Connecticut Presses Democrats on Subpoena

     HARTFORD, Ct. (CN) – Connecticut’s attorney general has taken his own party, the Democrats, to court to enforce a subpoena issued by election regulators.
     The enforcement action filed Wednesday stems from a 2014 complaint by the Republican Party with the state.
     Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission had opened an investigation into the complaint, but Democratic State Central Committee attorney David Golub sent a letter on June 15, three days before that deadline, saying it would not answer the subpoena for documents.
     The Hartford Superior Court now faces a petition to enforce the subpoena after the commission voted to refer the matter to the Attorney General’s Office for enforcement.
     “The SEEC unsuccessfully sought to obtain the voluntary cooperation of the DSCC in its request for information relevant to its investigation of the complaint,” the enforcement action states. “Due to the DSCC’s refusal to voluntarily comply with requests for information from the SEEC, on May 28, 2015, the Commission issued an investigatory subpoena.”
     Assistant Attorney General Maura Osborne alleges that the party has not produced copies of all bank statements for funds deposited into its federal account. It also has not produced documents to show that it segregated state contractor funds within the federal account.
     The Republican Party’s underlying complaint claims that the Democrats violated Connecticut’s clean-election laws, which bans state contractor funds to be used in state elections.
     Citing three mailers featuring Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy before the 2014 election, Democrats argue the mailers fall under federal law because they included a get-out-the-vote message.
     Last October, the Democratic Party initially asked the Federal Elections Commission to find out if it was OK to send the mailers with federal funds. State election law bans state contractors from contributing to statewide candidates, but the federal account the party used allows those contractors to contribute.
     A draft decision by the the Federal Election Commission obtained through a Freedom of Information request shows it was poised to rule against the Connecticut Democratic Party. The party withdrew its request for the ruling before it could be issued, however, and went ahead and sent the mailings to prospective voters anyway.
     A spokesman for the Democratic Party said it’s far from clear that the FEC was going to rule against it, and also that key lawyers were “required to be in court in Connecticut, defending the Connecticut Republican Party’s lawsuit, at the same time the FEC hearing was scheduled in Washington.”
     On the same day state election regulators served the Democratic State Central Committee last week, the committee sued the State Elections Enforcement Commission for declaratory judgment.
     The committee had filed a similar lawsuit previously as an administrative appeal, but Assistant Attorney General Osborne moved to dismiss the administrative appeal on July 23.
     Osborne’s motion argues that the Democratic Party can’t challenge the commission’s decision not to provide a declaratory ruling because it’s not a “final decision.”
     “A technical question of whether this case should be considered an administrative appeal or a declaratory action has been raised, and this will avoid procedural delays and make sure we get a ruling as quickly as possible,” Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby said.
     In its request for a declaratory ruling the Democratic Party says any get-out-the-vote activity be paid for by the federal account and “to the extent Connecticut’s campaign finance laws prohibit payment for such activities from the DSCC’s federal funds, they are preempted by federal law.”

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