Frankly Speaking … Incumbent Office Seekers Can Leverage Taxpayer Dollars To Assist Election

From Connecticut general statutes 9-610

(d) (1) No incumbent holding office shall, during the three months preceding an election in which he is a candidate for reelection or election to another office, use public funds to mail or print flyers or other promotional materials intended to bring about his election or reelection.

The key word here is “election.” Not primary. The statute does not specify primary, a vote by the people affiliated with a party to nominate a candidate for the general election.

In the Aug. 14 Democratic State Senate primary between party-endorsed Ernie Newton, incumbent Ed Gomes and State Rep. Andres Ayala every candidate seeks an edge. Talk about power of incumbency. Both Gomes and Ayala can leverage their franking privileges, a means to use public funds to inform constituents by mail of legislative action. For instance those mailers you receive from legislative representatives highlighting all the wonderful things they did for you in the latest session are funded by taxpayers. They are known as franking privileges.

DePiano, Gunther and Newton
Ernie Newton with two legendary ex-state senators Salvatore DePiano, left, and George "Doc" Gunther, center, at Stratford Day. A portion of Stratford is included in Connecticut's 23rd Senatorial District.

Gomes and Ayala, according to state law, can take advantage of this as they close in on the Aug. 14 primary. The general election will take place Nov. 6. Ninety days before that is Aug. 6.

A staff attorney with the State Elections Enforcement Commission says the state legislature would have to pass a new law specifying “primary” to equal the same force of law as the statute governing the 90-day election window. About 10 years ago the state moved primaries for state offices from September to August. The SEEC has its own rule prohibiting the use of public funds by incumbents (outside of the state’s public financing system) after July 15. Either way rules are set up to allow incumbents to leverage taxpayer funds for government mailers close to primary day. It’s like free money to supplement their campaign accounts. In the case of Newton, Gomes and and Ayala all three are trying to qualify for Connecticut’s public financing system in which they must secure small contributions from at least 300 donors to spent about $100K.

Ed Gomes
Gomes can take advantage of his franking privileges.

Meanwhile Gomes is free to use taxpayer money to mail constituents in Connecticut’s 23rd Senatorial District about his involvement in legislative action and Ayala can do the same for constituents in his State House district all of which is included in the senatorial district he seeks. The government mailers couldn’t say “Vote for me, I’m great.” But the incumbents could be attached to beneficial legislative action that funded improvements or brought more loot to their respective districts. Is this an unfair advantage against Newton, the Moses of his peeps? It could actually give Newton a campaign issue he could pledge to resolve if he regains his old seat. Ernie, a campaign reformer? What a hoot.

Andres Ayala
All of Andres Ayala's State House district falls within the senate seat he seeks.
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7 comments

  1. *** If Newton had the ability to use franking privileges he would, so much for campaign reform, no? Also, maybe the present incumbents in using these privileges can clue us in as to what “they’ve done” to improve the quality of life in Bpt while in office? Seems you only hear from them during elections time, taking credit for someone else’s ideas and work just because they voted one way or another! Either way the taxpayer foots the bill for political incompetence advertizing and gets very little in return. *** WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLETS? ***

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  2. Frankly speaking? Did you read Connecticut general statutes 9-610?

    This statute is the reason why no incumbent shall be allowed to use the state’s public financing system in the first place. Lennie, isn’t the money awarded by the CPFS “public funds?” Under this statute, Ernie Newton is the only one who should be applying for public funds as he is not an “incumbent serving office.”

    “A staff attorney with the State Elections Enforcement Commission says the state legislature would have to pass a new law specifying “primary” to equal the same force of law as the statute governing the 90-day election window.”

    Call this fool again Lennie and raise this argument. Even if a new law specifying “primary” were passed, Ernie Newton would still be only one to qualify for the citizen’s campaign funds.

    As Connecticut statutes clearly spell out, the citizen’s campaign funds are for regular citizens who wish to seek office. Connecticut general statutes 9-610 in fact prohibits SEEC from awarding public funds to incumbents 90 days prior to an election.

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  3. Tonight there is a meeting right here in Bridgeport that should receive closer public attention. It has to do with 20 elected incumbents who wish to use taxpayer money in a different way. Some of them don’t like the current access or rules to claim a ‘stipend.’ I am not really sure which persons because none of them are talking publicly for the record. There is no Council discussion revealed in Ordinance committee minutes. They are content to keep process and intent quiet … secret from the community providing the funds. Why???

    The City Council is meeting tonight after an Ordinance Committee hearing. The Council meeting will be Act III of this farce because the Ordinance Committee meeting preceding it (Act II) has already planned for a positive committee vote to place a revised Ordinance on Council ($9000) stipends on the Council Consent calendar. If things run according to plan, 12 hours from now there will be a new ordinance:
    * providing the public with more information? NO
    * providing regular accountability for stipends? NO
    * taking care of a Council concern? Apparently YES
    * but who has sponsored/discussed the issue? NO ONE
    * does this seem like a routine chapter in OIB? YES

    The CT Post did not deem the City Council meeting tonight even worthy of a listing on their Weekly Happenings listing. Actually, the Post doesn’t think anything is happening today in their territory. So that is what the public is expecting.
    Instead, there is a revised Ordinance, that has not been published for the public to review, and it will be “heard” but not discussed with pros and cons by Ordinance Committee or Council according to the above schedule, and it may end up spending more of the $180,000 per year approved by the Council currently because it may be easier to access. You will not hear about this. Why don’t you show up tonight and ask for the Ordinance to be amended so as to reveal quarterly what has been expended from each Council account and for what?

    Last year (2011) $180,000 was approved. The City says $114,000 was spent in 12 months. But purchase orders show less than $40,000. The question remains: who spent how much and for what purpose “in the discharge of their duties?” And from what source/department did OPM or Finance allocate $114,000???

    And were you to return to the minutes of the May 2 Legislative Department budget hearing you would discover a submission of material by Tom White, the current department employee whose compensation was whited out under the direction of Tom McCarthy. McCarthy was not at the Legislative budget hearing. Nor was there a professional minute taker.

    White shared concern that he was requested to assist in filing expense reimbursements or advancements that might not meet current Ordinance requirements. Because he had no access to the account totals, Council requests for stipend might exceed the amount permitted, and this was a real concern of his. I was at this meeting that evening and read between the lines of his discreet testimony. This was perhaps Act I of the drama.

    Curious that the Registrar’s Office budget presented by Santa Ayala and Linda Grace preceded the Legislative hearing and by notes of Bob Curwen the B&A accepted their presentation as Exhibit 1. No reference to White materials as Exhibits in Curwen notes. Bob Curwen in his notes makes reference to a “conspiracy theory” comment that was never spoken by White. I left the meeting before 8:00 PM since no further budgets were due for discussion. But the Legislative budget with ‘white out’ was amended between May 2 and May 7, perhaps first discussed in these later hours with no comments in the minutes of the May 2 meeting that adjourned at 11:14 PM. Open? Accountable? Transparent? (Making sausage with taxpayer funds out of sight?)

    Open the process, Council! Become accountable for at least this money!! Let the process become more transparent, today!!! The Council has the most generous system of all 169 towns and cities in the State of CT paid for by the City taxpayer, and they are treating the public as would “a thief in the night.” What is the reason for requiring such secrecy in spending public funds? Time will tell.

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  4. *** A $9000. stipend divided in quarterly payments of $2,250 a year. In order to qualify for the next quarterly gross check of $2250 the council person must fill out required paperwork that accounts for the five W’s on the prior gross $2250. The $2250 stipend money is taxable by state and fed standards along with other deductions made. After all the deductions are made, the balance left is about $1850 net, give or take a few dollars. In filling the required stipend paperwork the council person is responsible for the entire $2250 gross check, not the actual $1850 net check! The stipend paperwork does not have a five W’s section to allow for the gross to net money difference on a quarterly bases. This must be done at the end of the year when the individual council person does their own Fed and State taxes and submits paperwork which in my opinion leaves the stipend record system incomplete if record of the gross to net money difference is not always accounted for. It should not be a stipend but a salary placed in a separate city council account with the dos and don’ts clearly explained and every penny accounted for by year’s end. The council stipend is there if needed by the council member to assist in doing a better job for their district and the city overall providing it’s job related; some members use it and others don’t! Back then, I personally felt it was helpful when needed in reaching out to citizens in my district and the city of Bpt at times. How their system works or runs at this present day I have no idea but there’s probably needed room for improvement. *** On The Outside Looking In! ***

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