HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) - Democrats supporting Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy with federal campaign funds should not face Republican interference, a judge ruled.
The Connecticut Republican Party lacked standing and failed to exhaust administrative remedies before suing the Democrats on Oct. 17, Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina found Thursday.
"The court has determined that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims because the plaintiff has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, and it therefore does not reach the issue of the plaintiff's standing," Robaina wrote. "Moreover, because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims, it will not address the defendant Dan Malloy for Connecticut's motion to strike argument."
Republicans objected to the use of federal campaign dollars for promotional Malloy mailers because state election laws permit companies that do business with the governor's administration to donate to the federal account. State law prohibits state contractors from donating to a party's state account, which is traditionally used to support statewide candidates like the governor.
Democrats have maintained that the use of federal election funds was required because the mailer contained information about rides to the polls on Election Day. The state Democratic Party asked the Federal Election Commission for an advisory opinion on the mailers on Oct. 1, but it withdrew its request last week.
"This is the result we expected," Democratic spokesman Devon Puglia said Thursday of the dismissal.
A complaint that Republicans filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) has much in common with what they filed in court, but that complaint won't be investigated until after the Nov. 4 election. That's one of the reasons Republicans asked the court for a temporary injunction.
During the first hearing on the lawsuit, state election regulators argued successfully that they should be left out of the proceedings. Previously, however, the SEEC urged federal regulators to deny the Oct. 1 request by Democrats for an advisory opinion.
"On behalf of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, we respectfully request that the commission does not allow the state party to cynically circumvent our state's carefully tailored pay-to-play state contractor provisions by glibly including a stray get-out-the-vote message in a communication that inarguably promotes a Connecticut candidate, and then contending that the inclusion of a minute phone number and the polling hours transforms the communication into federal election activity outside the jurisdiction of the SEEC," the commission wrote.
In his ruling, Robaina said Republicans should have first taken their case to the state regulators before filing a lawsuit. He said the SEEC's previous opinions did not exempt them from that requirement.
The law "does not contemplate a scenario such as that which the plaintiff describes, wherein administrative remedies are exhausted simply by virtue of the fact that the SEEC has made certain statements regarding the legality of hypothetical conduct. The plaintiff's argument is not persuasive," he wrote.
The Republican Party was represented by Proloy Das of Rome McGuigan. The Democratic Party was represented by David Golub, and the Malloy campaign was represented by William Bloss.
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