Stamford Dems dispute campaign filing for GOP challenger
Updated 7:33 pm, Monday, October 30, 2017
STAMFORD — The city Democratic Party has filed a complaint with state election officials alleging that the Republican challenger in the mayor’s race improperly filed his latest campaign contribution report.
The treasurer for the Republican campaign said the Democrats’ complaint is bogus because he included in the report all that is required under Connecticut law.
He just used a computer program instead of the state’s form, said William Jenkins, treasurer for Barry Michelson’s campaign.
“I’ve been a campaign treasurer for 22 years, and nowhere in the law does it say that you have to use the form,” Jenkins said. “The form is 37 pages long, but everything that is legally required can be put on one or two pages.”
According to the complaint, filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission by Democratic City Committee Chairman Josh Fedeli, the Michelson campaign’s third-quarter filing “is rife with errors, filed on the wrong form, and unsigned by the committee treasurer.”
The filing “makes a mockery of the state clean election laws and fails to disclose large swaths of information about (Michelson’s) campaign, its activities and its donors,” Fedeli said in an email.
Instead of filing Form 20, as required, the campaign filed Form 21, Fedeli alleges, but Form 21 may be used only when a campaign raises and spends less than $1,000. He also alleges that Form 21 was not signed and that dollar amounts were not totaled.
“I don’t know what the Stamford Democrats are talking about when they say Form 21 was incorrect because I didn’t file a Form 21,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t file either form because it’s not required by state statute. I filed a Campaign Finance Disclosure Statement and met all the requirements of the law.”
He is not legally required to add up all the contributions, Jenkins said. Town Clerk Donna Loglisci said she tallied them after receiving the filing. And Jenkins said he did better than sign the filing - he had it notarized.
Jenkins said he is aware that the SEEC issued an advisory opinion about use of its forms, but that is not law.
According to its website, the SEEC in 2014 issued an advisory opinion on disclosure of expenditures in campaign finance statements. The opinion states that when the commission “has prescribed forms, they must be used.”
Jenkins said “some forms are prescribed by statute, and some are not,” including Form 20 and Form 21.
“I fought the SEEC on this and went to a hearing with them, and they fined me $400,” Jenkins said. “But it’s up to the state Legislature, not the commission, to decide which forms are required.”
SEEC spokesman Joshua Foley said he cannot comment on pending complaints.
Generally, however, “an advisory opinion states how the commission is going to interpret the law,” Foley said.
According to Fedeli’s complaint, the filing, submitted to the Stamford town clerk’s office on Oct. 9, also failed to itemize monetary contributions of more than $50 and list the occupation and employer of contributors who gave more than $100.
Jenkins rebutted that.
“If anyone gave over $50, I provided their full name and address,” Jenkins said. “The law says that for contributions in excess of $100 but not more than $1,000, you have to provide the person’s principal occupation and the name of their employer to the extent known. I did my best to provide that to the extent known.”
The filing shows that, of the 44 contributors listed, occupations and employers were identified for nine, and 14 contributors were identified as having no employer.
Finally, the complaint states that the filing failed to include information on fund raisers, loans and in-kind contributions. Jenkins said that’s because there were none.
Michelson, who is running against the incumbent Democrat, Mayor David Martin, and unaffiliated candidate John Zito, said his campaign will review the complaint.
“We go to great lengths to follow the law,” he said.
Jenkins said he takes responsibility for the filing.
“The complaint is not going to hurt the Michelson campaign. The complaint is against the treasurer, which is me,” he said. “The commission will decide if it has merit, and then they will look at the forms. I know I didn’t violate the law, but the commission may say I violated their advisory opinion and fine me again.”
The complaint was filed last week, so it will not go before the SEEC until Nov. 15, its next scheduled meeting.
In his email, Fedeli said the filing “is an absolute joke.”
“The inability of (Michelson’s) campaign to file the appropriate forms for a campaign that has raised just $40,000 should raise significant questions as to his ability to manage a city with a budget of over half a billion dollars,” Fedeli wrote.
Filings for all three candidates as of Sept. 30 show that Martin raised $117,400, Michelson raised $42,700, and Zito raised $4,800.