State election regulators voted in July to investigate the now-defunct secretary of the state campaign of Republican Brock Weber for potentially submitting fraudulent contributions in an effort to qualify for a public campaign finance grant.
The action, taken by the State Election Enforcement Commission on July 22, was first reported over the weekend by Kevin Rennie on his Daily Ructions blog.
Weber, an aide to New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart, had been competing in a three-way primary race against Dominic Rapini and Rep. Terri Wood, R-Darien, for the Republican nomination to run for the state’s top election official before he dropped out of the race in mid July.
The elections commission accepted Weber’s withdrawal during a meeting last month before initiating an investigation into his campaign’s application for a state grant to fund his primary race.
The panel’s attorneys “uncovered potential fraudulent contributions and certification cards submitted on behalf of Weber for CT and in its grant application to participate in the Citizens Election Program,” Michael Brandi, the commission’s executive director, said during the meeting.
Weber could not be reached Monday at his office in New Britain and did not immediately return a request for comment.
An attorney for the commission said the panel’s investigation had not been initiated based on a complaint, meaning it likely came as a result of information uncovered during the commission’s review of Weber’s application.
Weber is not at risk of having to pay back a $484,000 primary grant, since those funds were never awarded. However, the enforcement commission has the authority to impose fines of up to $2,000.
After Republican delegates awarded their secretary of the state endorsement to Rapini during a convention in May, Weber, who along with Wood received enough support to appear on a primary ballot, announced plans to continue his campaign.
However, he reversed course two weeks ago, telling supporters in a since-deleted Facebook post that “[w]ith less than a month to go until the August primary, it has become obvious that we do not have a realistic path forward.”
Weber made election fraud an issue in his campaign. In his announcement video posted to his website, he accused Democrats of “literally rigging the process right in front of our faces” while a series of headlines involving election fraud populate the screen. He also called for dismantling the State Elections Enforcement Commission for being beholden to Democrats.
“I’m running because Democrats have, for the last several election cycles, conducted themselves in such a dishonorable manner that they have defiled Connecticut’s election process, trampled upon our state constitution, insulted voters everywhere and spat directly in the face of Connecticut small business,” Weber said in the campaign video.
With Weber out of the race, there are now four active candidates to fill the open secretary of the state position. In addition to Rapini and Wood, Rep. Stephanie Thomas, D-Norwalk, will face Maritza Bond, New Haven’s city health director, in an Aug. 9 Democratic primary.
Former Secretary of the State Denise Merrill announced she planned to retire last summer then stepped down in June for family health reasons. Mark Kohler, a retired associate attorney general, was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont to serve as secretary of the state until January when whoever voters pick in during the November election takes office.