HARTFORD, CT — The sixth time was not the charm for Republican Steve Obsitnik.
Obsitnik’s application for $1.35 million in public financing was not approved by the State Elections Enforcement Commission Thursday.
State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi said they can’t comment on the investigation, but Obsitnik’s grant application is proceeding.
Obsitnik is the only Republican gubernatorial candidate participating in the Citizens Election Program that hasn’t received the grant. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton and former Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst received their grants two weeks ago.
Last week election regulators 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.
Four years ago, former Sen. John McKinney didn’t receive his clean election grant until July 16, so it’s possible Obsitnik could still qualify with plenty of time to spend.
In 2014, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had his application approved by June 18. The application for Republican Tom Foley was approved on July 2 and the one for John McKinney was approved two weeks after that.
Brandi said four years ago they didn’t have the “onslaught” all at once of statewide candidates.
Language in the budget changed the deadline candidates have to apply for the full grant. If they don’t win approval before that date then the amount of the grant is reduced.
The last full primary grants in statewide races will be made on July 27.
Until that time, Obsitnik’s application will remain on the SEEC’s agenda. The next meeting is 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12.
“We’re not an ATM. This is a clean elections program and we have to make sure all the contributions are properly vetted and any issues that come up are analyzed and investigated,” Brandi said Thursday after the meeting.
At the same time the budget approved in 2017 says the SEEC has to complete any investigation within a year of its filing. That means anything their investigating that’s related to the 2018 election is a priority for regulators.
The inability to know whether they will receive the $1.35 million has been frustrating for Obsitnik’s campaign.
“The wait continues for an SEEC response on what the Obsitnik Campaign is being told are ‘technical issues’ regarding a small number of donor forms,” Dan Debicella, Obsitnik’s campaign manager said. “Back on June 13th , 2018 fixes to these forms, as well as on additional new donations were submitted to the SEEC, and there has not
been an official response from them in three weeks. While the Obsitnik Campaign will continue to work collaboratively with them, there also comes a point where we may have to consider other options, should we not receive timely feedback on the status of our grant.”
Those other options include court action.
Brandi said his office has not been served yet.
The Citizens Election Program was created in 2005 after the corruption scandal involving former Gov. John G. Rowland. It prohibits donations from state contractors and limits candidates to small donations between $5 and $100 for statewide office and $5 and $250 for General Assembly races.
The first statewide election where the program was available for legislative races was 2008. The first statewide contest was in 2010.