Volunteer Attorney Says Parties Have Same Legal Issues As Businesses
As the new general counsel for the Connecticut Republican Party, Michael Goldfarb sees the volunteer position as something beyond politics. Even though he supports the GOP in the state and is chairman of the Connecticut Young Republicans, the Murtha Cullina trial lawyer said his assignment is simply to advise his client on matters of law. In that way, he said, being the GC for the GOP is very much like being an in-house lawyer for a corporation.
"My business litigation experience translates into this job in many ways, since political parties operate like businesses," Goldfarb said. "There are contracts, employment issues and laws regarding organizational governance, just like in any business."
Goldfarb said the many legal issues that come up for a lawyer representing any political party combine a mix of business transactions and advocacy. "A lot of what you do is make sure everyone involved in campaigns knows what the law is," he said.
Those legal challenges are expected to be even more lively in the next election cycle, especially with the chance for a 2014 rematch of the 2010 governor's race between Republican challenger Tom Foley and Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy.
According to the latest polls from Quinnipiac University, Foley leads the potential Republican primary field with the support of 36 percent of the voters, followed by state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney at 11 percent. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is third with 8 percent among registered Republicans.
At a recent Republican National Committee meeting, Chairman Reince Priebus stressed a desire for the GOP to regain "the foothold in New England that they by and large lost in recent years." Adding to the underlying pressure of helping his client, the party as a whole, gain that foothold, Goldfarb said the campaign finance laws were recently changed to allow statewide parties to contribute more money to individual candidates. As a result, Goldfarb said he expects there will be more legal challenges and questions about financing in specific campaigns.
"Some of those questions will be simple, and some will be more complicated, such as looking at the certain types of limits that are imposed on campaign contributions," he said. "For instance, lobbyists have limits and are barred from certain contributions. I'll be working to make sure all contributions that our members collect are appropriately accounted for."
Across the aisle from Goldfarb is Jonathan A. Harris, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Democratic Party. Kevin Reynolds is the state Democratic Party's general counsel. In the capacity of GC, Harris said Reynold's primary role is to "answer questions on election law, voter protection issues and rules of order for committee meetings."
Goldfarb started his business litigation practice after he graduated from law school at St. John's University in New York. He spent three years in California working for a large firm and then moved back East to take a clerkship with Justice Peter T. Zarella of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Joining Murtha Cullina in 2010, Goldfarb immersed himself involved in many volunteer and pro bono efforts. Since 2011, Goldfarb has been volunteering his time working with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, assisting veterans with landlord tenant legal issues and criminal defense. Goldfarb is also an elected member of the Connecticut Bar Association's House of Delegates, which is the policy-making body of the CBA.