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Senate President Files Election Complaint Against Business Lobby

by | Oct 17, 2016 6:32pm
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Senate President Martin Looney

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney is charging, in an election complaint, that the Connecticut Business & Industry Association is illegally coordinating with Republicans in this year’s election.

Looney, a state senator from New Haven, says the largest business organization in the state sent invitations to Democratic lawmakers and one candidate asking them to visit CBIA member businesses in their districts and then disinvited them hours later.

Looney said Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Sen. Joseph Crisco, Sen. Mae Flexer, and challenger Timothy Bowles were all invited and then disinvited to visit the businesses by CBIA Vice President and General Counsel Bonnie Stewart. He noted that CBIA is financially supporting Republican opponents in all those races.

CBIA has been public about its decision to spend $415,000 on 15 races this year — 4 in the Senate and 11 in the House.

While federal law allows groups like CBIA to spend money on clean election candidates, it doesn’t allow them to coordinate with those campaigns.

In his Oct. 7 complaint letter to Michael J. Brandi, executive director and general counsel of the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), Looney states there was “improper coordination between CBIA and several campaigns.”

CBIA cited “a technical error” that led to the emails going to campaigns that shouldn’t have received them.

Looney said he’s unable to know whether the Republicans CBIA is supporting were also “disinvited.”

Looney alleges his Senators would be injured because Republican candidates might go on the local business tour and leave the impression that the Democratic Senators chose not to be there when in reality they were “disinvited.”

It’s unlikely given the backlog of SEEC complaints that this one would be investigated by Nov. 8, but Looney asked for it to be expedited.

Joseph Brennan, president and CEO of CBIA, rebutted Looney’s complaint.

“CBIA believes that the complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission by the president pro tem of the state Senate is without merit,” Brennan said.

“We are confident that we are in full compliance with all state election laws. CBIA has repeatedly sought guidance, in advance, from SEEC staff over the last two months regarding our election activities, particularly independent expenditures,” continued Brennan’s statement.

Two months ago, CBIA announced it would spend money on four Republican races in the Senate. At the time, Brennan said that it wasn’t an attempt to flip control of that chamber from Democratic to Republican.

“Don’t spit in my face and call it rain,” Looney replied when asked about the statement by reporters.

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