U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, is returning $3,500 in campaign contributions that she has received from Northeast Utilities executives and lobbyists, a spokesman for her campaign committee said Thursday afternoon – after the National Republican Congressional Committee demanded she return the money, and claimed NU “receives favorable treatment from her husband.”
A spokesman for the newly elected congresswoman said she’s returning the money “in the interest of ending an unnecessary distraction.”
Esty’s husband is Dan Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — who was the subject of a Courant story Thursday morning saying he had briefed clients of an investment firm in a conference call earlier this week about state plans and pending legislation on energy that could benefit NU. The story also noted that NU had paid Esty $205,000 in consulting fees from 1997 to 2005, before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed him as DEEP commissioner in 2011.
Citing the Courant story, NRCC spokesman Ian Prior issued a statement around midday saying: “Elizabeth Esty needs to wake up. From starring in a commercial for Nancy Pelosi’s SuperPac, to taking money from executives and lobbyists of a company that receives favorable treatment from her husband, Esty’s first few months in Congress have been marked by a complete lack of common sense. Esty owes it to her constituents to immediately return all contributions from Northeast Utility employees and lobbyists.”
Prior said corporate executives could potentially seek favor from an official whose agency regulates them by giving campaign contributions to his wife.
Later Thursday, a spokesman for Elizabeth Esty’s 2014 campaign committee said that checks were being mailed back to the NU employees and lobbyists who gave a total of $2,000 to her successful 2012 campaign, and those who already had given $1,500 to her campaign committee in anticipation of the 2014 election.
The campaign spokesman said: “Through her 2012 and 2014 campaigns, Elizabeth has received strong support from thousands across Connecticut and across the country, including many leaders in the environmental and energy fields who recognize her record and her knowledge on these complex issues. In the interest of ending an unnecessary distraction, Elizabeth is returning $3,500 in contributions from NU employees.”
Later, the NRCC’s Prior responded to news that Esty was returning the money by issuing another statement headlined: “NRCC shames Esty into returning campaign contributions.”
“The fact that it took two years for Esty to return money from Northeast Utilities lobbyists and executives is pathetic,” Prior said in the statement. “She ignored the impropriety of accepting those contributions until the bad press became too much for her to handle. The bad news for Esty is that Connecticut voters are tired of her antics and won’t soon forget this.”
Dan Esty, meanwhile, told The Courant in a Wednesday interview that there was nothing wrong with his participation in a conference call Tuesday held by UBS Securities, in which he answered questions about the Malloy administration’s renewable energy plans and pending legislation on that subject. He said he released no confidential information, adding that it’s his job as commissioner to get the word out about the administration’s programs for cleaner and renewable energy. He said that nothing about the state’s policies or his participation in the phone call favored NU over competitors.