Dems raise issue with Frey taking lobbyist money

Updated 4 p.m. ET, Nov. 5 —Reports that State Representative John Frey (R-111) used lobbyist money to pay for travel expenses to and from national Republican events has stirred up Ridgefield Democrats hours before the midterm elections.

Citing an article in the Hartford Courant published in June 2017, Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee Chairman Alex Harris raised questions about Frey taking what he called “tens of thousands of dollars” from “lobbyists and special interests” to pay for travel expenses to Republican events in his role representing Connecticut on the Republican National Committee.

Frey has been a member of the Republican National Committee since 2007. The incumbent has represented Ridgefield's 111th district for two decades, and is defending his seat against Democratic challenger Aimee Berger-Girvalo in Tuesday's election.

"This election comes down to two factors, and neither of them are on the ballot tomorrow," said Frey Monday, Nov. 5. "The two factors are Donald Trump and [Governor] Dannel Malloy. Local Democrats have tried to tie me into Donald Trump  because they don't want the focus to be on Dannel Malloy and how he's run our state into a ditch...

"Donald Trump was not my first choice for president and he wasn't my second or third choice, either," added Frey. "His personality is cringeworthy but I can't control our president ... We are so dissimilar and I think that comes across immediately to anyone who's ever met me or worked with me ...

"When Governor [Jodi] Rell asked me to serve on the RNC during the Bush administration, she chose me because she wanted someone who was in the middle of the road — someone who is a voice of reason, and I think that's what I have been," Frey said. "I represent everybody when I attend RNC events, regardless of political affiliation. And in my role there, I've been able to help a lot of different groups of people."

Leadership Connecticut PAC — a political action committee — reimbursed Frey for over $15,000 in travel expenses between January 2017 and September 2018, federal records show.

Harris did not accuse Frey of gathering or using funds illegally.

All of the travel expenses reimbursed to Frey and donations to Leadership Connecticut PAC reviewed by The Press were listed publicly on the Federal Election Commission’s website.

"The local Democrats would rather put out press releases about a story from 18 months ago than answer questions about Governor Malloy and his attempted ECS cuts last year — cuts that would have directly impacted Ridgefield," Frey said. "And my opponent is completely mum on the subject — where was she when our governor was trying to slash our budget? I fought those cuts and won."

'Questionable practice'

Harris took issue with a donation to the PAC that came from Purdue Pharma, makers of Oxycontin, a leading opiate-painkiller that has been at the center of the opiate crisis.

“Accepting money from that company” against the backdrop of the opiate crisis “is a questionable practice,” Harris said. 

“I think the thing here is this is a state legislator who is supposed to be our representative sitting on committees and taking votes that might have serious impacts on the clients of these special interests,” said Harris.

He added that Frey is “taking thousands of dollars to basically take vacations,” which “raises a clear question of conflict of interest and who he represents.”

The PAC also donated $1000 directly to the Ridgefield Republican Town Committee on Sept. 6 2017, records show.   

In a press release Friday, Nov. 2, Harris also drew attention to a endorsement for Frey from the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee, a group that opposes abortion. The institute is also tied to the Family Research Council, a national conservative Christian organization that has opposed legislation that supports LGBTQ people.

Harris said Frey’s “active solicitation” of the institute’s endorsement is “appalling.”

“Each of these revelations about Mr. Frey is, in and of itself, sufficient to question his fitness to represent Ridgefield voters in Hartford.” said Harris.

“The combination of the two solidifies the conclusion that John Frey no longer represents the best interests and values of Ridgefield and that voters should not return him to Hartford.”