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Malloy Fund-Raising Machine In High Gear

If you are a lobbyist or the client of one, watch for a consumer alert warning of a political fundraising shakedown. You may get squeezed for as much as $100,000. The squeezer is one-time campaign finance reformer Democratic and Working Families Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

It's been done around the country under the guise of the Democratic Governors Association or DGA. This one lands in Hartford in December, though at least one operative is said to be here working the field on behalf of Malloy. Here's how it works. The DGA announces a winter policy conference in Hartford. It starts on the evening of Dec. 3 with a reception at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and ends 21.5 hours later at the Hartford Hilton.

The evening is hosted by Malloy. A recent description of the event promises Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell will also attend. You can be a platinum sponsor for $100,000. Gold will set you back $50,000 and silver $25,000. You can shame yourself as a general sponsor for $10,000.

A fundraiser from the DGA has been calling lobbyists, some of whom have never spoken with Malloy, and making appointments for the governor to call. It will do you no good to resist. Malloy himself wants to put the squeeze on. Malloy calls at the appointed hour and mentions he's been looking over the lobbyist's client list. Then he makes the pitch for getting some of those clients to pony up some corporate dough for Malloy's Hartford event.

In campaign fundraising, it takes a lot to offend Connecticut's lobbyists. Malloy's heavy-handed tactics, however, have caught their attention. Even they are offended by what they hear as the silent language of implied menace attending Malloy's solicitations.

The calls may not be producing the harvest of pledges Malloy expected. Malloy's DGA helper, Angel Combs, sent an email last week inviting marks to an Oct. 31 luncheon at a Hartford law firm with Malloy and Richard Sullivan, DGA major donor chairman, "to talk about the upcoming conference as well as benefits of DGA membership."

The invitation to the lunch asks lobbyists to "invite any clients that may consider sponsorship." Some of those clients might be state contractors. We are learning Malloy's price. He proclaimed the virtues of the state's taxpayer-funded campaign financing scheme during his 2010 gubernatorial bid. "The people of Connecticut overwhelmingly support spending limits in campaigning, and so do I." No more.

Malloy signed legislation that raised limits on contributions to state party committees. Those committees will be able to donate unlimited amounts to candidates receiving public funds. Taxpayers will now foot much of the bill while the influence of special interests Malloy once decried is now welcomed, indeed sought, in financing his campaign. He's obliterated the point of public financing while forcing the public to underwrite campaigns with millions of dollars.

The DGA is an important part of the campaign funding maze the unpopular Malloy hopes will lift him to victory in a year. Private and public polls show the public is not enamored with the snarler in chief. To alter a phrase he used on the state workers who plow snow from our roads, he's not the only one who knows how to be governor. Plenty would argue that he knows little of how to do the job and continues to fail at the task.

Money may help Malloy blur his record and confuse voters. The DGA will be able to spend vast amounts on Malloy. It keeps track of which governors bring in specific contributions. A big haul in December will likely come back to Malloy in 2014 in DGA spending to bolster his grim prospects.

There's danger for Malloy in following the course he's set. There are plenty of state contractors among the clients of the lobbyists he's pressuring for donations to the DGA's December event. State government under Malloy spends more than it ever has. Crony capitalism, debts and favors, are in fashion.

Malloy has been putting the screws to donors to hand over checks in amounts that have nothing to do with public spirit. Those contributions are about gaining advantage through making political payments. Malloy is in for a jolt. The public understands how it works and will not have trouble connecting the dirty dots.

Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at kfrennie@yahoo.com.

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