CT: Independent Candidate For Congress Files Complaint Against Sec. of State for Misuse of Public Funds for Political Ends

As you might recall, earlier this month Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz began an aggressive propaganda campaign instructing voters to register with the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of the state's August 10th primary elections. Byscewicz launched the effort at a press conference flanked by leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties and political establishment. In response to this partisan political push, Daniel Reale, an independent libertarian candidate for Congress in the state's 2nd CD, has now lodged a formal complaint against Byscewiz with the Office of State Ethics, the State Elections Enforcement Commission and the Federal Election Commission.

The complaint, a copy of which was sent to Poli-Tea, charges Bysiewicz with using state funds and resources to boost enrollment in two specific parties, misusing public funds to influence the outcome of federal and other elections, misusing the official seal of the Secretary of State's office for this purpose, and substantially complicating the ballot access petition efforts of third party and independent candidates for office in the state. Contacted via email, Mr. Reale says his ultimate goal is to "make sure the Secretary of State stops using public money and resources for political ends." (Read the full interview with Mr. Reale at Third Party and Independent Daily.) Asked what prompted him to lodge the complaint, he writes:
I'm opposed to the Secretary of State misusing her seal and public money in order to work on behalf of the Republicans and Democrats. Contrary to popular belief, the Secretary of State's office is not a political action committee. At the very least, the whole exercise is a political contribution to both major parties.
Reale said the Secretary of State's propaganda campaign was unexpected only in its brazenness:
Bysiewicz has been crossing into a legal gray area for years, using her office in ethically questionable ways to say the least. While I found this to be morally objectionable, these were the sort of things you couldn't legally hang your hat on. But I didn't expect something this egregious in terms of ethics, elections, misapplication of public resources and political action committee violations - all in the same package.
Confronted with criticism of her "Affiliate and Participate" campaign, as it's called, Bysiewicz has previously denied charges that she is engaged in a recruitment drive for the Democratic and Republican parties, inducing voters to favor them over minor parties and independents. Jon Kantrowitz at My Left Nutmeg quotes Bysiewicz stating:
Let me be clear: I am not trying to recruit new voters for the Republicans or Democrats or favor them over the minor parties. . . . the sole purpose of the Affiliate and Participate campaign is to educate the nearly 840,000 unaffiliated voters that if they want to vote in the August 10th primary, they must enroll with a major party.
Kantrowitz responds:
Susan is making a distinction between urging people to register for a political party, so that they can vote in that party's primary, and urging them to vote for a political party. In my humble opinion this is a distinction without a difference. I have no problem with informing people that they have the option, it's the urging to which I have an objection.
Bysiewicz claims that her propaganda campaign is purely educational in nature. However, the effort is clearly intended to lead voters into registering Democrat or Republican to shore up the registration rolls of the legacy parties, and provide them with the cover of popular political support (only 36% of the state's voters are registered Democrats, only 20% are registered Republicans). In a word: it is a broad attack against political independence. Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz is no friend to the almost 1,000,000 unaffiliated and minor party voters in the Constitution State. Earlier this month, Bysiewicz issued a statement (July 13th) on a US Appeals Court Ruling on the Connecticut Clean Elections Law, saying: "The court rightly rejected the argument by US District Court Judge Stephen Underhill that this was somehow unfair to minor parties."

Among advocates of independent and third party politics, on the other hand, that very same decision was widely seen as a direct attack against independent voters and minor parties. Mike DeRosa is a litigant in the Green Party vs. Garfield lawsuit and a candidate for secretary of the state on the Green Party line. In an op-ed on the ruling for The Day, DeRosa argues that "silencing the minor parties won't fix major party corruption." He writes:

When the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently reversed federal Judge Stefan Underhill's decision, a reversal that will allow minor parties to have to meet a more difficult standard to gain public campaign finance funding, it proved to be a major disappointment for both the Green and Libertarian parties in Connecticut. The real losers in this decision, however, are the state's independent voters and taxpayers.

This decision props up a discriminatory state-sponsored subsidy program that increases the free-speech opportunities of the most popular political parties, while simultaneously reducing the free speech rights of smaller political parties.
In his response to the ruling at Ballot Access News, Richard Winger wrote:
the decision says . . . that the Connecticut law would be constitutional even if there were no means for a candidate to get public funding, unless that candidate were the nominee of a party that had performed well in the previous election. But, a new party could not possibly have performed well in the previous election, nor could an independent candidate have done so if the candidate were running as an independent for that office for the first time. The decision cannot even acknowledge that the law does discriminate in favor of the two old major parties. Every time it uses the word “discrimination” or “discriminate”, the decision puts the word in quotes.
Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz demonstrates a clear pattern of hostility toward independents, unaffiliated voters and minor parties. How could she not? She does not recognize political independence as a legitimate form of political practice. Her presupposition is effectively that if you are not participating in the Democratic or Republican primary then you are not participating in the political process ("affiliate and participate"). If Connecticut's Secretary of State were actually interested in educating rather than propagandizing voters, she might also inform them that unless they sign the petitions of third party and independent candidates, the only choice they will have on their November ballots will be the illusion of choice between a Democrat and a Republican, if there is even more than one candidate on the ballot. According to her office, 54 out of 187 election contests for the state's general assembly will go uncontested, as will a number of other races. That is just under 29%, almost 1 in 3 (see the press release from June 28 (.pdf)). The high number of uncontested elections in the state has been one of Daniel Reale's major points of criticism of the two-party state and duopoly system of government. Asked how he intends to follow up on his complaint against Bysiewicz, Reale says:
Considering that this was also set up as a tort letter, the Secretary of State has 60 days to respond or repair. This will inform me of what actions need to be taken on the civil end. On the prosecution side, there will be a criminal complaint filed. If the state or the feds do it, great. If not, that's where I come in.
Hopefully, he will be joined by others in his campaign to stop the Connecticut Secretary of State from misusing public money and resources for political ends. Read the full interview and exchange with Daniel Reale at Third Party and Independent Daily.

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