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Mayoral campaign contributions raise questions

Letters to the editor. Send signed letters to Nancy@NancyOnNorwalk.com with a suggested headline.

Harry Rilling’s Mayoral campaign (Friends of Rilling) raised $102,900 through March in preparation for this November’s municipal elections.

State law requires campaigns to file periodic SEEC Form 20 reports. These reports itemize all contributions and expenditures plus have specific disclosure questions. The SEEC Form 20’s are public documents and filed with the Norwalk Town Clerk.

Putting Friends of Rilling’s SEEC Form 20 under a microscope prompts questions plus provokes significant concerns.

Why are 75% of total dollars raised from lobbyists, political action committees, corporations, out-of- towners, or those associated with City of Norwalk contracts?

Why are only 25% of the dollars raised from regular Norwalk citizens?

A review of the paperwork reveals the following:

  • Lobbyists. On the contribution form is the question “Is contributor a lobbyist, spouse, or dependent child of a lobbyist?” Twenty-three contributors, totaling $3,700, checked “YES” to this question.
  • Political Action Committees (PACs). PACs are special interest entities set up by organizations to legally funnel contributions to political candidates. Thirteen individual PACs, all located outside of Norwalk, contributed $13,450.
  • Corporations. Forty-five separate companies contributed a total of $10,850. Many are associated with property development. Under the campaign finance laws, corporations can contribute $250 via the purchase of ad book placements. These ad books typically accompany fundraising events (see below).
  • Out of Towners. Eighty-two individuals, all residing out-of-town, contributed a total of $39,623. Many of these listed employers that appear associated with property development.
  • Contracts with the City of Norwalk. The SEEC Form 20 has this question, “If contribution is in excess of $400 to a candidate for a chief executive officer of a municipality, does contributor or business he/she is associated with, have a contract with said municipality valued at more than $5,000?” Twenty-nine contributors answered “YES,” with the total dollar amount of $10,190.
  • Regular Norwalk citizens. One hundred six individuals, all residing in Norwalk and with none of the previously listed associations, contributed $25,087. Obtaining 106 individual Norwalk contributions is candidly not impressive. For example, Norwalk State Representative candidates typically raise over 150 individual in-district contributions within four months. One wonders how much effort Friends of Rilling is making in Norwalk?
  • Fundraisers. Candidates typically host fundraisers for their campaigns, and Friends of Rilling was no exception. Six fundraisers were listed. Curiously the first was in Westport (not Norwalk) – and appropriately titled “Campaign Kickoff fundraiser.” That Westport fundraiser was followed by fundraisers in Westport, three in Norwalk, and one in Hartford at the Hartford Tavern.

Conclusion: All candidates need to raise funds for their campaigns. All of Friends of Rilling fundraising appears to be strictly legal.

However what kind of message is being sent?

All these development interests who contributed to Friends of Rilling – are they expecting something in return? More inappropriate Mill Pond overdevelopments? More zoning code changes that seek to urbanize Norwalk? More encroachments on our residential neighborhoods? Easier approval paths for developments?

What does this mean for Norwalk’s future?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

Fred Wilms

Comments

3 responses to “Mayoral campaign contributions raise questions”

  1. Tysen Canevari

    Couldnt agree more Fred. Unfortunately, i guess the people getting the favors show up to the polls in better numbers. Harry doesnt do anything all day and keeps getting re elected

    1. Drew Todd

      That’s only part of the problem with the residents here. Jesus could run as a Democrat and still wouldn’t get the votes to win. It’s a sickness in Blue States. Let’s keep electing the same garbage over and over and over again and expect better results. Its extremely hard to believe that Nicole Hampton and well educated, African American Woman with a huge heart, fight and desire to get things done for the better of our community and State actually lost to someone on the CC that up until last year and mind you she has been on the CC for 3 years I didn’t even know her name. And whats even better is she “represents” me. And her claim to fame at that point was changing pronouns. Welcome to Norwalk!

  2. Jo Bennett

    Well-done analysis, Fred.

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