Would you be more likely to vote for a candidate who gave you coupons? Election officials in Connecticut have been asked to investigate whether that’s even allowed.

Democrats in the town of Trumbull have filed a complaint against David Rutigliano, a Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives. When not running for office, Rutigliano runs a local restaurant. And his opponents say he’s been handing out $5 off coupons while campaigning.

“He’s promoting his business and his business is promoting him,” state Democratic chair Nancy DiNardo complained to the Trumbull Patch. “I’m constantly promoting my business,” Rutigliano retorted to the Connecticut Post. But he claims it has nothing to do with his campaign – the coupon is printed on the back of his business cards. “If I’m out and about and someone mentions they like SBC,” he says of his Southport Brewery Company restaurants, “I’ll say `Thank you very much,’ and give them a card and tell them to come see me again.”

His opponents aren’t buying that. “I am disappointed that Mr. Rutigliano felt that he had to resort to these tactics to try and win a race,” DiNardo tells the Post. Under state law, businesses cannot spend money on state representative races, and candidates cannot spend their own money when accepting public financing. DiNardo accuses Rutigliano of doing both in this case – using his business’ money, in the form of coupons, to influence the race.


That, ultimately, is the crux of the complaint – that handing out coupons during the course of a political campaign may violate campaign finance rules. Not that it’s unseemly or just plain wrong. So if Rutigliano didn’t own the company whose coupons he’s handing out, perhaps there wouldn’t be a problem at all. Which makes one wonder how easy it might be for any political candidate to lock up the savvy saver vote: “Vote for me, and please enjoy these coupons for $1 off Tide detergent.”

Participants in the internet forum TRUMBULLchat first questioned the tactic more than six weeks ago and helped bring it to DiNardo’s attention. But commenters were divided on whether campaigning with coupons was something to be concerned about. “I believe it would be illegal for a candidate to go around town giving out $5 bills,” said one. Another added, “I really don’t think Mr. Rutigliano would truly try to buy votes with $5 [coupons]. If so, wow, votes are cheap in Trumbull.”

“This is a political move by a desperate campaign trying to make me look bad. I’m not doing anything wrong,” Rutigliano told the Post. Speaking to the Trumbull Times, he added, “If they think that’s a political advantage, I’d be happy to give some cards to my opponent and he can give them out too.”

Election Day is a month away. Given the publicity Rutigliano and his restaurant have gotten, it seems that he may have already won – even if he loses.

Image source: daver123.com


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