State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Saturday blasted Democratic Secretary of the State Denise Merrill over revelations in a Courant Government Watch column that she has been using her taxpayer-funded office to send monthly email newsletters, touting her accomplishments, to thousands of Democratic Party activists and campaign donors.
In addition, Labriola\’s predecessor as GOP party chief, Chris Healy, criticized Merrill\’s activities in a state office that he characterized as so insignificant that it could be \”done by a garage door opener.\”
Labriola said that he is considering asking for an official investigation of whether the list of email addresses that Merrill\’s office has used for the e-newsletter originated with Merrill\’s 2010 election committee. It was sent to Merill\’s office from the personal email of Merrill\’s chief of staff, Shannon Wegele, who assisted with Merrill\’s 2010 campaign. Merrill declined to answer a question Friday about where the list of names came from.
\”We will be evaluating that,\” Labriola said. Agencies he said might be asked to investigate included the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Office of State Ethics, and the office of state Attorney General George Jepsen.
In the meantime, Labriola issued this statement Saturday: \”The Secretary of the State is essentially the \’town clerk\’ of Connecticut, whose job it is to insure fair elections and a level playing field. This requires the highest degree of non-partisanship. Regrettably, just as with last year\’s billboards promoting herself, it is clear that Denise Merrill has abandoned her pledge of good government and is again using taxpayer resources and abusing her office for her own political gain.
\”I call on the Secretary to immediately cease emailing her \’newsletter\’ to Democrat donors and activists and to reimburse the State for the cost of all such partisan communications.\”
Meanwhile, Healy added his own blast. In 2010, when he was GOP chairman, Healy was highly critical of then-Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, when Bysiewicz used an office database to send a similar newsletter and to assist her campaign at the time for state attorney general. Healy launched a court fight against Bysiewicz\’s candidacy, saying she was unqualified, and the state Supreme Court issued a ruling to that effect, killing her candidacy.
Healy said Saturday: \”It\’s bad enough that Ms. Merrill is paid $100,000 to hold a job that can be done by a garage door opener — but the least we should expect is for her to not torture people with an e-newsletter. There should be an Ethics investigation but I doubt anything will be done because that agency is as spineless as Merrill is clueless.\”
\”This e-newsletter is a valuable, cost effective way to communicate with the citizens of Connecticut all that we are accomplishing at the Secretary of the State\’s Office,\” Merrill responded later Saturday in a statement relayed by Harris. \”We thought carefully about how to design the project before launching it. Informing citizens is an important part of my job and I want to be able to do that in the most appropriate way.\”
As to an outside investigation, she said: \”If an objective review helps to resolve any questions then I would welcome it.\”