CT GOP, Democrats joust over Malloy’s fundraising

The Connecticut Republican Party filed a complaint Wednesday accusing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of illegally soliciting a state contractor for a campaign contribution to the state Democratic Party while on a fundraising trip to California a week ago.

But the GOP offered no evidence that the contractor made a contribution, much less that Malloy violated campaign finance laws, which allow the solicitation of state contractors under certain circumstances.

“This is a baseless complaint and an empty stunt for a press release,” said James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democrats. “What they allege happened, didn’t happen.”

Zak Sanders, a spokesman for the Republicans, acknowledged the basis for the complaint was thin: He relied on press reports about a tweet from a congressional candidate, David Peterson, who thanked Lenny Mendonca for hosting an “event” attended by Malloy in California. Mendonca is a director of McKinsey & Company, a state contractor.

“It’s hard to say if anyone was solicited or not,” Sanders said of the events in California. “They refuse to release any details on them. I think people have a right to know what’s going on.”

Mendonca and Peterson could not be reached for comment.

Hallinan said the party will disclose all contributors in its regular campaign finance filings. He said Mendonca will not be among them.

“Mr. Mendonca did not give to the state party, nor to the DGA,” Hallinan said.

The DGA is a reference to the Democratic Governors Association, which spent $1.7 million in support of Malloy’s election in 2010. The governor has since raised money for the DGA and the Connecticut Democrats, two organizations expected to support his re-election next year.

Campaign finance reforms passed in 2005 after scandal that forced the resignation of Gov. John G. Rowland banned state contractors from contributing to state campaigns. But both state parties have federal and state accounts, and the ban only applies to the state accounts.

State contractors continue to contribute to the Democratic and Republican state parties, which rely on their federal accounts to cover most operational expenses. And the names of governors and elected officials have gone on invitations for each party’s major annual fundraiser.

Under an opinion the State Elections Enforcement Commission issued in 2007, three years before Malloy’s election as governor, the commission advised that the state’s ban on contributions by state contractors does not apply to the state parties’ federal accounts.

Malloy is not barred from having his name on an invitation to state contractors, so long as the event’s proceeds goes to the federal account. Such is the case with the Democratic Party’s major fundraiser, the Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner, which took in more than $200,000 last month.

Sanders, the GOP spokesman, acknowledged that state contractors continue to give to the state Republican Party’s federal account.

Malloy continued to say that his approach to fundraising is simple: He will be aggressive within legal bounds.

“What we are going to do is comply with the law. We are complying with the law as it exists in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “Anybody can say anything they want or file anything they want, but we believe that we have been fully complaint.”

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