Connecticut Democratic Party officials are cooperating with a federal criminal investigation into whether the party illegally spent about $278,000 on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's 2014 re-election campaign, a party spokesman said Friday.
Spokesman Leigh Appleby's comments were in response to a report by The Hartford Courant earlier Friday that Connecticut U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly's office is convening a grand jury to review the campaign spending.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thomas Carson declined to comment on the report Friday.
At issue is a complaint filed in October 2014 with the State Elections Enforcement Commission by former state Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola. Labriola alleged state Democrats illegally used contributions from contractors that were earmarked for federal government candidates to pay for a mailing benefiting Malloy's successful re-election campaign.
Connecticut law bans contributions from contractors from being spent on state political races. Labriola's complaint said Democrats used money from the account for federal candidates — which can accept contractor money — instead of their account for state candidates — which cannot accept contractor contributions.
Democrats last month agreed to make a $325,000 payment to the state to settle the complaint to the State Elections Enforcement Commission. Appleby said Democrats complied with all federal and state laws.
A lawyer for the Democrats had argued in court that the mailers included a get-out-the-vote message, and federal law allows the party to spend its federal account funds on get-out-the-vote efforts. The mailing touted Malloy's record but also provided details about when the polls were open and how to get rides to the polls.
"We fully complied with both state and federal laws throughout the 2014 cycle and continue to do so," Appleby said. "In regard to recent action by federal authorities, we have advised authorities of our intent to cooperate and will continue to do so in order to bring this to a close and continue to do the work of our party to elect Democrats on all levels."
JR Romano, the current state Republican Party chairman, welcomed the federal investigation.
"They knew what they did was wrong," Romano said. "This has to end. We are not a country that has a political class, and the Democrats are trying to create one where the rules don't apply to them."
A Malloy spokesman didn't immediately return a message Friday.