The governor’s school soda veto- and her longtime friendship with one of Coke’s lobbyists- opens a line of attack for her political enemies.
On the web site for Sullivan and LeShane, a leading lobbying firm at the state Capitol, the biography for Patricia LeShane lists one of her credentials as “campaign advisor to Lt. Governor M. Jodi Rell (R) during her successful primary race and three general election campaigns.“The women are also friends, according to a New York Times story published last January. That same story reported LeShane once threw a party for now-Governor Rell’s chief of staff M. Lisa Moody, and that Moody and Rell’s ethics czar, Rachel Rubin, attended a birthday party for LeShane last July. Moody and Rubin wrote checks to cover their refreshment costs, the Times reported, and Moody said LeShane would not have an advantage over other lobbyists. ‘‘It’s just social. People have a life outside the Capitol,” Moody told the Times.LeShane’s firm represents Coca-Cola, one of the biggest winners at the Capitol this week after Rell decided to veto a bill banning a wide variety of soda from Connecticut public schools. The relationship between the governor’s office and Coke’s leading lobbyist, then, offers a fresh line of attack for Senate President Donald Williams, the bill’s chief sponsor and a political enemy of the governor’s.“Sullivan and LeShane make no secret of their access and friendship to Governor Rell,” said Patrick Scully, Williams’s communications chief, adding that he has no specific knowledge of contacts from the firm on the soda bill.In fact, no such contact took place, said Rell spokesman Dennis Schain. The governor and Moody adhere to a policy against meeting with lobbyists, Schain said, and even though other members of the governor’s staff are allowed to take such meetings, on this issue none did. Instead, the governor’s staff met with groups like End Hunger Connecticut and the American Academy of Pediatrics, he said.“This is offensive,” Schain said, referring to the notion that the governor acted based on her friendship with LeShane. “The Governor took action based on what she believes and what she thought was the right thing to do. Her decision was based on her view of the substance of this bill and her long-standing concern for imposing requirements on cities and towns.“Scully retorts that the governor’s local control argument has no merit, because she signed another bill that requires schools to adhere to state standards on child allergies.