Sunday, September 21, 2008

What did Rell know, and when didn't she know it?


Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell (left) [my post on Moody's conduct], former Governor John G. Rowland (middle)

Rowland was up to shenanigan after shenanigan, taking bribe after bribe while LT. Governor M. Jodi Rell supposedly knew nothing, yeah right!

[click here] for the history of public corruption in Connecticut



M. LISA MOODY, the Governor's Chief of Staff, testifies before the Government Administration and Elections committee about her role in a controversial fundraiser to benefit the governor. (SHANA SURECK / May 16, 2006)

Chief Of Staff May Have Violated Rell’s Policy, Blumenthal Says
Report On Rell's Staff Chief Revives Ethics Issue

By JON LENDER | Courant Staff Writer
September 20, 2008


The attorney general has concluded that Gov. M. Jodi Rell's chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, used "state time and equipment" to provide an official state address list to Rell's 2006 election campaign for use in fundraising activities.

Moody "may have violated the governor's internal policy that prohibits her employees from engaging in political activity using state time and resources," said the report, released Friday after a 13-month investigation.

But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that because of a loophole in state laws, Moody violated no statute, and Rell "has sole authority to determine whether internal policy was violated." The law applies to civil service state employees, not political appointees.

The findings ended a lengthy probe, but reignited a controversy over Moody's second significant episode involving questionable fundraising activities on behalf of Rell, who has made ethics in government a constant theme during her administration.

"The governor can talk all she wants about public trust, and restoring faith and honor, but clearly that's not what is happening in her office," Democratic state Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said. "She's surrounded herself with people who have a total disregard for the higher standards that she's talked about."

Rell signaled no intent to discipline her powerful chief of staff, although she did say she would support closing the loophole the Blumenthal report mentions.

"The complaint that triggered this investigation was motivated solely by partisan politics," she said in a statement. "The mailing list is a public document, available to anyone — and the Attorney General's Office agreed. I determined long ago there was no violation of my office policy, and this report shows there was no violation of state law."

After the first episode, Moody was suspended for two weeks in December 2005 for calling state agency commissioners and other top Rell administration appointees to the governor's office and handing them bunches of tickets to a Rell campaign fundraising event at the Marco Polo Restaurant in East Hartford. She asked them to distribute them to subordinates at their state agencies.

In February of 2007, when the issue involving the address list became public, Rell's legal counsel and ethics adviser, Anna Ficeto, had initially said the governor's staff was unaware that the list — which contained the addresses of the leaders of nonprofit arts and tourism organizations — was used for any political fundraising.

But in May of last year, Rell's 2006 campaign manager, Kevin Deneen, presented with questions by Democratic legislative leaders, acknowledged that Moody provided him with a list from a computer disk containing the names of the arts leaders. Those leaders were sent fundraising solicitations on behalf of Rell, reminding them that the governor had only weeks earlier announced a new $10 million ``Cultural Treasures" program to support arts groups.

Critics called Rell's office's initial denial of knowledge an outright falsehood and referred to the political use of the addresses as a pressure tactic on state-dependent arts and tourism leaders.

Blumenthal's new report filled in details of how the governor's office used the address lists to raise money for Rell.

"Ms. Moody testified she performed work for the governor's election campaign as an unpaid volunteer, but only during non-state work hours and not in her state office," Blumenthal wrote. "She explained that she had a separate cellphone she used for campaign business, and when she engaged in campaign activities during the workday, she used vacation or other leave."

But Blumenthal said in his report that an aide in the governor's office e-mailed the names and mailing addresses of more than 5,000 people and organizations to Moody's state office e-mail account and that Moody or "someone at her direction" used state equipment to copy the addresses to a disk.

GOP State Chairman Chris Healy criticized Blumenthal's conclusions, saying, "Never has so much been wasted for so long for so little result. Dick Blumenthal's 13-month inquiry demonstrates why he has outlived his usefulness."

The controversy's roots go back to Aug. 16, 2006, when Rell announced the new $10 million arts program in a public event hurriedly arranged in an apparent attempt to beat Rell's Democratic gubernatorial opponent to the punch.

In the days afterward, a Rell aide asked the state's arts agency to provide him with its list of addresses of community arts leaders, saying the governor's office wanted to follow up with the agencies to build support for its arts programs.

But Blumenthal found that the list was used for campaign fundraising. Only in March 2007 — long after the election, and after questions were raised publicly about the possible campaign-related misuse of the addresses — did Rell's office use the list for nonpolitical purposes.

Contact Jon Lender at jlender@courant.com.

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