(Updated 7:30 p.m.)Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered few details about his fundraising trip to California last week, but insisted he meant to follow political finance laws while he was on the west coast.
Following an afternoon meeting, Malloy spent the entirety of a 12-minute press conference responding to questions raised by a fundraising trip he made to California last weekend to raise money for the state Democratic Party.
Details on the the governor’s trip have been sparse. Malloy’s office notified reporters of the travel Friday but directed all questions about it to the party. A spokesman for Connecticut Democrats said the party paid for Malloy’s expenses but declined to provide further details, saying it’s party “protocol” to not discuss fundraising events.
On Wednesday, Malloy declined to provide more details on where in California he was raising money.
“Talk to the party,” he said.
A statement from the party, released Wednesday night, did not provide any additional details about the trip. It said Connecticut Democrats would continue to “aggressively fundraise” going forward to contend with the millions they expect their opponents to spend in the next election cycle.
During the press conference, the governor did provide some response to statements by Sen. John McKinney, a Republican who is running for governor next year. McKinney released a statement Tuesday night questioning whether Malloy had contact with Lenny Mendonca while he was in California. Mendonca is a California Democrat who co-founded McKinsey & Company. Mendonca’s firm has received millions in contracts from the University of Connecticut over the last few years.
“The revelation that the governor met with a state contractor while on a fundraising trip for the Democratic Party raises a number of questions,” McKinney said. “If the governor was soliciting a state contractor, or his employees for political contributions, then he clearly violated the spirit of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, if not the laws themselves.”
Asked Wednesday, Malloy said he believed he met but did not solicit money from Mendonca.
“I think I did have contact with such a person but not in connection with raising — to the best of my knowledge — money for Democratic causes,” he said.
During the press conference Malloy stressed that he was in California raising money for Democratic causes and not for his own re-election campaign. Although he is widely expected to run next year, Malloy has not announced his intentions.
“I am not a candidate for governor,” he said. “I am not a candidate at this time. I may be at some future time. I’m not raising money for my campaign at this time.”
However, money the governor raises for the Democratic Party could have an impact on next year’s gubernatorial race as a result of changes Democrats made to the state’s public financing law this year.
With Malloy’s support, lawmakers passed a bill that increased the amount of money individuals can donate to state central committees and allowed the committees to donate unlimited cash to candidates participating in the state’s public financing system.
Proponents said the change would help candidates combat the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which allowed unlimited dollar amounts to be spent by outside groups.
Asked what transparency standards he would set in light of the party’s greater influence under the new law, Malloy said he would follow the law and make sure fundraising reports were filed on time.
“I think that’s a pretty high standard — all laws need to be followed and executed upon and all reports need to be filed in a timely fashion. That seems like what the statute lays out and that’s what we should abide by,” he said.
The governor told reporters to expect him to participate in more fundraising events.
“I’m a Democrat and I’ve raised money for Democratic causes all my life,” Malloy said. “. . . When we raise money, it is our intention to live by all the rules and that’s what we’re doing and if we discover that we haven’t at some future date, we’ll rectify that situation.”
Malloy’s California trip also prompted questions from another Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Wilton Sen. Toni Boucher, who requested state police records on the security costs of the travel.
In response to security questions, Malloy said it was a reality that he and most other governors have 24-hour protection. He said he and his office generally do not comment on security.
“Would I like some more privacy at times? Probably, I would, but when you’re in my position you turn yourself over to the people who are responsible for making you safe,” he said. “. . . I didn’t run for 24-hour protection. It’s something that comes with the job.”