State panel clears Formica in 2016 elections complaint, finds campaign treasurer erred

State Sen. Paul Formica’s 2016 campaign committee treasurer violated state elections law when he failed to disclose that Formica’s daughter was the ultimate recipient of consulting fees the committee paid a Norwich advertising agency, the State Elections Enforcement Commission has found.

In a 3-0 vote Wednesday, the commission adopted an agreement it had reached with the treasurer, Michael J. O’Connor, of Bozrah. The agreement calls for no penalties or other enforcement action.

The commission dismissed allegations against Formica, R-East Lyme.

Ryan Henowitz, the Democrat who opposed Formica in the 2016 election, filed a complaint with the commission in August of that year, accusing Formica of illegally “funneling campaign funds to his daughter.” The complaint cited a payment the Formica campaign committee made to Miranda Creative, a Norwich agency whose Miranda Campaigns division listed Formica’s daughter, Ali Formica, as a consulting strategist and project manager.

The state’s Citizens' Election Program, which provides funding for political campaigns, prohibits candidates who accept such funding from using it to pay a family member or an entity in which the candidate or a member of the candidate’s family has an ownership interest.

The Formica campaign accepted public financing, though it had not opted to do so at the time Henowitz filed his complaint.

In investigating, the commission found that Ali Formica was neither an owner nor an employee of Miranda Creative, and that Maria Miranda, the agency’s sole owner, identified her as a subcontractor.

The commission found that the Formica campaign committee reported payments to Miranda Creative for “consulting services” that Ali Formica performed as a subcontractor, “but at no time did the Committee report Ms. Formica as either a payee or a secondary payee on its itemized financial statements.”

State law requires that such statements name secondary payees “whenever the primary or principal payee is known to include charges which the primary payee has already paid or will pay directly to another person, vendor or entity.”

Paul Formica said Thursday he was satisfied with the commission’s ruling. He said O’Connor had done nothing differently in 2016 than he had in previous campaigns and that campaign finance reporting requirements regarding secondary payees are somewhat ambiguous.

Formica said his daughter provided no consulting services during his 2018 campaign, which culminated in his winning a third consecutive Senate term.

O’Connor, who did not immediately respond to a phone message, did not serve as treasurer of Formica’s 2018 campaign.

Neither Henowitz nor his 2016 campaign manager could be reached for comment.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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