HARTFORD, CT — Earlier this week, Chris Mattei, the former federal prosecutor exploring a run for governor announced he wouldn’t accept lobbyist donations and invited other candidates to join him.
Connecticut’s clean election laws allow lobbyists to give to candidates, but not to bundle donations.
“Those who are registered to lobby our elected leaders should not also be simultaneously funding the campaigns of those same officials,” Mattei, a Democrat, said in a letter to the other candidates. “Lobbyists should not operate under the belief that their contribution today will result in favors in the future.”
On Wednesday Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, who is seeking the Republican nomination, responded with an offer of his own.
Boughton said he agreed that “influence pedaling and corruption can be fundamental problems in state government.” That’s why he doesn’t understand why Mattei wouldn’t prosecute former House Speaker Chris Donovan for fundraising done during his 2012 congressional bid.
Two of Donovan’s campaign staffers went to prison and a handful of others pled guilty to charges involving a pay-to-play fundraising scheme. Donovan was never charged and maintained throughout the investigation that he was unaware of the scheme. U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly advised Donovan in 2014 that their investigation was closed and there was no plan to charge him.
Boughton also said he was disappointed the federal government would decide not to bring charges against the Connecticut Democratic Party for misapplying certain campaign donations in support of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2014 re-election bid.
Mattei, who was on the team investigating the Democratic Party, left the U.S. Attorney’s office in September 2015 to join the private law practice of Koskoff, Koskoff & Beider in Bridgeport. The Connecticut Democratic Party’s attorney said it was informed in February that the U.S. Attorney’s office investigation into the matter was closed — more than a year after Mattei had left the office.
“Let’s make a deal. I’ll sign your pledge if you agree to sign mine to end Connecticut’s death spiral,” Boughton told Mattei in a letter.
Boughton said he would agree not to take lobbyist donations if Mattei promises to refuse to raise taxes, veto any unfunded municipal mandate, eliminate burdensome and unnecessary regulations on Connecticut’s businesses, and support “law abiding gun owners and the second amendment.”
Mattei said the fact that Boughton would use the principle of clean elections as a bargaining chip is “exactly the brand of cynical politics that turn people away from government.”
He said he’s considering this race because he thinks they need to “move beyond the smallness of our politics.”
“The people of Connecticut are struggling every day,” Mattei said. “They want public servants who have their interests at heart, not the lobbyists who fund their campaigns. If the mayor really wants to shake things up, he would refuse money from lobbyists.”