Hartford Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender tells us that the office of the U.S. Attorney is now convening a criminal grand jury “to investigate claims of illegal fundraising by the state Democratic Party.”
Only a few weeks ago, it appeared that Governor Dannel Malloy’s problems had been settled in a questionable agreement accepted by two parties, the state Democratic Party and Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC). The legal action brought by the SEEC, which stemmed from a complaint issued by former Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, had been terminated when the State Democratic Party agreed to cough up $325,000 to bring to a conclusion a suit that would have required the Malloy administration to bring to public view in a messy legal action – shades of Hillary Clinton -- possibly incriminating e-mails involving the Governor and his co-conspirators.
The sizable money payment, a fine that the settlement stipulated was NOT to be considered an admission of guilt, put the kibosh on what certainly might have been an e-mail embarrassment for the Malloy administration. It is not clear whether Malloy operatives were asked to return all tainted contributions that had leeched into the federal account slush fund and swelled Mr. Malloy’s campaign war chest.
At the center of the legal action was a mailer sent out by Mr. Malloy that 1) was clearly a campaign mailer, 2) paid for in part by campaign contributions given by Connecticut contractors that 3) were illegal under Connecticut Clean Election Law statutes.
Mr. Malloy’s lawyers quibbled with #3 because the too-clever-by-half Malloy administration had cunningly added a barely visible notation at the end of the campaign mailer that announced “For a ride to the polls, call 555-555-5555. Poll hours 5AM to 8PM.” This notation, the Malloy administration argued in court, placed the Malloy campaign poster beyond the reach of Connecticut Clean Election laws, which forbid in unequivocal language contributions made by Connecticut contractors to politicians who easily could decide issues affecting the campaign contributors – in the case under consideration, the adroit, law-dodging Mr. Malloy, who once had been a prosecutor.
Mr. Lender provided a photo of one of the offending mailer in his story. Samples are included here.
No jury of Mr. Malloy’s peers, viewing the Malloy mailers, could possibly regard them other than as campaign posters financed in part by political contributions made by Connecticut contractors – according to Connecticut law, illegal rivulets flowing into Mr. Malloy’s bulging campaign war chest. And the hypothetical jury of Mr. Malloy’s peers, presented with Connecticut’s unambiguous Clean Election Campaign Laws, would also be compelled to conclude – especially after consulting possible incriminating e-mails – that Mr. Malloy had cleverly sought to escape the provisions of his state’s Clean Election Laws by appending to the illegal document an unobtrusive notation that permitted his crafty lawyers to argue that the document was a brochure instructing voters how they might get to the polls.
The notation allowed Connecticut contractors to contribute to a federal account, a campaign slush fund from which the Malloy administration made withdrawals. Lawyers for Connecticut’s Democratic Party argued unpersuasively before the SEEC – they did, after all, agree to pay a hefty fine -- that the fig-leaf notation placed Mr. Malloy and his confederates beyond the reach of Connecticut’s Clean Election Laws.
By opening a criminal investigation in the wake of a politically convenient settlement, the Feds are signaling that something is rotten in Denmark. Emails flowing between the Malloy administration and possible co-conspirators in lawbreaking may form a net in which the fleet feet of clever politically motivated agents might easily be entangled. No doubt possible targets have already been advised to refrain from destroying or altering or deleting all relevant emails and their vapor trails.
In coming days, subpoenas will be served, involved parties will be interviewed by FBI investigators, Connecticut media will fill their news space following the conclusion of national nominating conventions with not altogether idle speculation, as one or another Malloy operative trundles off to have tea and a chat with FBI investigators.
Just as news accounts are the first pictures of history, so rumor is the first breath of truth. And rumors will abound before the Federal investigation is concluded. Even now, speculation is rife. Is the Fed operation itself an attempt to sequester possibly incriminating emails until the November elections have passed? Will Malloy follow the path trodden before him by hapless former Governor John Rowland and end up in some cushy prison reserved for delinquent politicians? What effect will the FBI criminal investigation have on Democratic members of the General Assembly up for re-election in November? Will the investigation be awkward for the all-Democratic members of Connecticut’s U.S. Delegation?
Mrs. Clinton has just escaped a noose. Now the shadow of a noose falls across the neck of the head of the Democratic Governors Association.