MONROE, CT — State Rep. Tony Scott, R-112th, has been in office a little over two months, but his campaign team is still puzzled over who sent an unattributed text to registered Republican voters on the eve of April’s special election. The text touted the credentials of fellow conservative candidate William “Bill” Furrier.
Furrier of Sandy Hook, who ran a quiet campaign without lawn signs or advertisements, had told The Sun he did not pay for the text.
Many town Republicans contended the text was meant to siphon votes away from Scott to benefit Nick Kapoor, a Democrat, in the three-way race. They cried foul over the timing and how nobody took ownership of the text.
Kapoor denied any knowledge of the text. Voters who called the phone number it was sent from heard a voicemail message saying they reached the Fairfield Democratic Town Committee. But the Fairfield DTC also denied sending the text.
The text did not hurt Scott, who went on to win over Kapoor by a vote of 2,248 to 1,948, while Furrier finished a distant third with 31 votes. But some Monroe Republicans still want answers.
Ryan Condon, who served as Scott’s campaign manager, filed a State Elections Enforcement Commission complaint against Kapoor and Diane Sisler, treasurer of both the Kapoor campaign and the Fairfield DTC.
“Originally it was a debate. We had to really consider whether it was something we wanted to file,” Condon said. “We did win and everyone knows when a campaign is over it’s time to move on. But we want to make Monroe a better place, and part of that is the integrity of our elections.”
In his complaint, Condon says Kapoor participated in the Citizens Election Program and therefore could not receive in-kind contributions. He alleges the Fairfield DTC violated several election laws, particularly General Statute Sec. 9-621, which requires a disclaimer with proper attribution. For example, the words “paid for by” followed by the name of the individual or committee and its treasurer.
In a letter on June 2, Stephanie Fish, a legal investigator for the SEEC, informed Condon that the commission voted to authorize an investigation of his complaint.
Fish said these investigations typically reach a resolution within a year, but that Condon will be notified if the SEEC needs an extension.
Reactions to the complaint
“The key thing for me is transparency,” Scott said. “When you have these tactics being done without attribution, that is the exact opposite of transparency. Somebody paid for the text message. I hope the SEEC finds out who it is, then makes sure moving forward that tactics like that are required to have proper attribution.”
Scott noted how state election laws require attribution for campaign signs and mailers, so voters know which candidate’s political campaign or political action committee paid for it.
“No one is taking ownership of it,” Scott said. “Somebody did it. Somebody paid for it, so it has to be on their report. We have to do attribution with everything we do and, if not, these shady tactics can continue on.”
Kapoor declined to comment on the SEEC complaint and Fairfield DTC Chairman Steven Sheinberg stood by a post his committee published on its Facebook page in April, denying any knowledge of the text.
The Sun emailed Sisler on Monday, asking if she paid for the text in either of her capacities as treasurer of the Kapoor campaign or the Fairfield DTC.
“I became aware of the existence of the campaign text on the morning of the special election, April 13, 2021,” Sisler replied. “Your article had appeared online in the Monroe Sun, and that was the first I heard it.”
“Neither the Fairfield DTC nor the Nick for CT 2021 campaign committee for which I am serving as Treasurer had anything to do with the text messages; I did not authorize or pay for anything related to the texting campaign,” she wrote.
The controversial text
On April 12 the following campaign text was sent to registered Republican voters in the 112th Distict, which includes Monroe and Newtown:
Republican Bill Furrier is the only candidate endorsed by the Independent Party for the Special Election Tuesday, April 13th. Vote tomorrow for a conservative who believes in a constitutionally limited government. Let’s open up our State!
In his SEEC complaint, Condon alleges the text “sought to deceive voters about who the Republican candidate for office was, in the hopes of taking votes away from Tony Scott.”
Though Furrier is a registered Republican, he was running as the Independent Party endorsed candidate.
The Sun published an article on the dispute that night and the Fairfield DTC issued the following statement on its Facebook page the next day:
We have learned that a recent text message sent by the Nick Kapoor for State Rep. campaign misattributed the Fairfield DTC as the sender. We’d like to clarify that the Fairfield DTC did not pay for this texting campaign nor were we aware of its content until reading of it in the media. The Fairfield DTC and Nick Kapoor’s State House campaign engage a common vendor who utilized a peer-to-peer texting tool that had been used by our DTC for the November 2020 campaign cycle. The attribution was not updated for this 2021 special election text campaign.
The crafting of campaign messaging and strategy is the purview of a candidate’s communications team, and the Fairfield DTC has not been involved in the messaging for the Kapoor campaign. While it is absolutely true that Registered Republican Bill Furrier is the only candidate in the 112th race endorsed by the Independent Party, and while we agree that conservatives who believe in constitutionally limited government and fully opening up our state regardless of CDC guidelines may want to vote for him, we have and will continue to encourage voters to support Nick.
If you live in the 112th district and have not voted yet today, we encourage you to get to the polls before they close at 8pm and vote for Nick Kapoor. He will be a smart, effective, fiscally-responsible, pro-education advocate for the 112th district and will bring a science-based, data-driven approach to the challenges we face in Hartford.
The Sun asked Sheinberg if the first line of the post, “We have learned that a recent text message sent by the Nick Kapoor for State Rep. campaign misattributed the Fairfield DTC as the sender,” was based on knowledge that the Kapoor campaign sent the text or an assumption.
Sheinberg said everything was based on assumption and declined further comment beyond the Facebook post.
‘A bad taste’
Monroe Republican Town Committee Chairman Sean O’Rourke was asked for his thoughts on the SEEC complaint.
“At the end of the day, we’re really just looking for fairness and transparency and hopefully the state will change some of the rules on this,” he said. “I’m not implicitly accusing any party, but there does seem to be some inconsistencies with the stories.”
A call to Monroe Democratic Town Committee Chair Patricia Paniccia, asking if she wanted to comment on the issue, was not yet returned.
“This is about future elections,” Scott said. “There are new technologies coming out every day. This is about next election and every one after that. We should all be playing on the same transparent, level playing field. I hope the SEEC takes action on these types of tactics moving forward.”
Scott said that goes for all races, from governor on down.
Condon said it all comes down to two questions, whether or not the text represented deceptive campaigning from the Kapoor campaign, or if the Fairfield DTC was getting involved in Monroe and Newtown’s election.
“The complaint will hopefully bring the truth to light or, more importantly, bring about a policy change, like requiring attributions,” Condon said.
If the April 12 campaign text had attribution, he said “it would just be politics.”
“But it left a bad taste in our mouths,” Condon said. “We didn’t want to just say, ‘we are winners.’ It’s about keeping elections as honest and sincere as possible. At the end of the day, an official investigation of this needs to happen. What we heard on social media and from the campaign seems conflicting. We just want an answer.”
“I’m happy they decided it was something worth looking into,” Condon said of the SEEC. “We didn’t want it to seem like throwing stones. We wanted to make a reasonable request and it’s a good thing they saw it that way. I’m looking forward to seeing what the investigation shows.”