The Connecticut Democratic Party says the U.S. Attorney’s office has ended its investigation into whether the party illegally spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2014 re-election bid. Turns out It didn’t and no charges were brought.
The U.S. Attorney’s office declined comment Thursday.
“We have always been confident that there was no wrongdoing in the way in which the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee operated during the 2014 elections and that we complied fully with both the letter and the spirit of state and federal campaign finance laws,” Connecticut Democratic Party Executive Director Michael Mandell said Thursday in a statement.
He said they fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s inquiry and and produced tens of thousands of pages of documents and other requested information.
David Golub, the attorney for the party, said he received a phone call from representatives in the U.S. Attorney’s office Wednesday informing him that the inquiry into the matter has ended.
One of the things federal investigators were looking at was whether the party should have used its federal account, which includes prohibited state contractor funds, to pay for about $300,000 in mailings featuring Malloy. The party argued it had to use the federal account because the mailings included a get-out-the-vote message.
As part of the federal investigation, the Democratic Party was able to obtain an unreleased draft opinion from the nonpartisan Office of the General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission that supported their argument that they were mandated under federal law to use the federally-raised funds for the mailers.
Asked if he felt vindicated, Golub said “it’s not a question of vindication. It’s a question of being relieved that this continuing cloud is now lifted for my client.”
The campaign finance saga started back in October 2014, when the Connecticut Republicans filed complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging that Democrats used money from their federal account to pay for mailings supporting Malloy.
Democrats had asked for an opinion from the Federal Election Commission, but withdrew the request the day before the opinion was to be issued and then sent the mailers anyway.
Democrats argued they had to use the money from the federal account because the mailers also included a get-out-the-vote message about rides to the polls.
In the process of its investigation into the Republican party’s complaint, the State Elections Enforcement Commission sought a subpoena to obtain information about how the Democratic party paid for the mailers. Since Malloy was a clean election candidate he was prohibited from accepting any help from state contractors. However, the party’s federal campaign account that was used to pay for the mailings is allowed to accept contributions from state contractors.
The SEEC subpoena sought financial documents and records of correspondence between top state and party officials regarding the October 2014 mailings.
After almost two years of battling it out in state court, the SEEC and the Connecticut Democratic Party reached a settlement on June 15, 2016, which required the party to pay $325,000 to election regulators.
“Democrats walked right up to the line of what’s criminal and what’s unethical,” Republican Party Chairman JR Romano, said after learning the federal inquiry was dropped. “We recognize that they paid a historic fine for their behavior, but I guess FBI didn’t feel as though it was criminal.”
However, Romano said that shouldn’t absolve them of their bad behavior.
He said the Democratic party knew this loophole existed and they used it.
“It’s ironic considering their constant whining about money in politics,” Romano added.