Republican 5th District congressional candidate Mark Greenberg Monday criticized Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty over what he called her belated return $3,500 in campaign contributions from Northeast Utilities executives and lobbyists — saying she had refused during her successful campaign for the 2012 election to swear off donations from NU employees.
In a statement Monday, Greenberg, who already has declared his candidacy in the 2014 election for Esty’s seat, said:
“In October 2011, when the donations to Elizabeth Esty from NU executives first came to light, I called on her to return those donations and refrain from accepting any further donations from companies regulated by her husband in his capacity as Commissioner of DEEP. Elizabeth adamantly and steadfastly refused to do either – until now.
“It speaks volumes about her character that Elizabeth Esty finally returned the tainted campaign funds –not because she knows it was wrong — but because the controversy surrounding the donations became too politically hot to handle. Ethics should not be subject to a political “upside/downside” analysis. The fact that it took two years for Esty to return money from Northeast Utilities lobbyists and executives delivers a clear message about her character and ethical composition – anything goes until she can’t get away with it.
“Once again, I call on Elizabeth to pledge that she will not accept future campaign donations from power company executives and their lobbyists. The citizens of Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District deserve better from their Member of Congress.”
Esty announced her decision to return the donations from NU employees and lobbyists last Thursday, after the National Republican Congressional Committee demanded she return the money and claimed NU “receives favorable treatment from her husband.”
Esty’s husband — Dan Esty, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection — two days earlier had briefed clients of an investment firm in a conference call about state plans and pending legislation on energy that could benefit NU. A Courant story about the conference call also mentioned thet fact that NU had paid Dan Esty $205,000 in consulting fees from 1997 to 2005, before he became Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s DEEP commissioner in 2011.
NRCC spokesman Ian Prior said Thursday that “Elizabeth Esty needs to wake up” and return the NU representatives’ donations, noting that corporate executives could potentially seek favor from an official whose agency regulates them by giving campaign contributions to his wife.
Later that day, Esty’s 2014 campaign committee said 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. “In the interest of ending an unnecessary distraction, Elizabeth is returning $3,500 in contributions from NU employees,” a campaign spokesman said.
The NRCC’s Prior said afterward that the NRCC had shamed Esty into returning the contributions, and called it “pathetic” that it took her so long to do it.
Dan Esty, meanwhile, told The Courant in an interview last week that there was nothing wrong with his participating in the UBS conference call to talk about the state’s renewable energy plans and pending legislation on that topic. He said it’s his job as commissioner to get the word out about the administration’s programs for cleaner and renewable energy — adding that nothing about the state’s policies or his participation in the phone call favored NU over competitors.