Republican gubernatorial contender Michael Fedele could be cleared by mid-day Wednesday to pick up an additional $312,500 in public funds for his campaign–provided he wins his argument today before the state Supreme Court.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday to consider the release of the supplemental grant Fedele qualified for when the GOP gubernatorial frontrunner, Tom Foley of Greenwich, spent more than $2,625,000 in private funds on their primary battle.
But whether Fedele ever receives that additional funding is uncertain, and Foley called Monday for his rival to return the $937,500 in supplemental funding the commission provided him with last week.
At issue is Connecticut’s embattled public financing program for state elections, the subject of two major court decisions last week.
On the same day that a federal appeals court ruled that the state cannot give supplemental grants triggered by an opponent’s spending, state Superior Court Judge Julia L. Aurigemma denied a motion from Foley and fellow GOP gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel to block Fedele from receiving public funding.
The state Supreme Court granted Foley’s request for an expedited appeal of Aurigemma’s ruling, and oral arguments were scheduled to begin at 11 this morning.
Lawyers for Foley and Griebel, argued the commission erred when it allowed Fedele and his running mate, Mark D. Boughton, to join their campaign finances. Fedele had raised $228,232 in contributions of $100 or less, and didn’t clear the qualifying threshold of $250,000 until Boughton’s contributions were included.
Under the public financing program enacted in 2005 and launched in 2008, a qualifying gubernatorial candidate is guaranteed a base grant of $1.25 million to wage a primary campaign. The program also allows a supplemental grant if a privately funded candidate, such as Foley, spends more than a $1.5 million limit.
When the commission initially approved Fedele’s participation in the program, Foley’s reported spending had topped $2.25 million, or 150 percent of the $1.5 million limit, triggering a $937,500 supplemental grant. But Foley’s reported spending now has cleared the final trigger threshold of $2.625 million or 175 percent of the $1.5 million limit.
Based on that mark and current program rules, Fedele is eligible for an additional $312,500, which would bring his supplemental grant to the maximum $1.25 million, and his total funding for the primary to $2.5 million.
Fedele, a former state representative from Stamford who has been lieutenant governor under Gov. M. Jodi Rell since January 2007, said late last week that his campaign is prepared to spend the bulk of those funds before the Aug. 10 primary. Television commercials for Fedele began airing late last week.
Although the supplemental funding section of the campaign finance law has been ruled unconstitutional by both a U.S. District Court judge and by the appellate court, at this point the SEEC has not been enjoined from making the payments.
But the Foley campaign called Monday for Fedele to return the supplemental funds ruled unconstitutional Thursday by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
“Now, in multiple rulings, parts of the new financing scheme have been declared unconstitutional and still Mike Fedele and the SEEC insist on dipping into more than $1 million of taxpayer money as if it is theirs alone to spend,” Foley campaign manager Justin Clark said. “To accept this money on the heels of this ruling would be an outrage against the hard working taxpayers of Connecticut. Mike, give back the unconstitutional money.”
Fedele campaign spokesman Christopher Cooper responded that “Tom Foley has filed and lost three lawsuits in a week’s time in failed attempts to distract attention from his record of bankruptcy, lay-offs and past arrests. While Tom runs his campaign by talking with lawyers and courts, Mike Fedele will continue to run his campaign by talking with voters about jobs, cutting spending and fixing our economy.”