FOIA release: Tom Foley’s controversial April poll alleged revisionist “voter fraud” in 2010 gubernatorial loss

The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC), acting on a request from the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, this week released investigative records in connection with its recent settlement with Tom Foley of Greenwich, the Republican former ambassador to Ireland who lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Dannel P. Malloy by 6,404 votes out of 1,128,152 cast.

Included in the file are photocopies of a civil-penalty check from Foley for $600 to the SEEC and a copy of a $15,504 civil-penalty check from Foley to the State Treasurer. Both checks are from his personal funds. On the date the commission okayed the deal, October 16, Foley said he believed they were not penalties, but payments to settle an issue that could have expensively festered in the courts.

The settlement ended the disagreement between Foley, who is exploring another run for governor, and the SEEC over a poll. The SEEC said the survey, which Foley asked the Washington-based Tarrance Group to undertake, was a political expenditure, requiring state financial disclosure even if Foley’s PAC, Voters for Good Government, Inc. (VGG) is based in Delaware. Foley, as treasurer of VVG,  a non-profit advocacy group organized under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, wrote the check to the pollsters, who on April 8 issued a memoradum of “key findings” of the poll that were released to some news outlets. Foley believed that the poll was outside the SEEC jurisdiction because he was acting as a “private citizen.”

The “key findings” in the phone poll of 504 state residents who identified themselves as “likely” voters:

Tom Foley     46 percent favorable   20% unfavorable    23% no opinion   11% never heard of

Mark Boughton 7%                                  2%                                   5%                            86%

Larry Cafero      6%                                4%                                      6%                            84%

John McKinney  19%                            6%                                     19%                           57%

On Malloy’s  handling of his job, 18 percent approved, 30 percent approved somewhat, 10 percent were unsure, 15 percent disapproved somewhat and 27 percent disapproved strongly.

“Incumbent Democratic Governor Dan Malloy is very vulnerable to a credible challenge in the 2014 election for Governor,” the key findings said. “Tom Foley has retained nearly his entire name ID from his 2010 candidacy, and remains very well-known with solid image ratings among Connecticut voters.” That was also back before House Minority Leader Cafero, R-Norwalk, announced he would not be a gubernatorial candidate next year.

So, nine previously undisclosed pages of the actual poll are included in the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. The only head-to-head question centers on Foley and Malloy. Malloy had 27 percent “definitely” supporting him and 17 percent “probably” supporting him for a total of 44 percent. Foley had 24 percent definitely and 14 percent probably for 38 percent.

Maybe the most-interesting questions for political wonks and historians of the close 2010 throw-down, are the scripts for Questions 15 and 16.

“Now, thinking back to the 2010 election for Governor – As you may know, there was a controversy regarding this election and some believe that there was voter fraud that occurred which changed the results of the 2010 election for Governor. Thinking about your own views on this issue –

15. Based on everything that you have seen, read, heard, do you believe that there was voter fraud that occurred which changed the results of the 2010 election for Governor in Connecticut?

Yes/strongly: 12 percent

Yes:                       6 percent

Unsure(DNR)     19 percent

No:                          25 percent

No/strongly        39 percent


If VALUES 1-3 IN Q15, ASK:

And –

16. Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for Tom Foley in the 2014 election for Governor based on your views about what happened with the controversy regarding voter fraud in the 2010 election for Governor?”

More likely/strongly totaled 21 percent and More likely/somewhat were 12 percent. So a third of 37 percent from the previous question were likely to vote for Foley because of some sort of fraud.

But 64 percent did not think there was voter fraud after being fed allegations from “some believe,” in a leading question.

So what “voter fraud” is the poll alleging? Bridgeport voter registrars embarrassingly underestimated the turnout for Election Day 2010, which was fueled by a late-breaking get-out-the-vote visit to Bridgeport by President Barack Obama. It took them took several days to count photocopies by hand, however it’s an overwhelmingly Democratic city. But “voter fraud?” Requests by then-GOP Chairman Chris Healy for investigations by the chief state’s attorney and the U.S. Attorney never resulted in any solid official allegations of wrongdoing.

In fact, Foley in downtown Hartford was gracious in his concession to Malloy six days after the election and after his campaign team witnessed the Bridgeport hand count and thought about it for a wekend.

“I have told my team that I am not going to pursue a legal challenge to exclude photocopied ballots,” Foley said at the time, his voice breaking slightly with emotion. “Despite their irregularity, I believe they do represent legitimate votes of well-intended voters and must be included in Tuesday’s results. I am disappointed that the team reported a chaotic situation on Election Day and its aftermath in Bridgeport,” Foley said. “They believe that the reported Bridgeport results are unreliable, but not from any willful behavior,” he said. “They also believe the number of votes by which the Bridgeport results are likely to be wrong would not, on its own, change the outcome of the race.”

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines “fraud” as “wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.”