August 1, 2016/News

Republican challenger for Senate seeks constituent email database

Key Points:

  • Len Suzio, who loves talking to the camera when trying to score his own political points, is nowhere to be found when facing tough questions.
  • GOP Sen. Henri Martin’s campaign manager Jeff Caggiano admitted they are using freedom of information requests to obtain personal information including emails and cell phones of voters to be contacted by the campaign.
  • Reacting to the report, Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group said Senate Republicans are “attempting to exploit people’s participation in the political process for their personal gain” and called the practice “absolutely terrifying.” 

CT Dems’ Reaction: This is shameful. Senate Republicans are once again blurringthe lines between their official offices and their campaigns. They are exploiting the personal information of constituents who chose to make their voices heard for their own political gain. It’s sad that, rather than running a real grassroots campaign, the Senate GOP is resorting to cheap political tricks.” – Connecticut Democratic Party spokesman Leigh Appleby

Meriden Record Journal: Republican challenger for Senate seeks constituent email database

By Mike Savino

MERIDEN — The campaign for a Republican Senate candidate is seeking the release of a database of email addresses that state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo has compiled for constituency outreach.

Three Senate Republicans seeking re-election used a similar tactic to obtain databases maintained by their own offices, but city resident Len Suzio is the only Senate candidate from either party to request one from an opponent, according to records obtained by the Record-Journal through a Freedom of Information Request.

The Record-Journal is also seeking FOI requests for email address requests submitted to House Democrats and Republicans, but neither office respondedWednesday.

Anna Neumon’s request for email address and names of residents receiving an electronic newsletter from Bartolomeo is one of two requests Meriden residents made to her office. Guy Beeman and Lois DeMayo also filed in a request in March for copies of signed petitions circulated by Bartolomeo seeking support from residents opposed to some of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget cuts.

Neumon, who has worked in the past as Suzio’s campaign manager, said she filed the request on behalf of his campaign, but doesn’t know what he plans to do with the information. Suzio didn’t respond to multiple calls and an email seeking comment.

Other Republicans employing the practice defended the tactic, though. Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, said he doesn’t believe constituents on his newsletter list would object to getting emails from his campaign, noting they have already asked for information about his work on his behalf.

He also said recipients do have the ability to opt out of future emails. Individuals submitted requests to the offices of Markley, and Sens. Henri Martin, of Bristol, and Art Linares, of Westbrook, for email addresses.

Jeff Caggiano, Martin’s campaign manager, said he sought the list out of “curiosity to see what people are interested.” He said the campaign hadn’t yet decided what to do with the information, although he eventually relented that the request was made with the intention of using it in some capacity.

“I do believe the future of campaigning is going toward emails, going toward cell phones,” he also said.

The tactic drew criticism from Bartolomeo, whose office has yet to turn over email addresses, who said “never even considered using this information because I though it wasn’t allowed.”

Tom Swan, executive director for the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, echoed the sentiment, saying candidates are “attempting to exploit people’s participation in the political process for their personal gain.” He called the practice “absolutely terrifying,” and said it’s part of a larger pattern of behavior by campaigns to use information people may not realize is public.

Caggiano said the information is “free game for anybody” to obtain, noting that nothing in state law shields the information from disclosure or prohibits candidates from using it for campaign purposes.

Markley also questioned critics, noting lawmakers have met opposition when trying to shield similar information in the past from people who want to use the information for personal or commercial reasons, and not to hold public officials accountable.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, also said that uses of public records can get “unwieldy and have a detrimental effect,” and he thinks lawmakers will try to address issue in the future.

“Where do you draw the line?” he asked, referencing the difficulty in balancing people’s expectation of privacy with their right to public records. “How do you draw that is probably a difficult question?”