CT Dems say federal fundraising inquiry ends without charges

mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (File photo)

A federal investigation into whether Connecticut Democrats illegally raised money from state contractors in support of the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2014 has ended without criminal charges, the party’s lawyer said Thursday.

David S. Golub, the party’s lawyer, said the three assistant U.S. attorneys conducting the investigation called him and lawyers who represented individuals questioned in the case to say the matter had been concluded. The calls were made Wednesday.

The U.S. attorney’s office had no comment on the inquiry, which opened in July, casting a shadow over the party and Malloy, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

“I think it’s come to a conclusion,” Malloy said. “That’s a good thing.”

Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, the conclusion would have held a great significance for Malloy by removing an obstacle to a federal appointment.

The governor deferred other questions to the party.

“We have always been confident that there was no wrongdoing in the way in which the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee operated during the 2014 elections and that we complied fully with both the letter and the spirit of state and federal campaign finance laws,” said Michael Mandell, the party’s executive director.

The investigation opened a month after Connecticut Democrats agreed to pay a record $325,000 over 27 months to resolve a State Elections Enforcement Commission investigation of the party’s fundraising.

The party admitted no wrongdoing and characterized the settlement as “a voluntary payment,” one roughly equivalent to the value of a disputed mailing promoting Malloy and paid for out of the party’s federal campaign account.

The settlement was controversial as it ended a state inquiry while the commission and the party were litigating the state’s ability to subpoena emails and other records from the state party.

The federal inquiry began after Charles Urso, a retired elections investigator and FBI agent, publicly pressed for a deeper look at how Malloy accepted $6.5 million in public financing, which required him to sign an affidavit promising to abide by spending restrictions and contributions of no more than $100, and also benefitted from state contractor contributions of up to $10,000 to the state party.

State contractors cannot make contributions to state campaigns, but they can legally give to a federal campaign account, which can be used for voter turnout activities that benefit state and federal candidates.

But the Republican Party complained that Democrats used the federal account as a back-door way for contractors to funnel money into state races.

“We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. attorney’s office in reviewing our positions and supporting documents and evaluating the complexities of the law and often conflicting requirements of state and federal campaign finance law,” Mandell said.

J.R. Romano, the Republican state chairman, said he does not see the end of the inquiry as a vindication for Democrats. “It may have fallen short of being criminal, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t unethical,” Romano said.

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