The State Elections Enforcement Commission is reviewing a complaint filed last month alleging that a donor to the largest political action committee in Farmington violated state election laws by commissioning and airing a series of anonymous radio advertisements last month.
The complaint, filed by Republican Town Committee Chairman Michael Clark, focuses on a series of unattributed political advertisements supporting the political action committee Responsible Farmington and four candidates it supported in the Sept. 12 Republican primary for town council.
Jeffrey Apuzzo, Justin Bernier, Paul Cianci and Jon Landry challenged the RTC’s endorsed slate of council candidates and won the right to represent Farmington Republicans on the Nov. 7 municipal election ballot.
While Clark’s complaint says three separate advertisements were aired on Sept. 11 and 12, only one audio file is included in the complaint.
The advertisement calls out Connecticut’s first Mormon temple, located on the corner of Route 4 and Melrose Drive in Farmington, for taking up “prime real estate that will be used exclusively by people not from Farmington and will pay no property taxes.” It also criticizes the upgrades underway at the town’s wastewater treatment plant and Miss Porter’s School.
It calls on listeners to vote for the four challengers in the Sept. 12 primary, all included by name at the end of the advertisement. The Responsible Farmington website is provided as a source for more information.
Clark’s complaint claims that
Brian Rubino, CEO of Farmington-based Ultimate Nutrition, is behind the radio advertisements and paid an employee to sign the contract with the radio station.
According to campaign finance records on file at the Farmington town clerk’s office, Rubino contributed $1,000 to Responsible Farmington on Aug. 6.
Clark’s complaint claims that the lack of attribution as to who created, paid for or approved the advertisements, constitutes a violation of state election law. It further alleges that Rubino “took steps to evade state … election laws by paying an individual and using him as a straw to sign the radio contract.”
The complaint alleges that because of his previous contribution to the PAC, Rubino “knew that spending significant funds in support of their candidacy far exceeded the financial limits of state election law.”
Phone calls to Rubino’s office requesting comment had not been returned as of Thursday afternoon.
When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Clark said the ads were “very upsetting for anyone who lives in Farmington because they really denigrated the community.” He said combined with the lack of attribution on the advertisements, he felt compelled to file a complaint.
“i hope that the SEEC comes down on the individual who paid for these ads and who is responsible for this,” Clark said.
Responsible Farmington issued a statement the morning of the Sept. 12 primary stating that the committee, and the candidates, “did not endorse, approve, finance or have any prior knowledge” of the advertisements.
When asked about the SEEC investigation Wednesday, Bernier emphasized that Responsible Farmington and his fellow council candidates were not involved with the advertisements’ production. Bernier also suggested that the advertisements may have been a “false flag” planted by opponents.
“We’ve been very clear about what our position is,” Bernier said. “”We won our race 70-30. I don’t know what impact the ads had.”
Speaking on behalf of the RTC-endorsed candidates that ran in opposition to the four challengers in the primary, Clark refuted that claim, saying, “The person who paid for the ad was a $1,000 donor to the Responsible Farmington PAC. No one in their right mind would spend tens of thousands of dollars for radio ads in a local primary.”