Connecticut’s campaign finance regulator, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (“SEEC”) recently released an important advisory opinion that made clear that a state contractor that is otherwise barred from giving to a state political party under Connecticut’s pay-to-play law can give to the party’s federal account, a point SEEC staff had previously addressed. However, the state party must use those funds to influence federal elections, consistent with a method of separating federal and state campaign expenses laid out by the SEEC in that opinion.
The SEEC’s opinion should help settle a controversy over the prevalence of state party fundraising that included businesses that may otherwise be barred from giving to a state party under the pay-to-play law.
Notwithstanding the opinion, investigation will likely continue of allegations that solicitations for contributions to a state party’s federal account were requested specifically to support state candidates (in this case, the Governor). Such a practice might be referred to as “earmarking.” Earmarking—or designating that a contribution should be put to a particular use—often has ramifications in campaign finance law, whether at the state or federal level.
The investigation highlights an important point for donors restricted by Connecticut’s pay-to-play laws: In evaluating compliance, regulators are looking at the identity of the group receiving the contribution and the context of solicitations and contributions.