Photo courtesy of Facebook
Jonathan Pelto (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A former Democratic lawmaker turned consultant filed a formal complaint against Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s exploratory campaign Tuesday afternoon claiming it failed to properly report the contributions of University of Connecticut professor and pollster Ken Dautrich.

The state Elections Enforcement Commission complaintfiled by Jonathan Pelto alleges a handful of possible violations, including the campaign’s failure to report Dautrich’s alleged in-kind contribution regarding a poll conducted in May 2009.

In May 2009 Rell’s exploratory committee hired Braun Research of Princeton, N.J. to conduct a poll. Records show the campaign paid $6,000 for the poll, which was a bargain compared to what it had paid in the past years for polls.

During Rell’s 2006 re-election campaign she paid $29,000 to Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va. to conduct a poll. Her opponent that year, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, paid $32,000 and $26,000 on polls.

It’s still unclear at the moment if Dautrich wrote the questions for Braun to ask voters or how much if any analysis he provided on the completed poll.

Dautrich was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening.

The controversy over Dautrich’s involvement with the campaign comes on the heels of the news that the governor approved a $223,000 contract with UConn to retain Dautrich for a study of state government. Dautrich’s contract with the state started in 2008, prior to the governor’s February budget address, and ends in 2010. The goal of the two-year project is to help give Rell’s administration guidance on making state government efficient.

But it may be difficult for some to believe Dautrich was able to separate his work for the state with his work for the campaign.

The $223,000 contract gives Rell access to “an extremely experienced, well-known and much sought have political advisor and pollster,” Pelto said.

In-turn, Pelto wondered if the contract was in fact a way to get “tens of thousands of dollars worth of advice and information, none of which was paid for or reported, as required on campaign finance reports.”

Since a formal complaint has been lodged with the commission it will begin an investigation and will seek to determine if Rell’s exploratory committee did receive any illegal in-kind contributions from Dautrich.

Rell told reporters last week that she doesn’t believe the analysis Dautrich provided her qualifies as an in-kind contribution. According to state election laws in-kind contributions are not allowed to exceed $375.

If the commission determines Dautrich’s analysis was worth more than $375, then Rell’s campaign may be asked to pay a fine.

Elections enforcement officials were unable to comment on the complaint Tuesday and said only that they had received it. They refused to comment on if the issue, which was raised by Rell herself, was already under investigation. Rell has said that she would ask her campaign treasurer to ask the state Elections Enforcement Commission.

The state Elections Enforcement Commission complaint is the third investigation regarding Dautrich’s work for Rell. 

Last week the Auditors of Public Accounts in conjunction with Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is investigating whether tax dollars were used for anything other than state purposes. And UConn’s Office of Audit Compliance and Ethics is determining whether Dautrich violated its code of ethics which prohibits political activity on the job.