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Senate Majority Leader

Bob Duff

Representing Norwalk & Darien

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Looney, Duff & Abrams Shine Light on Anti-Public Health Dark Money

Evidence Raises Numerous Questions about Funding for the Anti-Vaxxer Movement

HARTFORD – Today, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), and Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee Mary Daugherty Abrams (D-Meriden) released information and raised several questions regarding the groups funding and supporting the anti-public health movement against vaccinations. The three groups in question are Informed Choice Connecticut, Health Choice 4 Action, and The Connecticut Freedom Alliance.

These three entities have been actively participating in, and seeking to influence, the Connecticut political process. They have active social media presences, have purchased billboard advertising, created professional websites, and have distributed paraphernalia such as stickers and posters at legislative hearings on House Bill 5044 and other meetings at the State Capitol and in the Legislative Office Building.

Additionally, these organizations have been accused of busing in protesters to the State Capitol and paying people to attend rallies and events in Hartford.

Together, these expenses easily surpass the $3,000 threshold for requiring an entity to file with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics.

All three organizations are also soliciting donations online.

"Transparency is critical to an honest and effective public policy process," said Senator Looney. "We know foreign governments are fueling public dissent in America on health care. We know that out-of-state people are trying to influence Connecticut's discourse on public health. The public deserves to know who is funding these groups that are actively lobbying legislators to endanger the health of our children."

"These are professionally organized and operated entities seeking to influence the legislative process in Connecticut," said Senator Duff. "With massive foreign operations funding the anti-vaxxer movement to undermine the public health of our nation, the public deserves to know how these organizations are being funded. Not only should these organizations be following state law and filing with the Office of State Ethics, but they should be providing financial records demonstrating the dark money fueling their efforts to harm Connecticut's public health."

"When citizens shared concerns about the funding of these groups, I began to question where the money for websites, booklets, and billboards, to name only a few of the apparent financial expenditures, was coming from," said Senator Abrams. "These organizations claim to be grassroots and/or non-profits, but upon further investigation are not registered as such. We have laws that require transparency, especially when finances are involved; people, including lawmakers, have the right to know who is spending money to influence legislation."

Two of these organizations, Health Choice 4 Action and Informed Choice Connecticut, have not filed ethics statements as required under state law. The other organization, The Connecticut Freedom Alliance, only filed paperwork with the Office of State Ethics 48 hours ago, on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

"During my entire career in public service I have worked hard to stand up for those who do not have a voice," said Sen. Looney. "There are countless immunocompromised children and their families who could not attend public hearings to advocate for increasing Connecticut's vaccination rates because of health risks. We are here to say that we hear you and we will fight for you in the face of irresponsible efforts to ignore the needs of children whose lives depend upon a high level of herd immunity and vaccination compliance."

"All the facts show Connecticut must increase vaccination numbers to protect public health," Sen. Duff continued. "Democrats on the Public Health Committee stood up to the bullying and constant threats by these anti-health care organizations. The people of our state deserve to know where the money is coming from to prop up this small but vocal group."

"With the backdrop of our current concerns regarding the coronavirus, it is imperative that we address the rise in non-medical exemptions from childhood immunizations," said Sen. Abrams. "Non-medical exemptions among enrolling kindergarten students have increased from 455 to 1,469 over ten years; the trajectory of this trend is a public health concern. We have over 100 schools in our State that fall below the immunization rates required for community immunity, putting our State and our children at risk for an outbreak of disease. Some of these diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, pertussis, mumps, and measles, have long been under control, but could resurface like we recently experienced with the measles outbreak last year. While I acknowledge that individual rights are important, they cannot supersede the safety of our children. This opinion has been upheld for a century in our courts, including the Supreme Court."

Informed Choice Connecticut, according to records at the Office of the Secretary of State, was registered in Woodstock by Leeann Ducat on May 30, 2019 and dissolved the LLC on December 31, 2019.

Health Choice 4 Action describes itself as "a registered 501(c)(4) organization" which "is leading the lobbying/education efforts within the state in opposition to bills introduced this legislative session pertaining to vaccines and exemptions for school" according to the group's website at https://www.healthchoice4actionct.org/#homepager.

The Connecticut Freedom Alliance, according to records at the Office of the Secretary of State, was registered in Ridgefield by Dawn Jolly on October 19, 2019 and is still an active LLC.

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