GOP, Dems wrangle over propriety of NU contributions

Republican State Chairman Jerry Labriola, who has stopped collecting a salary because of his party’s precarious finances, called Thursday on Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo to refund $46,500 in recent donations to the Democratic State Central Committee by Northeast Utilities executives.

The executives responded to a solicitation by NU’s chief executive, Thomas J. May, saying that a contribution to the party’s federal account would be the best way to support the 2014 re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. NU execs now are the biggest source of individual contributions to the state Democratic Party in 2013.

“The email by Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May instructing his subordinates to donate to the Democratic Party to re-elect Dan Malloy, and no federal candidates, is a thinly veiled effort to circumvent the law,” Labriola said. “If NU, Connecticut Democrats and Dan Malloy all think this solicitation is within the spirit of the law, one can only presume that they intend to comingle federal and state funds to benefit the governor’s re-election.”

Both state parties have federal and state accounts, with money from the federal accounts paying most operational expenses, such as salaries and other overhead, whether it ultimately benefits state or federal candidates. Other expenditures must be segregated, and the wording of May’s email is bound to draw an examination by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Democratic Party, said the NU contributions are legal under state and federal law, as is how the money is being used.

Labriola is complaining because of the GOP’s struggles, he said.

“Due to his own inept fundraising, Jerry’s Republican Party is now officially broke,” Hallinan said. “His response to that is to call on the Democratic Party to return money that was raised following all laws, rules, and regulations?  What’s next?  Will he call on Democrats not to nominate candidates in order to give the Republicans a better chance at winning?”

May personally contributed $10,000 after urging about 50 top executives to give in an email sent in September.