The day after a state Senate leader questioned whether Gov. Dannel P. Malloy violated state ethics laws when he attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner as a guest of People magazine, the governor's office has released a statement saying Malloy will reimburse the money.
“To remove a needless distraction when there are far more important public policy issues to deal with, Governor Malloy has made the decision to personally reimburse People Magazine for the costs of his attendance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He has written a personal check for $1,234.62," Malloy's director of communication, Andrew Doba, said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Republican who is considering a possible run for governor in 2014, on Wednesday called on the Democratic governor to provide documents and correspondence pertaining to his trip last weekend, which McKinney said is estimated to have cost at least $1,000.
McKinney said that's a "clear violation" of the law. State ethics rules prohibit any public official from accepting gifts in excess of $100 a year from a non-restricted donor.
“We are confident that People Magazine’s payment would have been proper under Connecticut’s ethics laws. The Governor attended the event in his official capacity and used the opportunity to advance Connecticut’s interests. The Governor’s Office accepted People Magazine’s gift in order to relieve taxpayers of the cost. Instead of shifting the cost to the taxpayers, the Governor is personally paying the cost," the statement from Doba says.
“But let’s be clear about two things," the statement continues. “First, during the event, Governor Malloy engaged in substantive discussions with numerous senior officials. To note just a few discussions among many, he talked with Small Business Administrator Karen Mills about Connecticut’s Hurricane Sandy relief plan and small business investment programs under the JOBS Act, talked with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer about the strategy for pursuing federal gun control legislation, and talked with Congressman Steve Israel about proposals for the establishment of a regional infrastructure bank. And Governor Malloy promoted Connecticut’s economic development agenda in discussions with numerous business and media leaders.
“Second, there’s a reason that Connecticut’s ethics law allows those who do no business with the state to pay the costs of events that advance the state’s interests. The alternatives are to make taxpayers pay costs unnecessarily, or to limit the Governor’s active advocacy on behalf of Connecticut on the basis of his own private personal resources. We would rather decrease costs to taxpayers. And we don’t believe that personal wealth should be a pre-requisite for the Governor’s active promotion of this great state.”
Malloy told reporters on Monday that he sat at the same table on Saturday night with actresses Amy Poehler and Jessica Pare.
Here is the complete statement Malloy's office released on Wednesday:
Governor Malloy was invited, in his official capacity, to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner by People Magazine. The Office of the Governor has received past guidance from the Office of State Ethics indicating that a non-restricted donor (as opposed to a restricted donor) may make payment for expenses that public officials may incur to travel to events, attendance at which will facilitate state action or functions. Governor Malloy’s attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner provided an invaluable opportunity to advance Connecticut’s interests. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a unique gathering of senior Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and business and media leaders from around the country. The Governor’s Office could have paid for Governor Malloy’s trip to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Since People Magazine, a non-restricted donor with no business with the State, offered to relieve the Connecticut taxpayers of that expense, the Governor’s Office accepted the invitation. Out of an abundance of respect for Connecticut’s ethics laws, the Governor’s Office will seek a formal advisory opinion of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board.