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Democratic state lawmakers cite outside influence

August 1, 2018

HARTFORD —Four Democratic state lawmakers have charged that a group with connections to the Republican State Leadership Committee has targeted them without properly disclosing which candidates it is backing.

The complaint filed with the State Elections Enforcment Committee also charges that the political action committee, Change Connecticut, has not reported the money it is spending in a timely fashion.

In the past two months, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin, Rep. Phil Young of Stratford, Liz Linehan of Chesire and Michael Winkler of Vernon have been the subject of public records requests to their local town halls, police departments and registrars of voters.

“We’re not going to allow our elections to be bought by big corporations while the middle-class and small businesses in Connecticut suffer,” Aresimowicz said.

The requests were filed by Percipient Strategies LLC, a Washington D.C.-based research and communications firm run by former Republican National Committee staffers. The lawmakers connected Percipient Strategies to Change Connecticut because Change Connecticut paid the company $99,734 in June and July for “research dossiers.”

The Democrats did not object to Change Connecticut paying for opposition research, but they said Change Connecticut did not report this spending to the SEEC within 24 hours of making the payment, as required by state law.

All four Democrats have Republican challengers, but the lawmakers said Change Connecticut has violated another state election law by not explicitly stating which candidates it is backing.

Change Connecticut had not yet seen the complaint Wednesday afternoon, said Ben Davol, a spokesman for the organization. The group is reviewing competitive seats across the state and still deciding which candidates to support.

Change Connecticut was founded in May 2018 by lobbyist Bill Phillips of Milford to “win GOP legislative majorities,” Davol said. Outside of Phillips, Change Connecticut’s only contributor is the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization to elect Republicans to state office.

RSLC has given Change Connecticut $400,000 to date. Big contributors to the RSLC include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, tobacco company Reynolds American, casino company Las Vegas Sands, Koch Industries and the right-wing Judicial Confirmation Network.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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