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    Wednesday, February 21, 2024

    Osten's 2014 opponent broke campaign finance laws, commission says

    The State Elections Enforcement Commission has found that state Sen. Cathy Osten’s opponent in the 2014 election violated campaign finance laws by spending public funds on a mailer that characterized Osten and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as “two peas in a pod.”

    Under an agreement the commission adopted Wednesday, Steven Everett, Osten’s opponent, will not be fined.

    Everett is a Republican, Osten and Malloy are Democrats.

    The matter stemmed from a complaint Shiela Hayes, an Osten supporter and member of the Norwich Democratic Town Committee, filed against Everett in October 2014, shortly before that November's elections. Hayes claimed Everett’s mailer, in addition to urging Osten’s defeat, “has the patently obvious additional purpose of bringing about the defeat of Governor Malloy and promoting the election of Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor.”

    Malloy defeated Foley in a close election, while Osten, the Sprague first selectwoman, won a second term in the 19th state Senate District, garnering 56 percent of the vote. She was re-elected to a third term this month.

    As the elections commission stressed in an advisory opinion it issued days before the Everett mailer appeared, candidates who accept public campaign funds through the state's Citizens’ Election Program are prohibited from spending any of that money on a campaign that benefits another candidate. When a candidate accepting CEP funds makes “a communication” that’s not directly related to the candidate’s own race or that also promotes the defeat of a candidate who is not a direct opponent, “the cost of that communication must be properly allocated.”

    Everett, a Columbia selectman, said Wednesday he was unaware of the advisory opinion when his 2014 campaign sent out the mailer. He vouched for the mailer's accuracy, though that was not at issue.

    “I took great care in being very factual,” he said. “I didn’t want anybody to say I was making up accusations, or not telling the truth. Any time that I mentioned something done by the candidate, or candidates, it was footnoted.”

    The elections commission wrote that Everett “did correctly disclose and report” his campaign committee’s spending on the mailer. Had he arranged for “appropriate committees,” such as Foley's campaign committee, to share the cost of the mailer, “it would have been entirely permissible,” the commission wrote.

    Everett signed the agreement to avoid costs associated with pursuing the matter through a hearing.

    b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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