Democratic State Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo and Mary Glassman, candidate for lieutenant governor, called Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s fundraising pledge into question Thursday claiming Rell had failed to live up to her promise not to take money from lobbyists and state contractors. Rell’s campaign spokesman Rich Harris said all 8,536 campaign donations were screened before the checks were cashed and none of the donors are lobbyists or in charge of signing state contracts.
DiNardo said Scientific Games, which has a $3 million state contract to supply instant tickets for the Connecticut Lottery Corporation, gave $7,500 to Rell’s campaign. She said Rell also received a $2,500 contribution from Diane Wilson, who is the chief financial officer of Vertex, a company hired by the state to provide $11 million in printing services. She estimated that Rell accepted $180,000 of these types of contributions. “Jodi Rell is the say-one-thing-and-do-another governor,” DiNardo said. Glassman said while it’s perfectly legal for Rell to accept these contributions it’s “wrong” for her not to tell the public she’s going to accept them. “Candidates need to lead by example,” she said. But it may be difficult for DiNardo and Glassman to smear Rell’s squeaky clean image. Harris said “the governor is thrilled this issue has come up.” He called the Democratic attack “pathetic.” More specifically he said Paul Manafort is not a lobbyist, he’s retired. DiNardo said he was a Virginia lobbyist who runs the lobbying firm Davis Manafort, which represents SBC. In addition Harris said none of the contributions from Vertex’s top executives were from employees responsible for signing the state contract. So even though they are in charge of their companies, all the top executives who donated to the campaign, have nothing to do with state contracts their companies receive? So if the chief executive officer has a lawyer in the office to sign the contract then the CEO is free to donate to the campaign, right? Harris acknowledged that to be the case in an interview at the Legislative Office Building Thursday. The governor’s standard is stricter than those included in the campaign finance reform law that was recently passed and goes into effect next year, Harris said. And what do executives like the Chief Financial Officer of United Technologies Corporation or the Chief Operating Officer of Mystic Aquarium expect when they contribute to Rell’s campaign? “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think he’s getting anything,” Harris said.So does average Joe citizen know the difference between an executive for a company and the lawyer in the purchasing department that signs the contract with the state? “I think they do,” Harris said. “I think we’ve made that standard clear.” But there is still a few unanswered questions about some of the donations, such as the $775 donation by Eugene Sheehan, president of Sullivan and LeShane, a public relations and lobbying firm. While Sheehan manages the public relations side of the firm, his resume includes work on Mirage Resorts’ $900 million proposal to build an entertainment complex with casino gaming in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The other lobbying half of the firm just happens to represent an Indian tribe that was looking to build their casino in Bridgeport. Rell has been found to have direct ties to the citizens group and lobbying firm fighting against the tribe every step of the way. Could Sheehan have been contributing to Rell’s campaign to get her to back off their client? Does $775 buy influence?