Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
SEEC Executive Director Michael Brandi (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Three Republican candidates for governor and three Democratic candidates for attorney general didn’t get their grants Wednesday from the Citizens Election Program.

Michael Brandi, executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission that oversees the state’s clean election program, said they aren’t an “ATM” for candidates.

“This is a clean elections program,” Brandi said after Wednesday’s meeting. “Every single contribution that comes in has to be properly vetted to make sure it complies with the law.”

He said the requests for grants have swelled at the same time as staffing levels are at the lowest since the program started back in 2005. He said they have five auditors reviewing applications. There’s one supervisor and one director of the CEP — a total of seven. There are a total of 35 employees in the SEEC. Earlier this year, the legislature also changed the program and decided to begin reducing the grants if candidates don’t qualify before Aug. 27.

“It’s the perfect storm,” SEEC Commissioner Sal Bramante said.

It’s prompted people to raise their money earlier and apply earlier, Brandi said.

“The volume of applications we received in just the first four weeks has been astronomical,” Brandi said.

He said candidates in a primary and those running for statewide office will be prioritized. There’s a larger number of candidates running in primaries, which has also caused delays in approving the grants.

The deadline to submit an application for a primary grant is July 20.

The process of reviewing a single application is time consuming.

“One gubernatorial campaign can absorb the entire staff for 10 to 14 days,” Brandi said. “We’re looking at 3,000 plus contribution cards for each gubernatorial.”

So far the commission has approved around 48 grants for candidates in state representative and state senate races. There’s probably more than 60 applications waiting to be reviewed, Brandi said.

At the end of the day, Brandi said they expect to see more than 300 applications and give out about $33 million.

The time consuming nature of the review process has candidates concerned, upset, and frustrated.

At least one candidate, John Shaban of Redding who is running for the Republican nomination for attorney general, has given up on the program and has decided to raise money outside of the system.

The decision means individuals can donate up to $2,000 per person to the campaign, instead of $100. Those who aren’t participating and running for governor can receive up to $3,500 per person.

Non-participating candidates can also receive more help from a political party when it comes to certain expenditures, but there are still rules that must be followed.

Candidates are allowed to withdraw from the Citizens Election Program without many strings before receiving their grant.