Complaints Filed Regarding Use of Official Caucus Website For Campaign
Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2016, Election Policy, Equality, FOIA, State Capitol, Essex, Westbrook
Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, who is challenging Republican state Sen. Art Linares for his 33rd Senate district seat, filed a complaint against Linares’ campaign Friday with four state offices, including election regulators and the chief state’s attorney.
The complaint alleges at that Linares used state resources to solicit donations for his re-election campaign.
Linares instructed his campaign consultant to request under the state’s Freedom of Information laws the names of constituents who signed up for a newsletter with his official state office. His campaign received the emails of 3,459 constituents who subscribed to his government newsletter.
Asked to respond to Needleman’s complaint, Linares said citizens are free to unsubscribe at any time.
He dismissed Needleman’s complaint as a “desperate attempt to distract people from Hartford’s disheartening news on companies leaving Connecticut, mileage tax proposals, and the ongoing federal investigation into the Democratic party.”
But Needleman said it’s an obvious violation of the public trust.
“These individuals were totally unaware that when they reached out to the Senator as their elected representative, that he would utilize the information for campaign and fundraising purposes — completely eviscerating one of the fundamental cornerstones of the Citizens Election Program,” Needleman wrote in his complaint to state election regulators.
He also attached a copy of Linares’ solicitation to constituents on the list.
Needleman suggested that any of the donations Linares gained from receiving the list of 3,459 names be disqualified as counting toward the $15,000 threshold Linares has to meet to qualify for a $95,710 grant from the Citizens Election Program.
Needleman also filed his complaint with the Office of State Ethics and the Auditors of Public Accounts.
Needleman said it’s a clear violation of the Connecticut Code of Ethics for Public Officials, which prohibits public officials from using their office for personal financial gain. Needleman said Linares used the information he obtained in his public duties for his re-election campaign.
Linares’ decision to request the information was first reported by the Hartford Courant, as part of a story about how the contractor for its official Republican caucus website was also working on the campaigns of some Republican Senators.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has since asked the contractor to stop all campaign work to avoid the appearance of impropriety.