BERLIN - The State Elections Enforcement Commission is investigating a two-part complaint filed by House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz that involves his opponent in the Nov. 6 election for the 30th House District seat, which Aresimowicz won by 50 votes.
The first part of the complaint is against a “concerned taxpayer” for violations of the Citizens’ Election Program, and the second is against the Berlin Republican Town Committee and the campaign committee of Mike Gagliardi for allegedly coordinating expenditures with the aforementioned concerned taxpayer.
The complaint was submitted to SEEC on Nov 8, two days after the election. The commission decided Wednesday that it had the jurisdiction to investigate the complaint, SEEC attorney and spokesman Joshua Foley said.
The SEEC has one year to issue a finding, Foley added. If no decision is met by then, the complaint will be dismissed.
In the complaints, Aresimowicz said that candidates participating in the CEP are to not receive any impermissible monetary or in-kind contributions including coordinated expenditures. Gagliardi received about $11,200 as part of the CEP, Foley said.
The coordinated expenditures, Aresimowicz alleges, are advertisements placed in the Berlin Citizen, a weekly newspaper, by the Gagliardi campaign committee.
The advertisements by the “concerned taxpayer,” use an altered image of Gov. Dan Malloy and Aresimowicz next to each other, the complaint said. In the same edition of the newspaper, the same image is used in an advertisement by Gagliardi’s committee, the complaint said.
Additionally, a flier was distributed in the 30th House District with the same image, which was paid for by the Mike Gagliardi for 30th House Rep Committee, the complaint claims.
Also detailed in the complaint, on Election Day, at least three signs were placed at the polls with the same image. The complaint alleges that the signs were paid for by the “concerned taxpayer.”
Members of the Berlin Republican Town Committee, working on behalf of Gagliardi, were seen altering, handling and removing the signs, Aresimowicz alleged.
According to a declaratory ruling by the SEEC, actions made independent of a candidate or political committee are to be made with no coordination with the candidate or political party.
Independent expenditures less than $1,000 do not need to be disclosed to the state, the ruling noted.
But, according to the Supreme Court, the ruling reads, independent expenditures are to be “totally independent,” “wholly independent,” “truly independent,” and made “without any candidate’s approval (or wink or nod) ...”
“Neither the Berlin Republican Town Committee nor the Mike Gagliardi House for Rep Committee requested or influenced the private citizen to put the ‘Two Peas in a Pod’ ad in the Berlin Citizen,” said Sal Bordonaro, treasurer for the Berlin RTC and Gagliardi’s campaign, in an emailed statement. “And if that person chose to get signs made up, that was his or her choice.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.