The Foley campaign is engaged in politics of the worst kind by attacking the State Elections Enforcement Commission and attempting to impugn the integrity of a nonpartisan state agency. To charge the agency as corrupt is outrageous and irresponsible.
What is most disturbing is that the Foley campaign flouts the law and then sues the agency to prevent resources from going to his competitor. No one is above the law.
The campaign had other options if it had real objections to the state agency’s interpretation of the Citizens Election law.
Without a doubt, reasonable people can disagree about an agency’s interpretation of the law. And if that was the case, when the State Elections Enforcement Commission issued an advisory opinion on June 3rd that said that candidates for governor and lieutenant governor can form a joint committee, the Foley campaign could have filed a request for a declaratory ruling and the commission would have reconsidered their opinion. But the Foley campaign did not do that.
Instead, it sued the State Election Enforcement Commission to block funds going to its primary opponent and it refused to file the excess receipts and expenditures report that was due 48 hours after his challenger, Michael Fedele, joined the Citizens Election Program on July 1.
Foley makes the outrageous claim that the State Elections Enforcement Commission is “corrupt” in the way the agency is administering the law – a law that he is not complying with at this very moment. More than a week ago, the Foley campaign was supposed to disclose what it has raised or spent since filing its last report on April 12th. But it has not done so. That means that the public does not know what Foley has been raising or spending since late March. More importantly, the SEEC, and the Court that the parties appear before today, do not know how much Foley has spent in excess of the spending limits. Obviously, that makes it difficult to determine what trigger funds to give Fedele.
With only a month to go until the primary, blocking funds to a candidate is incredibly damaging to that candidate’s campaign, damaging to the Citizens Election Program – and to our democracy.
Some may think that this is politics as usual. Candidates have disagreements over issues and ideas and they occasionally fling mud at each other. But this is much more than that.
We need to be clear what this is really about. This is an attack on the integrity of the Citizens’ Election Program and the strongest reform law we passed in the wake of a wide-reaching corruption scandal. When we passed the Citizen’s Election Program in 2005 it was because voters in Connecticut wanted government of, by and for the people, not government of, bought and paid for by special interests. We wanted a program where candidates could run for office free of special interest money.
A candidate who does not like what the Citizens Election Program has the absolute right to not run for office using the program. But we cannot allow a candidate who doesn’t like the program to malign a respected nonpartisan state agency, refuse to file reports and sue the state to block his opponents from getting money. If we allow candidates like Foley to do this, no one will want to participate in this program. And that will be a blow against one of the strongest good government reforms enacted in Connecticut.
Karen Hobert Flynn is Vice President for State Operations at Common Cause.