Hugh McQuaid Photo
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday that “somebody made a mistake” when the Democratic Party accepted a $10,000 donation from a state contractor, but he dismissed the “pay-for-play” allegations the incident has drawn from political opponents.

A Democratic spokesman said Wednesday night that the party would be returning an August donation from Edward Snider, whose Pennsylvania-based Comcast Spectacor is the parent company of the state contractor that operates the Hartford XL Center and Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

State law prohibits state contractors and lobbyists from contributing to state party accounts. The contribution made news this week as the state is poised to borrow $1.8 million to fund capital improvement planning for the Hartford XL Center.

Malloy downplayed the significance of the donation and returned check after an unrelated event Thursday. He said such errors were not exclusive to Democrats.

“Obviously a mistake was made. In this case the Democratic Party and in other cases the Republican Party or leadership PACs, that sort of thing, have returned money from time to time and that’s what’s appropriate from time to time,” he said.

However, Republicans have said the donation proves Democrats have not followed the legal standard they have set for fundraising. In a Wednesday statement, Republican gubernatorial hopeful and Senate Minority Leader John McKinney said Democrats need to answer more questions on the donation.

“Returning the donation they accepted illegally does little to dispel the perception that there is a ‘pay for play’ system alive and well in the governor’s office and the State Democratic Party,” he said.

A television reporter asked the governor Thursday whether he could assure the public that companies the state has given money to are not being “shaken down” for contributions.

“First of all, I had nothing to do with this contribution,” Malloy answered. “So let’s just start with the reality. But, yeah, absolutely. I could do that.”

The controversy over the donation also led to calls to delay approving the $1.8 million in state bonds to pay for improvements to the XL Center. Malloy defended the importance of the project and said it was tied to the prospects of returning “big time hockey” to Hartford.

“There’s a lot of loose lips running around on this issue. I’m doing my best to bring ‘big time hockey’ to Connecticut. We have to make improvements to that facility if we want to” see hockey played there, he said. “No apologies. We need to turn that facility around.”

The $1.8 million in funding is needed by the end of the year in order to meet the project’s timeline. The project is scheduled to begin in March and conclude by next October to accommodate the 2014 hockey season of the Hartford Wolf Pack and UConn hockey teams, according to a press release.