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SEIU throws $50,000 into tight legislative races

With less than two weeks before the Nov. 3 election, the SEIU Connecticut State Council contracted with public affairs firm, Grossman Solutions LLC, for $50,000 worth of mail and digital advertising to support labor-backed candidates in Connecticut’s legislative races, according to filings with the State Elections and Enforcement Commission.

The money was spent backing Democratic Senate and House candidates in tightly contested districts where the 2018 elections were sometimes decided by only a couple hundred votes.

The union’s independent expenditures supported Jorge Cabrera, a union organizer who narrowly lost his 2018 election bid to Sen. George Logan, R-Ansonia, by 85 votes, and Rep. Rick Lopes, D-New Britain, who lost a 2019 special election to Sen. Gennaro Bizzarro, R-New Britain, by 453 votes and is trying again for the seat.

SEIU’s expenditures also backed House of Representatives candidate Stephanie Thomas, who lost her 2018 attempt to unseat Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, by 361 votes, and Rebekah Harriman-Stites, who narrowly lost her 2018 election bid to Mitch Bolinksy, D-Newtown, by 122 votes. 

Lavielle announced that she will not seek reelection this year. Thomas is running against Patrizia Zucaro of Westport.

The SEIU State Council also spent money backing former East Haven Mayor April Capone to replace out-going Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Senate candidate Jack Perry, who faces incumbent Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wallingford.

Thus far, SEIU is the only union political action committee to make an independent expenditure this election cycle, attempting to secure greater majorities for Democrats, particularly in the Senate.

However, other union PACs, like the Connecticut State Employees Association PAC and Connecticut Health Care District 1199 PAC, have put thousands into the Working Families Campaign Committee and the Connecticut Majority Team PAC during this election cycle.

SEIU was very active during the 2018 election, putting over $1 million behind electing Gov. Ned Lamont. 

Although union PACs are required to report independent expenditures to the State Elections and Enforcement Commission, unions do not have to report any political spending related to communicating with their own members.

SEIU Connecticut State Council says they have 65,000 members in the state and have actively been holding protests and campaigns to increase taxes on Connecticut’s wealthy residents, including taking out television advertisements.

However, according to social media posts, other unions have been volunteering their time to door-knock and phone bank. 

AFSCME Council 4 indicated their members and staff were passing out literature and working in phone banks “to help elect pro-labor candidates to the state legislature.”

According to AFSCME, the door-knocking and phone banks were member-to-member only, meaning it does not have to be reported. AFSCME is a member affiliate of the AFL-CIO, which boasts over 250,000 members in Connecticut.

Grossman Solutions markets itself as a public affairs firm based in Hartford and Washington D.C. specializing in progressive campaigns for labor unions, nonprofits and progressive organizations.

The firm received a paycheck protection loan between $150,000 and $350,000 in April of 2020, according to CNN.

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