Return to sender: Foley pounces after CT Dems refund $40K in campaign cash

	Democratic candidate for governor Dannel Malloy, left, and Republican candidate Tom Foley, right, speak prior to a debate in Middletown, Conn., on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Democratic candidate for governor Dannel Malloy, left, and Republican candidate Tom Foley, right, speak prior to a debate in Middletown, Conn., on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Connecticut Democrats during the month of December refunded $40,000 in political contributions made by various special interests, including some who have done business with the state, drawing a sharp rebuke Monday from presumptive GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

Foley accused Gov. Dannel P. Malloy of fostering a culture that state government and its leaders are for sale.

A private equity manager from Greenwich who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland under President George W. Bush, Foley is looking this year to avenge his 6,500-vote loss to Malloy in 2010.

“Last month I said that contributions from state contractors to state parties should be prohibited because they erode public confidence in state government,” Foley said in a statement. “I called on Governor Malloy to stop sending the message that he and Connecticut’s government are for sale. Instead, the Governor only accelerated his solicitations, receiving on behalf of the party donations from many state contractors including one from a company that is on the list of prohibited donors.”

Malloy’s office referred questions on the matter to the Connecticut Democrats, who insisted that their fundraising activity was above board.

“The Connecticut Democratic Party relies on the information provided directly by donors on our contribution forms,” said James Hallinan, a party spokesman. “Additionally, we cross-reference donor information for non-federal contributions with information listed on (the state Elections Enforcement Commission’s) Prohibited State Contractors and Prospective State Contractors lists. If we identify any irregularities, we issue a refund to the contributor. If we identify any irregularities involving contribution limits, we issue a refund to the contributor. The Connecticut Democratic Party acts in good faith and follows all laws, rules and regulations, and will continue to do so.”

Foley’s exploratory campaign identified one the sources of what it characterized as tainted contributions as Suffolk Construction Co. — it said the Boston-based firm is on the state’s list of prohibited donors.

A search of the state Department of Administrative Services vendor database showed no current contracts with the construction company, whose chairman and CEO Tom Fish was refunded $10,000 by the Connecticut Democrats. A 31-story residential tower at 360 State St. in New Haven is listed as part of the company’s portfolio of projects.

Campaign filings by the state Democratic Party show it also refunded $10,000 to Edward Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers and Comcast Spectacor. The latter manages the XL Center in Hartford.

Additional refunds of $10,000 each were also made to Tonio Burgos, who runs a New York City lobbying firm bearing his name, and R. Bradford Evans, a senior adviser at Morgan Stanley.

“The governor and the Democrats have shown once again that their threshold for what’s acceptable is merely what’s legal,” Foley said. “Connecticut deserves a higher ethical standard at its Capitol – one that restores ordinary citizens’ confidence that state government is being run for them, not insiders and special interests.”

Foley, vying for outsider status in the crowded Republican gubernatorial field, set up an exploratory committee for a potential rematch against his bitter rival.

“There is no longer any question that Governor Malloy is inappropriately allowing state contractors and others who have a stake in government business to buy influence with him,” Foley said. “The question is whether Connecticut voters want their government and leaders for sale or whether in November they will seek a leader with higher ethical standards.”

Democrats attempted to shift the focus back to Foley, saying that the former diplomatic appointee — a post that requires confirmation by the Senate — was not forthcoming with details about a 1981 arrest for first-degree assault in the Hamptons.

The charge, which was eventually dropped, stemmed from a motor vehicle accident that Foley described as a minor fender bender during the 2010 governor’s race.

Foley’s account of the incident conflicts with a police report, which stated that Foley rammed his Toyota Land Cruiser into the back of a Mercury sedan carrying five people on Montauk Highway after attending a party.

“The only thing that is for sale is Tom Foley’s credibility,” Hallinan said. “When he desperately wanted to buy an ambassadorship, he lied under oath to the federal government to buy it. Now, Tom Foley desperately wants to buy the governorship using his personal fortune. How can anyone take anything seriously from a man who lied to the federal government under oath?”

Neil Vigdor