Would Republican politicians do the same thing, if they could? Certainly – ask John Rowland. But if you didn’t know who controls the legislature in this state, and what party holds the governor’s seat, you could tell simply by looking at the disparity in fund “giving” to each party: there’s no point allowing your company to be extorted by someone powerless to punish or reward you.
Connecticut’s clean elections law prohibits those who do business with the state from contributing to the campaigns of politicians who could award or influence state contracts — including the governor and legislators.
But that hasn’t stopped the relentless flow of state contractor cash. It has merely diverted it.
A Hearst Connecticut Media investigation into the Democratic State Central Committee’s federal account, which has no restrictions on who can contribute, shows it is filled with money from those on the state’s banned contractor list.
Nearly 25 percent of the money collected in the Democrats’ federal account since January, 2013 has come from more than 460 builders, lobbyists, lawyers and others who are prohibited from contributing to statewide and/or General Assembly races, the investigation has shown.
Of the $4.8 million the Democrats’ federal PAC raised in those 32 months, $1.1 million of it came from businesses and individuals who are on a state list of 5,500 outlawed contributors, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Democratic State Central Committee’s Federal Fund-Raising Machine*
Total Contributions Jan. 2013 – Aug. 2015
Contributions from those prohibitedfrom giving to statewide and General Assembly races (nearly 24%)
Banned contractors that gave the most
$547,789 Real estate, builders and developers
$64,715 Health care and insurers
*Sources: Federal Election Commission, State Elections Enforcement Commission
Hed to go here
The state Democrats have stepped up fund-raising for their federal account in last three years.
CT Democratic State Central Committee
2001 & 2002 -$1 million
2003 & 2004 – 1.3 million
2005 & 2006 – 2.6 million
(first year of state ban on contractors)
2007 & 2008 – 1.6 million
2009 & 2010 – 3.9 million
2011 & 2012 – 3.45 million
2013 & 2014 – 6.97 million
2015 – $931,623
CT Republican State Central Committee
2001 & 2002 – $1.98
2003 & 2004 – $1.2 million
2005 & 2006 – $1.75 million
2007 & 2008 – $1.4 million
2009 & 2010 – $1.6 million
2011 & 2012 – $1.1 million
2013 & 2014 – $1.6 million
2015 – $281,682
Democrats have drastically out-raised Connecticut Republicans
DSCC 2015, through August – $460,932
January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014 – $4,392,879
RSCC 2015, through June – $200,482
January 1, 2013 through December 31, 2014 – $975,668
Source: Federal Election Commission
Give and Take
Large contributors to state Democrats’ federal account since 2013 and their contracts.
HAKS Engineers, New York, Middletown, Bridgeport $75,000 in contributions to DSCC federal account.
Forty eight contracts with state include Interstate-95 interchange in Norwalk; overhead sign inspections; DOT maintenance facility in New Canaan: $8,030,716 between July 2013 and July 2014.
Viking Construction, StamfordOwners, employees and families contributed $77,500.
Contracts include: Stamford High School addition, New Canaan Transfer Station, Booth Hill School, Shelton, Sterling Farms Driving Range Stamford, South End Fire Station, Stamford, Danbury High School stadium, Town and Country Apartments, Greenwich.
GM2 Engineering Associates Glastonbury Owner Manish Gupta wrote a $5,000 check in February.
Company had 30 contracts totaling $3.6 million with state DOT.
Standard Demolition Services of Trumbull Owners and family contributed $43,500.
Company had one contract with state DOT for $371,777
LAZ Parking Ltd. Hartford Owner Alan Lazowski: $20,000. Jeff Karp, co-founder $1,000. Other executives, $2,000.
LAZ Parking had 139 contracts to operate parking lots, for $1.72 million in payments from the state.
Manafort Brothers Construction, Farmington James A. Manafort Jr and Lauren Manafort, executives, wrote checks totaling $14,000.
The company had 91 state contracts totaling $29.1 million
Executives from Northeast Utilities, now known as Eversource, Newington $22,000.
NU and CL&P had 2,893 contracts with the state totaling $54.2 million. The Judicial Branch alone paid $246,461 for electricity in 2013-14.
Michael Price, executive director, Goodspeed Opera House, Chester,$5,000.
The Goodspeed Opera House Foundation was awarded $186,000 from the state departments of Transportation and Economic and Community Development in 2013-14.
Colin Parris of Brookfield, vice president at IBM gave the committee $10,000 in July, 2014. Other executives contributed more than $4,000.
IBM was paid more than $13.3 million for 136 state contracts in 2013-14, mostly for IT software, maintenance and support, including $528,000 for data services for the Department of Administrative Services.
Sources: Federal Election Commission, State Elections Enforcement Commission, State contract records.
And yet, just days before the election last year, the Democrats raided the fund for more than $318,000 to pay for mass mailings supporting Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. This spending is the focus of a Republican complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Committee and a lawsuit filed by Democrats to stop the investigation. The case, in state Superior Court, is headed for trial October 27.
National election watchdogs say the use of the federal account is simply a backdoor system of pay-to-play.
“This is an old game,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at Washington-based Campaign Legal Center. “Strip away the legalese and this money comes from a party that intends to curry favor with public officials. Politicians are just as complicit. Contractors feel like they’re in a shakedown.”
The Hearst investigation found that in recent years, fundraisers for Democrats, who have majorities in the state House and Senate, have stepped up their pace. They are now raising millions of dollars more annually than before Malloy, the state’s first Democratic governor since 1990, took office in January, 2011.
Tactics include party loyalists who scour lists of lobbyists and their clients. Democrats also pay professional fundraisers in Boston and New York thousands of dollars each month.
“It’s all so aggressive now,” said Stephen Coan, president and CEO of the Mystic Aquarium, adding that political fund-raising activities seem to have changed in recent years.
Coan, of Pawcatuck in eastern Connecticut, wrote a $10,000 check to the Democrats’ federal account in 2014. His connection was Congressman Joe Courtney, D-Conn. Coan said he gave the money for events in the state involving President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton, who came to support Malloy’s re-election. In 2013 and 2014 the Aquarium received $589,106 from the state.
A challenge to clean elections
Under the rules of the Citizens Election Program, candidates for governor who want public funding must agree to limit their campaign spending to a set state grant after raising $250,000 in small contributions. Candidates who accept public financing and then take outside money face penalties ranging from fines and forfeiture of their grants to criminal prosecution.
Traditionally, state parties’ federal accounts were not used for state races at all, but only congressional and national campaigns. Democrats last year, however, facing a tough challenge from GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, decided to take the chance and transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars for Malloy’s end-game push.
The Hearst investigation has found that among the big check signers are officials from HAKS Engineers, a major design firm that is banned from contributing to both statewide and General Assembly races. Executives at the New York and Connecticut-based company contributed at least $75,000 to the Democrats’ federal account, including $32,500 from Husam Ahmad, president and CEO, and his wife. HAKS had more than $8 million in state contracts in 2013 and 2014, according to state records.
The owners, employees and families at Viking Construction in Stamford, which has done major state-financed work throughout Southwestern Connecticut, and is also prohibited from statewide and General Assembly campaigns contributed $77,500 to the federal account. The firm is currently part of a consortium awaiting the go-ahead on a half-billion-dollar contract to rebuild the Stamford train station, led by the JHM Financial Group, whose president, John H. McClutchy Jr. of Darien, and his family, contributed $65,000 since 2013.
Officials from HAKS, Viking Construction and the JHM Group did not return multiple requests for comment. James A. Manafort Jr. president of Manafort Brothers Inc. of Plainville, declined comment on $14,000 in family contributions to the DSCC. The company had 91 state contracts, mostly with the Department of Transportation, in 2013-14, totaling $29.1 million.
McGehee, of the Campaign Legal Center, said even the suggestion that businesses have to give in order to get state work taints the clean elections law.
“It’s not based on merit, but on how you gave rather than compete in the business marketplace,” she said. “It should be shocking to the state of Connecticut, but the average citizens know the system is rigged.”