How Might Campaign And Ethics Laws Apply?
By JIM BREWER and ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
Oct. 26, 2006
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Kathy Tallarita is a state representative for Enfield's 58th District. She has held that position since 1999, and is a member of the legislature's Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. She is also a newly hired Business Development Representative for Enfield Federal Savings and Loan LLC.
Tallarita is the sister of Enfield's mayor, Patrick Tallarita, a fellow Democrat.
In her bio at the Connecticut General Assembly website she is listed as assistant majority leader and a member of the Select Committee on Aging and the Internship Committee. There is no mention of any financial training or experience other than her work on the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. A member of the Enfield Democratic Town Committee since 1996, she served on the town council from 1997-98. From 1992 to 1998 she worked as a legislative assistant at the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Tallarita is in the midst of a re-election campaign against Republican challenger Susan Lavalli-Hozempa, who has an accounting background and works for Kaman Corporation in Bloomfield as a Credit analyst.
An edition of Enfield Federal's newsletter, "The Connection," hit the streets in September. "All the Bank You'll Ever Need" announced the July hiring of State Rep. Kathleen "Kathy" Tallarita.
The item is the lead story for the customer newsletter, at the top of the front page. It features a photograph of Tallarita and the headline: "The Bank Welcomes Kathy Tallarita as Business Development Representative." The newsletter is mailed to all EFSB customers according to EFSB Vice President Scott Nogles.
In addition to the article, the bank sponsored what Nogles called a "Private Wine Tasting" on Tuesday Oct. 17, 2006 - less than a month before the upcoming elections.
This event was by invitation only, Nogles said. He called it "a business development event."
"This was our way of showing our pleasure with the community," Nogles said.
Only business or commercial customers were invited, Nogles said.
Tallarita was introduced to the group. Nogles said she was there as an employee of the bank and not as a state representative candidate.
"This was not a Tallarita event," he said.
Could the timing of the distribution of the newsletter and the wine tasting violate state election laws? Is the newsletter a campaign document? Was the wine tasting a campaign event or a testimonial? Should the distribution of the newsletter and the hosting of the party have been reported to state election officials?
Title 9 of the Connecticut General Statutes and in particular Chapter 150 cover elections and election campaign financing.
CGSA Section 9-333a(7) defines "Business entity" as: Whether organized in or outside of this state: Stock corporations, banks, insurance companies, business associations, bankers associations. . .
Section 9-333b(a) defines Contribution as: Any gift, subscription, loan, advance or deposit of money or anything of value, made for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election, or election, of any person or for the purpose of aiding or promoting the success or defeat of any referendum question or on behalf of any political party…
Subsection (b) defines what IS NOT a contribution: A loan of money made in the ordinary course of business by a national or state bank; Any communication made by a corporation, organization or association to its members, owners, stock holders, executives or administrative personnel, or their families…
Section 9-333k defines Party committees; designation as campaign treasurer. Limitation on multiple committees. Fundraising events and testimonial affairs.
Subsection (b) states: As used in this subsection, testimonial affair means an affair held in honor of an individual who holds, or who is or was a candidate for nomination or election to, an office subject to this chapter. No testimonial affair shall be held without the consent of such person. No testimonial affair shall be held for a candidate, or for an individual who holds any such office during the term of such office, except to raise funds on his behalf for purposes authorized in this chapter … Any fund-raising affair for any candidate or individual who holds any such office for any purposes other than those authorized in this chapter shall be prohibited. Any person who organizes such a fund-raising affair shall be in violation of this section.
Section 9-333o Business entities. Contributions or expenditures for candidate or party prohibited. No business entity shall make any contributions or expenditures to, or for the benefit of, any candidate's campaign for election to any public office or position subject to this chapter or for nomination at a primary for any such office or position, or to promote the defeat of any candidate for any such office or position, or to promote the success or defeat of a political party. . .
The bank newsletter prominently cites Tallarita, the new business development representative as a state representative for eight years and as an assistant house majority leader for two years.
The article states, "She will again be on the ballot for State Rep. this November."
Tallarita is not cited for any finance or business acumen, but rather is quoted saying, "I bring to Enfield Federal Savings Bank a wealth of knowledge of the community and its people, which serves well for the position of business development."
The article includes a paragraph about Tallarita's family involvement in politics including work as an envelope licker and phone dialer. The article also mentions her brother Patrick Tallarita's "political calling" as a two term Enfield mayor.
Enfield Federal Savings is a "business entity" as set forth in CGSA Section 9-333a (7) which lists "bank."
The newsletter, "The Connection" is mailed to all bank customers. The entire article centers on Tallarita's "sixteen years of working in the political arena," that she is a state representative and "she will again be on the ballot for State Rep. this November."
Would a reasonable-minded citizen find any difference between this article and a campaign flyer?
One political flyer mailed for Tallarita has in quotes under her photograph, "Leadership with Integrity."
Tallarita did not respond to several phone messages over the past two days. A bank employee said Tallarita was not in the office today. Messages were also left at her home and state capitol office.
“It sounds suspicious to me,” said Lavalli-Hozempa, Tallarita's opponent in the legislative race. “The timing is supect, and it is questionable conduct."
A state election official, advised of the event held at Enfield Federal Savings, asked, "‘If it wasn’t a testimonial affair according to the statute, what was it?”
State law prohibits a business entity, including a bank from making any contributions or expenditures to, or for the benefit of, any candidate's campaign for election. Enfield Federal Savings -- by producing, writing, photographing and mailing this article to the public calls into question whether a violation of State Election laws has occurred.
The wine tasting, held by invitation only to business and commercial prospects of the Bank, appears to runs into the law controlling fund-raising events and testimonial affairs.
Bank vice president Nogle -- who was at the event -- said only bank chairman Peter Dow spoke to the group on Oct. 17. Nogles said Dow introduced Tallarita as the bank's business development representative. Nogles refused to say whether Tallarita was introduced as a state representative running for re-election.
A close examination of what was said at this affair could be presented as evidence to help determine whether it violated state election laws.
The event was held about three months after Tallarita began working at the bank, during the height of an election campaign. Was she the only employee singled out for mention by the chairman of the board of the bank?
Nogles could not cite any previous event like the wine tasting.
Jim Brewer, a former civil rights litigator, is a photojournalist and a contributing writer for The Justice Journal and Inquiring News. Brewer served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, commanding a military police unit at a nuclear weapons site in Germany, and as a prosecutor in New Jersey.
Andy Thibault, author of Law &Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. He also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website, www.andythibault.com and Blog, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Both writers are members of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Law & Justice In Everyday Life by Andy Thibault at Amazon.com
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