Retiring Esty gives more than $100k to DCCC, still has large war chest

Rep. Elizabeth Esty

Washington — Retiring Rep.  Elizabeth Esty has given more than $100,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and spent thousands more polling her constituents and posting digital ads that tout her work in Congress, according to her latest filing with the Federal Elections Commission.

Her latest report to the FEC shows Esty’s campaign ended the third quarter with $942,320 in cash on hand. Esty, D-5th District, had raised about $1.5 million for her re-election before a scandal over the handling of an abusive staffer led her to announce in April she would not be seeking another term in Congress.

Democrat Jahana Hayes and Republican Manny Santos are now running for that open seat.

The lawmaker’s FEC report shows that from July 1 to Sept. 30, Esty’s campaign spent $18,600 on digital ads touting her work in Congress. It also spent $9,750 on a telephone poll of her constituents by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. The campaign declined to share the results of the poll, or what questions it was seeking to answer.

Esty has also continued to host events throughout the sprawling 5th district, which extends from Danbury to New Britain and the Farmington Valley.

But Esty, who has represented the district since 2013, said Monday through her staff that she is not thinking of making another bid for the seat.

“Rep. Esty has ruled out running for her seat again,” said campaign spokesman Tim Daly, “Her only focus right now is serving out the remainder of her term to the best of her ability.”

Daly also said the $100,000 paid to the DCCC by the campaign in September was part of Esty’s dues to the organization and “part of the more than $125,000 she has given to the DCCC this cycle to help their efforts to retake the House this November.”

Esty was roundly criticized for keeping her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, on the job for months after she learned of abuse allegations against him. When she finally dismissed Baker, Esty gave him a $5,000 severance check and a favorable recommendation for a job in Ohio with Sandy Hook Promise.

Esty admitted she mishandled the situation and asked for a House Ethics Committee probe of the incident.

The committee declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, or even confirm that it has started one on Esty, which was at the panel’s discretion.

If there is an investigation of Esty and it is not completed before the lawmaker leaves office, the committee will lose jurisdiction over the matter and no report will be filed.

As far as the sizable cash balance that remains in her campaign, Daly said the retiring congresswoman ”will decide at some point after the (Nov. 6) election what she may do with the balance.”

Esty was required by federal election law to return more than $350,000 in contributions earmarked for November’s general election. The campaign, however, is allowed to keep all donations that were designated as contributions to the primary election and money carried over from previous campaign cycles.

Esty, however, is barred from spending that money on personal use – only on expenses to “wind down” her campaign.

She can also contribute that money to other federal candidates – with a $2,000 limit on those donations – and to state candidates. The amount she can donate to state candidates is restricted by state campaign finance laws.

Esty can also make unlimited donations to charities and non-profits from her unspent campaign money, or save it for a future run for office.

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