Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who has been the focus of a state investigation in the past, seemed to be taking in stride them news of the latest federal grand jury probe into his 2014 fundraising efforts.
In the late 1990s, Malloy, who was Stamford’s mayor at the time, hired and paid city contractors to make improvements to his Stamford home. Malloy, accused of favoritism, was cleared of any wrong doing in May 2005 after a 16-month probe by the chief state’s attorney’s office. The latest federal investigation is centered on how the Connecticut Democratic Party received and paid for campaign materials and staff in 2014 during Malloy’s re-election bid.
Malloy said Tuesday that he has not received a subpoena from federal investigators and is not spending time thinking about it.
“I’m doing my job,” Malloy said. “I certainly understand that people have the right to look at whatever they want to look at and to understand what transpired.”
Following an unrelated press conference on hurricane preparedness, Malloy said he has not retained private counsel to represent him.
At the moment, Malloy said it looks like the same probe the State Elections Enforcement Commission attempted to undertake. That probe ended in June when the SEEC settled the case for $325,000.
The SEEC had taken the Connecticut Democratic Party and Malloy’s campaign to court to try and enforce a subpoena for information related to how it spent about $250,000 on three mailings. The mailings were paid for through the party’s federal account, which includes donations from state contractors who are banned from giving money to clean election candidates like Malloy.
Malloy received $6.5 million in taxpayer funds to run for re-election in 2014.
The documents the SEEC sought in its subpoena were also expected to shed light on how the party spent about $1 million through the federal account. Some of those funds were used to pay staff who worked on Malloy’s re-election effort and none of that money looks like it was reimbursed by the state account, according to Charles Urso, a former FBI investigator and now retired SEEC employee, who worked on the investigation.
Malloy said the state investigation ended “with a positive result” and “we’ll just have to watch what happens,” as it relates to the federal grand jury.
The proceedings of a federal grand jury are closed to the public unless there’s an indictment. If there’s no indictment, none of the information gathered during the investigation will ever be released to the public.
Malloy declined to answer further questions about the investigation.
“I think people have the right to take a look. They’re taking a look. We’ll see where that goes,” Malloy added.
In addition to the federal investigation there’s been speculation Malloy would leave office before the end of his term to serve in Hillary Clinton’s administration if she’s elected president in November.
“I can’t answer a hypothetical, but what I will tell you is I have every expectation that I will complete my term,” Malloy said Tuesday.
Malloy said he’s currently preparing for the next two-year budget he will release in February and is focused on governing.
But his administration recently made some decisions that have drawn comparisons to John G. Rowland, the now twice-convicted former governor who inspired Connecticut’s clean election laws and another 2004 law forbidding the executive branch from cutting the budgets of three watchdog agencies.
In June, Malloy’s administration told the Freedom of Information Commission, Office of State Ethics, and State Elections Enforcement Commission that it would be holding back about $183,000 from their 2017 budgets, and state Rep. Toni Walker and other good government advocates reminded Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, that only the legislative branch has the authority to cut the watchdog agencies’ budgets.
Malloy dismissed a characterization that he’s digging in his heels over $183,000.
He said the legislature passed a budget and gave his office the authority to trim the budget and bring it into alignment with expectations.
However, the agencies and their allies believe the 2004 law trumps the adjustment to the current budget.
Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information President Dan Klau said his organization “strongly disagrees” with the Malloy administration’s interpretation.
Klau said the 2004 law protects the agencies from a governor’s unilateral decision to cut their budget.
“Nothing the General Assembly did last session expressly or implicitly repealed the 2004 law,” Klau said. “The watchdog agencies remain subject to the legislature’s budget-cutting authority, but not the governor’s.”
The law was passed in the last year of Rowland’s administration. That year, Rowland was under investigation by the Ethics and State Elections Enforcement Commission. He proposed to gut the agencies by implementing a 50 percent cut and to merge them.
“It was widely viewed as an act of retribution,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, said last week.
Malloy said he’s having his budget office talk to the three agencies to see if there’s another way to reach those savings.