By PAUL HUGHES
HARTFORD—A small band of Republicans is hoping to cultivate a grass-roots organization to grow its variety of conservatism in Democrat-leaning Connecticut.
Rep. Robert C. Sampson, R-Southington, Wolcott, and Sen. Joseph C. Markley, R-Southington, and like-minded friends created a charitable organization in December to promote their shared vision of personal liberty, economic freedom and limited government.
The fledgling Connecticut Liberty Caucus will pursue this agenda through a combination of public education and political action.
“We want to make sure there is somebody out there making a case for true conservative principles,” said Sampson, the group’s executive director.
He said the small group is determined to become a bigger force in state politics and government.
“We all said that we’re not going to do this unless we go all the way,” Sampson said. “We are very concerned about the direction of the Republican Party as well as our state and our country.”
He said organizers believe the fundamental principles of the Founding Fathers are still found in the core tenets of the Republican Party, but they see a troubling drift away from those basic ideals.
Markley said organizers want to encourage Republicans to hash out what the GOP ought to stand for as a party.
The Connecticut Liberty Caucus is planning on making endorsements for the 2016 elections for state legislature, the U.S. House and Senate, and president. Sampson and Markley were unsure if the group would endorse any candidates for the April 26 presidential primaries.
Status as a 501(c)(4) organization allows the group to raise money anonymously because the IRS does not require these nonprofits to report who is giving them money, as political action committees must do in federal and state finance filings.
A group with gross receipts of at least $200,000 or assets worth at least $500,000 must include a list of names and addresses of contributors who give over $5,000 in its annual IRS filing.
Markley is the CLC’s fundraising director. The group’s chairman is Sean Cleary of Wolcott, who was political director for Republican Tom Foley’s 2014 campaign for governor. Its treasurer is his half-brother Scott Cleary, who has served as Sampson’s campaign treasurer.
Brock L. Weber of Bristol is vice chairman. Rebecca Michlin of Southington, a member of the Republican State Central Committee who has worked on Sampson’s and Markley’s campaigns, is secretary.