Parsing today's Lamont/Malloy attacks

A Bridgeport City Councilor filed an elections complaint Tuesday against the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Dan Malloy, alleging that Malloy appeared to have used extensive opposition research on opponent Ned Lamont, but never disclosed payment to a consultant who had conducted the research.

But the Malloy campaign said it had a simple explanation: the negative attack ads it has run against Lamont, which allege that Lamont has not employed as many people as he has claimed at his cable business, are based on newspaper articles, and required no campaign spending on opposition research.

"That's all stuff that was in the newspaper," said Roy Occhiogrosso, the chief consultant to Malloy's campaign, when told about the complaint filed by Robert S. Walsh.

In an interview, Walsh said he suspected that Occhiogrosso, the strategist who also worked for Sen. Joseph Lieberman during Lamont's 2006 Senate campaign, had been deploying material assembled during that race to fuel negative ads about Lamont.

In particular, Walsh singled out a Malloy ad that refers to a Hartford Courant report that Lamont had once settled a lawsuit brought by an employee alleging racial discrimination at Lamont's company, Campus Televideo. Though the suit ended with a confidential settlement, Malloy has hounded Lamont to disclose the terms of the deal.

The Malloy campaign has previously told The Day that it did not dig up that lawsuit and learned of its existence from the Courant article; Occhiogrosso wrote to complain about a piece I wrote that suggested his campaign had "dredged up" the suit.

The campaign and lawyers

Lamont's campaign has been of two messages in the past several days. The candidate called for "civility" in his debate Tuesday with Malloy, and issued a statement criticizing Malloy for continuing to say Lamont has downsized workers in private industry.

Meanwhile, the Lamont campaign staff has hit Malloy on several fronts, including a web video that accused Malloy of misusing his city-owned car while mayor of Stamford to support his run for governor.

A Lamont campaign staffer also pointed a reporter to a post on the blog My Left Nutmeg -- a hotbed of support for Lamont this year, though not exclusively so, as it was in 2006 -- that noted that Malloy had reported no spending on legal counsel in his reports to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The post notes that Malloy's campaign was nonetheless represented by two attorneys from the prominent firm Robinson & Cole when it joined a lawsuit over the state's public campaign finance program as an intervenor.

(Robinson & Cole is also one of the firms that has had its employees contribute to Malloy's campaigns, while also doing business with the city of Stamford, a fact that Lamont has equated, in advertisements and in interviews, to "corruption" on the part of his opponent.)

But officials at the SEEC say campaigns are free to accept assistance from attorneys who wish to volunteer their assistance with a campaign, much as they may from accountants who volunteer to serve as a campaign treasurer.

"Essentially, the CEP candidates or non-CEP candidates have the ability to use voluntary professional services or voluntary free legal services," said Beth A. Rotman, the director of the public financing program for the SEEC.

"There may be some times that they have to pay for some accoutrement of a law firm," Rotman added. "But the actual legal services of an attorney can be provided pro bono, and that's true if you're in the (public financing) program or not in the program."

Occhiogrosso said the Malloy campaign had checked with the SEEC before accepting in-kind legal services, a gesture Rotman said was not uncommon.

"Yeah, we've answered this question for a lot of statewide campaigns," she said.

And then the car...

Malloy's campaign pushed back against the accusation that the mayor had overused his city car.

"Ned Lamont isn't a very good storyteller – he always forgets the end," campaign manager Dan Kelly said in a written statement. "He says Dan drove his city-provided car… but uses unsubstantiated numbers to make the claim, and he forgets to mention that the Malloy Campaign spoke with city officials about using the car outside of Stamford, and then reimbursed the city for the gas in full accordance with that determination."

Wear and tear on the vehicle was included in the reimbursement arranged with the city, and the campaign paid for gasoline fill-ups out of its campaign account, a spokesman said.

Malloy, meanwhile, used his rebuttal to return to the very charge that Lamont has said is dishonest: charging that Lamont cut his workforce by 70 percent.

Lamont says that is misleading, since his business, which installs cable and telecommunications systems on college and corporate campuses, has relied on contractors on temporary contracts to perform those installations.

Don't worry, folks. This thing ends on Tuesday. And then the real fighting begins.

Update:

The Malloy campaign says one of its Robinson & Cole attorneys, Jim Wade, is volunteering his services to the campaign. Other expenses incurred by the firm in drafting its brief for the CEP case will be billed to the campaign.

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