Republican lawmakers Joe Markley and Rob Sampson continue to fight fines resulting from a 2014 election complaint, and are considering a federal lawsuit just as their 2018 campaigns are about to hit high gear.
Markley and Sampson said Friday they are working with the Institute for Free Speech on a federal lawsuit challenging the State Elections Enforcement Commission’s interpretation of a state law requiring a candidate to only use campaign funds to further their own election.
Separately, the two politicians also plan to appeal a New Britain Superior Court judge’s Aug. 2 decision that they missed the deadline to challenge the SEEC’s ruling against them.
“We’re not giving up,” said Sampson, a Wolcott state representative who is running in the 16th Senate District, which includes Southington.
Markley, a Southington resident who currently represents the 16th Senate District, is running for lieutenant governor this November.
SEEC officials declined to comment Friday.
The SEEC in February imposed fines of $5,000 for Sampson and $2,000 for Markley after determining that in 2014 they improperly funded ads that included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
The SEEC determined that Sampson and Markley should have sought payment from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley because he also benefited from the Malloy reference.
Sampson and Markley asked the SEEC in February to reconsider the decision and, when the commission the following month rejected the request, filed an appeal on May 7 in New Britain Superior Court.
Judge Joseph M. Shortfall dismissed the appeal, though, saying Sampson and Markley took longer than the allowed 45 days to file it. Agencies have 25 days to act on a request to reconsider, after which time the request is automatically rejected.
Sampson and Markley filed their request on February 14, but the SEEC failed to take action until March 23. Shortfall said the request was automatically rejected in early March, when the 25-day window came and went, meaning Sampson and Markley had until late April to file their appeal.
They maintain that the March 23 decision should start the clock, and are hopeful an appeal will result in their case being re-opened.
In the meantime, the two are also working with IFS on a federal lawsuit in hopes of getting a federal judge to stop SEEC from imposing its interpretation of the law.
The ads stated Sampson and Markley were opposed to “Malloy’s tax hike” and “Malloy’s policies.” The two lawmakers say that should be seen as an effort to state their positions relative to Malloy’s, and not as a statement furthering Foley’s campaign.
The SEEC has also maintained that they have the authority to fine Markley and Sampson because the two candidates received public campaign financing in 2014.
Markley said he’s “not at all concerned” about the ongoing challenge being an obstacle for his campaign. He’s paired with Bob Stefanowski, and the pair are running against Democrats Ned Lamont and Susan Bysiewicz.
Sampson, meanwhile, faces Democrat Vickie Nardello for Markley’s seat.