Connecticut Senate GOP Claims No Wrongdoing in Data Collection

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Connecticut's senate Republicans have spent $100,000 each year for several years to pay a company to collect information provided to their official state website.

The company, Align Media, runs a firm called Votertrove, which specializes in helping campaigns with voter lists and campaigns.

The data was collected on the Connecticut Senate Republicans website on at least several occasions when they asked users to sign petitions or to sign up for information. Rather than the data staying with the state, it went to Align Media's Voter Trove, which also has campaign accounts with multiple Republicans running for reelection to the State Senate.

A spokesperson for the caucus, Nicole Rall, declined to issue a formal statement Monday, but did say that the information collected by Votertrove never left the hands of the caucus and it has never been turned over to campaigns for political use. Rall said the caucus only uses services provided by Votertrove and that the data is solely for state use.

Tom Swan, the executive director of the watchdog Connecticut Citizen Action Group said he's worried for the relationship between constituents and their elected representatives after an episode like this one.

"There’s both a chilling effect on peoples’ willingness to participate and petition the government but there’s also a faith and trust within government question that we think is really important," he said.

Under state law, the work of campaigns and sitting candidates running for higher office or for reelection have to keep their work entirely separate.

That's a point made by Rep. Brendan Sharkey, the outgoing Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

"It’s the law that we cannot use taxpayers dollars in anyway to fund activities involving campaigns so we have to keep very clear distinctions for both staff as well as contract to prevent us from using the budget for anything involving campaigns."

Sharkey says the entire practice appears to be suspect considering considering House Democrats, House Republicans, and Senate Democrats use solely state resources for their respective websites.

"My question is why are you spending so much money for a website, for somebody to manage your website, $100,000 in taxpayer dollars per year, but then why aren’t you doing something about it and why did it take so long to ensure that that contractor was not using, and mixing the two."

Swan, with the Connecticut Citizen Action Group predicts there could be new headlines soon that would take the attention off of a Federal Grand Jury investigating Democrats during the 2014 campaign season.

He said, "I would be very surprised if the SEEC (State Elections Enforcement Commission) isn’t already on top of this."

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