by Jennifer Swift
Apr 18, 2014
05:45 AMConnecticut Politics
Connecticut GOP Candidates Say 'No Thanks' to Wilson-Foley Donations
Peter Casolino/New Haven Register
Lisa Wilson-Foley in a 2012 file photo from the 5th District campaign.
At least two Republican candidates for state office are now saying thanks, but no thanks, to donations they received from Lisa Wilson-Foley, who along with her husband pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in a campaign scheme involving former Gov. John G. Rowland last month.
Lieutenant governor candidate and former United States Comptroller David Walker and Republican secretary of the state candidate Peter Lumaj will both return the $100 contributions they received from Wilson-Foley in the fall, their campaigns said. Lieutenant governor candidate and State Rep. Penny Bacchiocchi received $150 from Wilson-Foley, which she would return if she could, she said, but is restricted from doing so because of her campaign status.
Although the scope of the investigation involving Wilson-Foley and Rowland has been limited to campaign activity between 2010 and 2012, Lumaj and Walker said they will still return the money given to them in 2013 after Wilson-Foley's guilty plea regarding illegal campaign contributions.
“After reviewing the donation, while we appreciate Lisa Wilson-Foley’s contribution, because of the subsequent events, we will be returning it,” Walker campaign manager Bryan Cafferelli said.
Lumaj’s campaign manager, Brock Weber, said that although Lumaj was out of state on business, he had contacted the campaign treasurer seeking to refund the donation as well.
Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, last month pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of illegal campaign contributions. Prosecutors said they set up a scheme and phony contract to hide the fact Rowland was being paid to work on her 2012 campaign for 5th District Congress.
Bacchiocchi received a donation of $150 last fall from Wilson-Foley, and is in a unique situation similar to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Both have dissolved their exploratory committees since receipt of a donation to them from Lisa Wilson-Foley. Both candidates are participating in the state’s citizen election program, and could therefore only bring “qualifying donations” of $100 or less with them to their candidate committee. Wilson-Foley’s donation to both was over the qualifying threshold and was therefore left with the exploratory committee, which has since been closed.
Bacchiochi said she asked her treasurer who spoke with the state, and they were told of the restriction's due to the exploratory committee closure.
"It's not possible, but yes, I would have," Bacchiochi said. "People are concerned about who their representatives accept doanations from, and if my constituents and the people I'm working for have those concerns, then I want to think about addressing them."
Boughton said earlier this week he would also refund the money if he could — but he can’t, since the money was spent in his exploratory committee and did not follow him to his candidate committee, as per the rules of the state's public financing system.
A search for Wilson-Foley in the state’s campaign reporting system shows pages of donations to Republicans and a few Democrats, as well as state and local political party committees. Though Wilson-Foley and Rowland are both Republicans, they didn't have a problem extending their hand or pocketbook to Democrats in certain situations.
Campaign statements from years prior to 2012 years ago show a few Democrats received funds from Wilson-Foley, including now New Haven Mayor Toni Harp's state senate campaign and Sen. Chris Murphy's campaign. Murphy also received help from Rowland back in 2008, who emailed out invitations to a fundraiser for Murphy's campaign, urging people to go.Connecticut GOP Candidates Say 'No Thanks' to Wilson-Foley Donations