HARTFORD, CT — State election regulators voted Wednesday to issue investigatory subpoenas to gubernatorial candidate Steve Obsitnik’s campaign.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission voted to look into “potential campaign finance violations pertaining to the solicitation on behalf of and the receipt of contributions by the ‘Obsitnik for Connecticut’ committee.” The investigation will also look to determine whether the campaign coordinated with FixCT, Inc., an independent expenditure group that has raised $137,000 and spent more than $111,000 mostly on digital media creation and ad buys on behalf of Obsitnik.
“This announcement came as a total shock to us, especially considering the SEEC has not even reached out to the campaign directly,” Obsitnik campaign manager Dan Debicella said. “Steve and the entire campaign will continue to fully cooperate for a swift resolution. As a Navy veteran, Steve holds honor above all else and will continue to be transparent throughout this process.”
It’s unclear exactly what regulators are looking at and the decision took his campaign by surprise. However, Connect Strategic Communications, the Texas company which received a majority of the money spent by FixCT Inc., did about $2,000 worth of work for Obsitnik’s exploratory committee in September 2017.
Independent expenditure groups, which are allowed to exist under the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, are not allowed to coordinate with a candidate’s campaign committee. Having the same vendor work for both committees would have raised some red flags.
FixCT Inc. chairperson Scott DePetris did not respond to a request for comment.
Wednesday was Obsitnik’s fifth attempt to qualify for $1.35 million in public funding for his campaign. The naval officer and tech entrepreneur has struggled to qualify for the public grant.
In order to receive a public grant gubernatorial candidates must raise $250,000 in small donations under $100. The money must come mostly from Connecticut residents, who are not state contractors.
With six weeks left before the primary, Obsitnik is competing against two candidates—Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and Tim Herbst—who received $1.35 million public grants and two self-funders—Bob Stefanowski and David Stemerman — who recently announced he was prepared to spent $10 million on the campaign.