Asked about his party's aggressive fund-raising tactics in recent months, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the standard to apply is "whether we're compliant with the law, and we'll hold ourselves to that standard."

But a $10,000 contribution in October to the Democrats' state account by Edward Snider, CEO of Comcast-Spectacor, might not meet Mr. Malloy's standard.

The state Democratic Party has decided to return the money after Republicans questioned its legality.

A little research and common sense might have avoided this embarrassment.

Mr. Snider wrote his check six months after his company's subsidiary, Global Spectrum, was chosen to operate the XL Center in Hartford and Rentschler Field, the UConn football stadium in East Hartford. The two facilities are owned by the state and overseen by the quasi-public Capital Region Development Authority, arguably making Mr. Snider a state contractor. Some $1.8 million in state bonding for improvements to the XL Center is being voted on Friday.

Mr. Snider's $10,000 contribution was challenged by Connecticut Republican leaders, and for good reason. State contractors may not donate to a party's state campaign treasury. Mr. Snider claims not to be a state contractor, and his firm is not on a list of contractors banned by state law from giving to a party's state account. But it should be, since it's managing state facilities.

A recent Connecticut Mirror analysis of Democratic fundraising found that at least 30 percent of individual donors to the state party did business with the state as state contractors, recipients of state economic-development assistance, employees of regulated industries, or lobbyists.

It isn't just a Democratic game, of course.

Even if such contributions are on the up-and-up, with no quid pro quo expected or delivered, they plant the suggestion that the pay-to-play ethic is at work.