Courtesy of CT-N
Robert Patricelli and Jim Smith co-chair the Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth (Courtesy of CT-N)

HARTFORD, CT — The Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth, which was formed to come up with recommendations on how to improve Connecticut’s stagnant economy, released information Tuesday about the $300,000 in donations that made its research possible.

CTNewsJunkie reported last week that the commission created a nonprofit organization in November 2017 called Connecticut Rising Inc. in order to raise money for its efforts.

Until Tuesday it was not clear how much money had been raised or who had contributed to the nonprofit since the Internal Revenue Service only requires that information to be reported annually.

In a statement Tuesday, Robert Patricelli and James Smith, co-chairs of the commission, said “it had always been the commission’s intention to include the donor list, including the amounts donated, as part of our report to be released on March 1.”

They said given the inquiries from the press they decided to accelerate the release of the information.

The Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, Webster Bank, and Yale University each gave $100,000 to help pay for economic consultants and communication experts.

The financial and budget consultants being paid with the funding include McKinsey & Company, Millstein & Co., and Cain Associates. McDowell Jewett Communications was hired to handle communications.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, suggested last week that if the 14-member commission didn’t release the information about their donors then its recommendations will carry less weight.

“Embracing transparency by providing the names of donors and amounts will allow the public to know who is funding their efforts and determine whether the commission’s outcomes were preordained,” Looney said.

The information about the donors backing Connecticut Rising, Inc. was released the same day that two organizations filed a Freedom of Information request with the commission and the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee that’s been staffing the group.

The two organizations — Common Cause in Connecticut and the Connecticut Citizens Action Group — requested correspondence, emails, meeting minutes, and contract language the group might have adopted as part of their agreements to hire the consultants.

“The Commission is conducting business on behalf of the state and has been granted extraordinary power — it is imperative that it operates with maximum transparency,” Tom Swan, executive director for the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said. “Secret agreements and hidden money are a dark reminder of the corrupt days of the Rowland administration and cannot be tolerated.”

Swan argued that all of the work the group has done is subject to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws.

Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said the “secrecy of the Commission is a reminder of the corrupting influence of money in our political process and the dangers of letting corporate interests buy policy.”

The commission has four days to respond to the request, which they received Tuesday afternoon.