Ganim may challenge SEEC ruling on campaign grant denial due to prior conviction

Ganim may challenge SEEC ruling on campaign grant denial due to prior conviction

Record-Journal
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Bridgeport mayor Joseph P. Ganim listens to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy deliver his budget address to members of the house and senate inside the Hall of the House at the state Capitol in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim expects to challenge the State Election Enforcement Commission if it adopts a draft ruling that he is ineligible for a taxpayer funded campaign grant.

“I am disappointed by the commission’s decision to bar those who have prior convictions related to their public office from participating in this clean system,” Ganim, who is considering a run for governor, said in a statement after commission staff presented its draft ruling. “There is absolutely no rationale for barring people who have committed prior bad acts from engaging in a system that is designed to prevent corruption and the influence of special interests in our elections.”

The commission will continue to receive public comment until June 15 at 5 p.m., and the commission is scheduled to take up the issue during its June 21 meeting. The draft ruling would be binding and bar Ganim from the Citizens Election Program, but Ganim could appeal to state Superior Court.

State statute disqualifies candidates from the program if they have previously been convicted of a “felony related to the individual’s public office.” Applicants for grants under the program must attest that they have never been convicted of a felony related to public office.

Ganim was convicted in federal court of racketeering, extortion, bribery, and other similar offenses for conduct while he was mayor of Bridgeport, a position he held from 1991 to 2003. He was sentenced to nine years in federal prison and was released in 2010 after serving six years.

Ganim was then re-elected as Bridgeport’s mayor in 2015. He wrote in his petition for the opinion that the prohibition is “illogical, punitive, and serves no legitimate, rational public policy interest,” according to the draft ruling. He also argued that the law first took effect in 2013, and thus shouldn’t apply to his conviction.

The SEEC notes in the ruling that the CEP program comes with other restrictions, including requiring that candidates reach a certain donation threshold and accept no contributions from state contractors.

The program was the “cornerstone” of a series of campaign finance reforms the legislature adopted in 2005, the draft states.

The draft also states the campaign finance package came in response to so-called “pay-to-play” scandals, where candidates accept gifts from contractors in exchange for favors, involving officials like Ganim and former Gov. John G. Rowland.

The legislature in 2012 banned officials convicted of office-related fraud after problems with a grant to Senate candidate Ernest Newtown II, who pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme in 2005 but qualified for a campaign grant in 2005.

Whistleblowers later alerted the SEEC to efforts by Newtown and his campaign to fraudulently accept contributions from contractors.

The SEEC said the ban is not being applied retroactively because Ganim applied under current rules.

msavino@record-journal.com 203-317-2266 Twitter: @reporter_savino


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