Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim intends to sue the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) and the state’s Attorney General over a state law that bars him from accessing funds intended for statewide candidates.
Ganim said all candidates for all statewide seats should be afforded the same advantages.
"What really this is about, it's about constitutional rights," Ganim said, following a public appearance in New Haven. "It's the ability of people to have the free right vote for who they want to in a candidate, not just me, but anybody similarly situated to me, I don't mean being mayor, I mean with a felony conviction, to be able to run and get the money like everyone else, the public money, to have an opportunity."
State law prohibits individuals convicted of felonies from being provided with funds for their election campaigns. Ganim was convicted on 16 corruption charges in 2003 that were all linked to kickbacks and bribes, all while he was the popular mayor of Connecticut’s largest city.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled earlier this year that Ganim was ineligible for accessing the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP).
The CEP provides grants worth millions of dollars to candidates that raise money through small, qualifying amounts of less than $100. Once a candidate reaches a certain threshold, they can see their campaign chests fill with taxpayer money in the millions all for their election effort.
The point of the program is to eliminate money from special interest groups and state contractors and encourage a "clean" election.
The lawsuit has not yet filed, and both the attorney general’s and SEEC’s offices declined to comment on the yet-to-be-filed lawsuit Tuesday.
Ganim said he has a right to that program just like every other candidate. He said the fact that Connecticut allows former felons to both vote and run for office after a certain amount of time, anyone running for office should have the same opportunities as non-former felons.
"It's like saying to me, as a potential candidate, you've got to run or fight with one hand tied behind your back," Ganim said. "It creates an unlevel playing field for the opportunity for the candidate and for people to have a fair view of everyone that's running."