identified or called in for questioning has already made it harder for us to build a support base for the party,” Mandell said.

Mandell also testified that the party has two federal accounts. One that includes state contractor funding and one that adheres to the “spirit” of clean election laws. He said they gave State Election Enforcement Commission officials a presentation on the “limited” federal account.

State regulators have questioned the operation of the “limited” federal account because they have no ability to see how the funds are being segregated.

The hearing was continued until 2 p.m. Dec. 1.