NORWALK, Conn. – In 2017, unaffiliated Mayoral candidate Lisa Brinton refused to take campaign donations from developers and said she’d continue that trend as Mayor.
Fast forward to 2019, and Brinton, continuing her attempt to take down Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling, has accepted $1,000 from real estate broker Jason Milligan and $200 from developer Michael DiScala, who she once implied had a “wink and nod” deal with Rilling.
Brinton’s $1,200 this year compares to Rilling’s at least $16,000 in $1,000 donations – the maximum allowed – from developers or people connected to development, as of June 30. Brinton as of June 30 had raised $15,095.83 for this year’s campaign and Rilling had raised $93,647.61 in monetary donations. In 2017, Rilling raised more than $140,000 in his successful bid for reelection, much of it from developers. Republican candidate Andy Conroy called the developer money “alarming.”
“How can Norwalkers expect the mayor to act in their best interests when so much of his donations have come from the very people who want to profit from developing in Norwalk? It is truly unprecedented for a Norwalk mayor to receive so many outsider contributions,” Conroy wrote.
Milligan is embroiled in an extended legal battle with the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency, a lawsuit Brinton calls “vindictive and ridiculous.” Should the plaintiffs prevail, they would be seeking to have Milligan to pay their costs.
NoN wanted to know if Brinton has changed her stance on developer contributions, and posed several related questions to her via email.
So, how can voters know whether Brinton is supporting Milligan because she believes he’s doing the right thing instead of supporting Milligan because he’s supporting her?
“My focus remains and always has been on protecting taxpayers from bad and less than transparent decision-making at city hall,” Brinton replied. “My position on Poko was formulated and expressed during the LAST mayoral campaign and focused on holding Citibank responsible.”
How can voters know that Brinton will consider what’s right for the City if she becomes Mayor, instead of doing what’s right for Milligan?
“Here’s a better question…now that the politically connected developer, McClutchy has proposed a plan that doesn’t need Mr. Milligan’s parcels, will the City drop the lawsuit, as a waste of money? Is it still in taxpayers’ interests to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars suing Mr. Milligan?” Brinton replied
Rilling didn’t reply to an email asking that question.
“I disagreed with the mayor on this lawsuit because it seems to have been pursued out of personal vindictiveness rather than protecting the city,” Brinton wrote. “Private investment in worthwhile projects is something I support, but I don’t believe in tax payer funded giveaways or tax credits for bad developments. If that philosophy impressed Mr. Milligan to support me, I’m glad.”
Brinton, criticizing Rilling in 2017, said, “Nobody gives money for nothing. It was told, in the old days, that developers used to give money. They give $1000 to the candidate that they supported or the incumbent or whatever, and $500 to the other candidate. There was some of the money that we seem to have traced back to some of the big box stores, I’m not trying to name names.”
She also said, “I don’t take campaign donations from developers. I want to talk to them. I want to sit down and talk about how to help Norwalk, but I don’t need to be bought. This city is going to do well. They don’t need to buy influence, you just don’t. I’m happy to speak with them and let’s talk about what we need to do. I don’t think Harry has done anything that maybe other mayors haven’t done, taking money from developers. I think that’s been going on in Norwalk for years and years and years.”
So, isn’t it hypocritical to take money from Milligan and DiScala?
“I’m grateful for Mr. Discala’s support,” Brinton replied. “However, most meaningful are the donations from regular residents. This is my community barometer, regardless of the amount of the donation, when compared to a list of donors of which the ‘majority’ are insider politicos and developers.”
Rilling released this statement to NancyOnNorwalk, in response to Brinton’s comments:
“Each candidate must make their own decisions about who to accept donations from. I accept donations from those who support my vision and those who want to see the city continue to thrive.
“Despite her pledge not to accept donations from certain individuals during the last campaign, my opponent now welcomes contributions from developers, as well as donations from those who waste taxpayer dollars with frivolous lawsuits and others who bully and harass public officials and everyday residents online.”