HARTFORD, Conn. (CN) - Connecticut Democrats and Gov. Dannel Malloy violated state election law by sending out a mailer with federal funds, the Connecticut Republican Party told a judge Friday.
The Connecticut Democratic Party has two accounts: a state account for state candidates and a federal account for federal candidates, according to the complaint. State contractors who are banned from giving funds to state candidates under Connecticut's clean-election laws are allegedly allowed to give money to the federal account.
Republicans say the federal account paid for two mailers the Democratic Party sent out promoting Malloy's re-election bid and touting his accomplishments.
Though the Democratic Party sought guidance from the Federal Election Commission regarding the mailers earlier this month, it did not wait for an advisory decision before mailing voters, the complaint alleges.
In its request to the FEC, the Democratic Party allegedly argued the mailers constituted "get-out-the-vote" activity.
"The Democratic Party's dissemination of the subject mailer constitutes a violation of Connecticut laws governing elections and campaign financing to the extent that the laws concern the use of money raised in the Democratic Party's federal account to influence Connecticut state elections," the complaint states.
For months the Democratic Party has denied allegations of a "pay-for-play" scheme based upon a defense that the money raised from state contractors could only be deposited in its federal account and could not be used for the benefit of a statewide candidate like Malloy, according to the complaint.
Republican Party chairman Jerry Labriola said Friday outside Hartford Superior Court that the Democrats "want to use prohibited state contractor money to get Dan Malloy elected, so we have no other choice but to resort to this lawsuit here today."
Democrats defended their request for guidance from the FEC as an effort to clarify conflicts between state and federal law. During a debate Thursday night, Malloy suggested that, in this case, federal law trumps state law.
"When there is a reality that federal law, in certain circumstances, supersedes state law, you have to comply with that law first," Malloy said.
"Right now, we're in a pretty tight race and we have a third-party candidate who appears to be coming on," the governor added. "And we need to spend money."
A Republican lawmaker suggested that was ridiculous.
"He's trying to make it seem as if the federal law requires that this money has to be transferred from the federal account to the state account," state Rep. Art O'Neill, R-Southbury, said. "That's absurd. ... The governor of the state of Connecticut seems to believe that the laws of the state do not apply to him."
In addition to an injunction, Republicans are asking the court to force the governor's campaign to return the $6.5 million public-financing grant.
Connecticut's 2005 ban on the use of state contractor funds in state campaigns came after a wave of corruption scandals. The Legislature also created a public-financing system that allegedly allowed Malloy to receive $6.5 million in public funds after raising $250,000 in small contributions.
The state's contractor ban has "withstood constitutional scrutiny and been affirmed twice by the" 2nd Circuit, according to the complaint.
The Republican Party is represented by Proloy Das of Rome McGuigan.
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