Middletown Mayor Dan Drew admitted Tuesday at a news conference in Middletown that they have no evidence that the Senate Republican caucus misused state resources when its website contractor did some additional political consulting work for a handful of campaigns.
However, the reason Drew and the Democratic Conference of Mayors wanted to discuss the contractor’s various roles for the Republicans is that they deal with constituent concerns daily, and if constituents believe officials are using state resources to gather voter information for use during campaign season, then the relationship could be “sullied.” Drew said it compromises the ability of all elected officials to communicate with their constituents.
Drew and the Democratic Party have been unable to prove that Justin Gargiulo’s Align Media, the company contracted by the Senate Republican caucus to run their official state websites, shared information with Voter Trove, the campaign consulting company also run by Gargiulo.
Align Media and Voter Trove are Texas-based companies, owned and operated by Gargiulo, a former Senate Republican staffer who moved to Texas in 2010.
Drew said there’s a question about whether this email list the Republicans are using for their campaigns was gathered using taxpayer dollars through its contract with Align Media.
He said if a constituent signs a petition or contacts their legislator, their information is entered into this system “that’s purchased and maintained by Senate Republicans.” Drew said the campaign consultant, who also maintains the official websites, is then turning around and requesting that email information from himself to use on for an election campaign.
“That information you go to them with as a concerned citizen can then be easily turned over to that voter company and your information and your data can be included in the voter company side of the equation for the purpose of fundraising, political solicitation, get-out-the-vote efforts,” Drew said.
But Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the Democrats are just trying to distract from a federal grand jury investigation into their 2014 fundraising efforts.
“The ‘Voter Trove’ software that our contractor has used on our website allows individual clients, like our office, to build our own contact lists. It does not allow client data to be shared, and our data belongs to the state,” Fasano explained.
Fasano, who has asked Gargiulo to cease all work on campaigns, said Democrats are lashing out without the facts.
“Today’s press conference was nothing more than a self-serving partisan show by an individual who’s trying to score political points with his own party to support his run for governor,” Fasano said.
Drew, who was the main speaker at Tuesday’s press conference, is considering a run for governor in 2018.
Fasano said that what was absent from Tuesday’s press conference were any Democrats from the Senate or the House.
“Their absence speaks volumes,” Fasano said. “They don’t want to answer for their failures. They don’t want to answer for the criminal investigation into their own state party. They don’t want to face the press on the issues that really matter to Connecticut families.”
Drew questioned why they would spend a half-million dollars over the past five years on an outside vendor when they should be doing the work in house, like the other three caucuses.
The contract with Align Media is $100,000, which means it would have to be approved by all four legislative caucuses, which means Democratic leadership in the House and Senate signed off on the contract.
Drew said that’s true and he doesn’t know why his Democratic colleagues in the House and the Senate would sign off on the contract.
However, it doesn’t meant the question shouldn’t be answered. Drew said there’s also still questions about how integrated these two systems run by Gargiulo are and whether data from one was entered into the other.
Fasano said that he’s saving the state money by contracting for the website services. He said Gargiulo’s salary was close to $100,000 in 2010. If he had stayed with the caucus as a full-time employee with benefits, it would cost the state far more money.
He said Gargiulo delivers constant digital support and has formatted and designed approximately 4 million e-newsletters and 4,000 posts on caucus websites over the last two years.
Manchester Mayor Jay Moran and Manchester Democratic Town Committee Chairman Michael Pohl joined Drew at Tuesday’s press conference.