The Democratic Governors Association is pressing a federal judge to essentially bless Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s role as a fundraiser for the group before he hosts a policy conference in Greenwich next month that is “a significant revenue generator for DGA.”
The association, which filed suit last week against the State Elections Enforcement Commission, says in a new supplementary filing that it wishes to resolves Malloy’s status before the conference on May 28 and 29, when governors will mingle with major DGA donors.
“In addition to this event, DGA intends to continue to rely on the Governor for fundraising assistance, as it does all of its members, throughout the remainder of the year including within forty-five days of an election,” the association told the court.
Policy conferences are major fundraisers for the Democratic Governors Association and its GOP counterpart, the Republican Governors Association, providing lobbyists and corporate executives direct access to elected officials and senior aides. Govs. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Martin O’Malley of Maryland will be in Greenwich.
The association is seeking an injunction blocking the commission from enforcing laws that the DGA says unfairly cast doubt on its ability to make independent expenditures on Malloy’s behalf without being accused of illegally coordinating with the governor’s campaign.
“At the heart of this lawsuit is the State of Connecticut’s laws and policies that thwart DGA’s ability to advocate for its candidate and policy preferences,” the association said in a memorandum supporting its motion for a preliminary injunction.
The filing casts new light on the back-and-forth between the governors’ association and the elections enforcement commission, referring to efforts the DGA made in October to get the commission to clarify declaratory rulings about independent expenditures.
The association’s view is that the commission takes an overly restrictive stance on what interactions a candidate can have with the DGA before the candidate and association are considered in violation of Connecticut law.
“Connecticut’s law, as interpreted by SEEC, is a frontal attack on the right to make independent expenditures,” lawyers for the DGA say in papers filed this week in U.S. District Court in New Haven.
The attorney general’s office has yet to file a formal response. Perry Zinn-Rowthorn, the deputy attorney general, declined to comment Wednesday. Zinn-Rowthorn is the acting attorney general for the case, since Attorney General George Jepsen is among the defendants.
The Democratic governors are proposing an aggressive timetable to resolve the dispute: They are suggesting that the defendants file a response to the injunction request by May 8.
U.S. District Chief Judge Janet C. Hall is holding a scheduling conference Thursday.
The DGA is expected to make millions of dollars in independent expenditures on advertising supporting Malloy and opposing his eventual Republican opponent, but the commission is leaving open the risk that the DGA could be found guilty of violating state law if Malloy continues to help it raise money.
“DGA, the nation’s association of Democratic governors, wants to make and support independent expenditures in Connecticut, and to speak out on issues while referring to candidates,” it says in its memorandum. “It depends, and needs to continue to depend, on the support and fundraising of its members, including the sitting Governor of Connecticut. Under the Supreme Court’s clear holdings, DGA has a First Amendment right to engage in both of these activities.”
The Greenwich policy conference will be the second in six months in Connecticut. In December, its annual Winter Policy Conference opened with a two-hour cocktail party at the Wadsworth Atheneum, followed by a half-day conference Wednesday at the Hilton Hartford.
The policy conferences are members-only events, and the DGA offers corporate and union memberships costing between $10,000 and $250,000.