Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski suggested Monday that Gov. Ned Lamont was trying to “bury” an FBI investigation of state contracting and implied that the federal authorities would accede to his wishes.
Stefanowski’s unsupported assertion came at the end of a press conference called to criticize Lamont’s decision Friday to debate only twice, accusing the Democratic governor of opting for opacity over transparency.
The FBI in October subpoenaed records regarding a since-fired state official’s involvement with school construction grants and the reconstruction of the State Pier at New London. It demanded more documents about the pier in March.
“We all know what’s going to happen. He’s going to try to bury the FBI investigations until after the election,” Stefanowski said of Lamont. “He’s going to try to bury the scandal at the State Pier until after the election.”
Stefanowski then ended the press conference, but he turned back to a shouted follow-up question: How does Lamont bury an FBI investigation?
“Well, I think he can,” he replied. “I think the Democrats probably know that the governor is up for reelection this year. I suspect that you know that, too.”
And Stefanowski thinks the FBI would defer?
“I think that if I were governor right now, it probably would have come out by now, if there was something there,” he replied. “The difference is it wouldn’t have happened under my watch. Thank you, guys.”
It was a fairly explosive note to drop, then leave without answering clarifying questions, such as: Was he referring to the Biden administration when he said “Democrats probably know the governor is up for reelection this year?”
Stefanowski’s remarks come as Republicans nationally say the FBI and Department of Justice have been politically weaponized in exploring Donald J. Trump’s actions around the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and, more recently, his handling of classified documents.
Democrats wonder if Trump is being protected by an unwritten “60-day rule,” the long-held assumption that federal law enforcement authorities will not bring criminal charges in the two months before an election.
In 2020, Republicans complained that John Durham, then the Connecticut U.S. attorney acting as a special prosecutor investigating whether Trump was the victim of improprieties, was too slow to act due to the 60-day rule.
Tom Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut, responded tersely when asked Monday if the FBI would have been more aggressive with a Republican or less aggressive with a Democrat near an election.
“No,” he replied. “We’ll leave it at that.”
The Lamont campaign said Stefanowski, who says he has accepted six debate invitations and was open to more, was acting out of desperation.
“Bob’s campaign is imploding: He’s down in the polls, his staff is quitting on him and the voters are rejecting his anti-choice, anti-gun control, radical agenda,” said Jake Lewis, a Lamont spokesman. “That’s why Bob’s attacking Gov. Lamont.”
Stefanowski spoke at midday Monday in Branford across the street from Sema4, one of the topics that he says the governor is hoping to avoid in a televised debate.
“The voters of Connecticut deserve to hear the positions of each candidate. It’s bizarre to me that Gov. Lamont is dodging it. Probably the best example is over my shoulder with Sema4,” Stefanowski said.
Sema4 was one of four companies that got fast-tracked state contracts to perform COVID-19 testing in 2020. The governor’s wife, Annie Lamont, is a managing director of Oak HC/FT, a venture capital firm that invested in Sema4.
When Sema4 went public in July 2021, Oak HC/FT’s stake was worth more than $66 million, according to SEC filings. The Lamonts, who had disclosed the investment and said they played no role in the contracting, had promised to donate any family profits off the deal to charity.
“We have a right to know. This is our money. This is taxpayer money. At the time, Gov. Lamont said he was going to release how much he made, that he was going to give the family profits to charity,” Stefanowski said. “That was over two years ago.”
The Lamonts said last year they have made no money from the investment, and the governor’s campaign said Monday that hasn’t changed.
“The truth is neither the governor nor the first lady made any money from Sema4. These are simply the wild attacks by a losing candidate in the final weeks of a campaign,” Lewis said.
Stefanowski said early investors generally take some money out of a deal after an IPO.
“We should know whether the Lamonts did that,” he said.
Sema4 is struggling financially. A share in Sema4 was valued at about $1 Monday, down from $25.12 on Feb. 12, 2021.
“He’s going to try to bury how much he made or lost on Sema4 until after the election. And that’s politics,” Stefanowski said. “And quite honestly, that’s another reason we need debates. Because he’s very good at dodging questions.”
Stefanowski’s attack on Lamont’s accessibility comes after a poll that showed him trailing the governor by 10 percentage points and that voters found Lamont to be the more trustworthy of the two candidates.
The Republican’s claim of holding the high ground on accessibility is undermined by his tendency to take far fewer questions from the press than Lamont, who generally is available daily.
Stefanowski has done in-depth interviews, including one with CT Mirror in June, but he has yet to match the governor in sharing his daily schedule of events. He said daily interactions with the press are no substitute for debates.
“With all due respect, people want to hear the guy running against him ask the question,” Stefanowski said. “They want the debater right there to say, ‘Ned, what do you think of taxes?’ And they want my answer right next to his answer.”
As for providing his campaign schedule?
“Yes,” he said. “We will start providing that schedule, yes.”