State contractors and the people who work for them can make donations to Connecticut’s government and quasi-public agencies, but they can’t talk about them.
In 2006, the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board held that lobbyists, state contractors and businesses regulated by state and quasi-public agencies cannot make donations to these agencies.
A 2007 law reversed the ruling partly because of fears it would damage the University of Connecticut’s ability to raise money.
The same law bans sharing information about these donations, making it a new offense under the ethics code. State contractors and people seeking state contracts cannot:
With the intent to unduly influence the award of a state contract, provide or direct another person to provide information concerning the donation of goods and services to a state agency or quasi-public agency, to the procurement staff of any state agency or quasi-public agency or a member of a bid selection committee.
This statute further complicates the controversy surrounding former Speaker of the House Tom Ritter’s already complex relationship with the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, a legal client of his.
Ritter is a lobbyist with the firm Brown Rudnick.
As a quasi-public agency, CRRA is prohibited by law from hiring a lobbyist.
Recent media accounts have criticized Ritter for acting as a CRRA’s “municipal liaison,” questioning whether the agency’s $7,000-per-month contract with him is to disguise his what he is really doing – lobbying.
Ritter advertises that he has done pro-bono lobbying on behalf of the city of Hartford on a landfill issue that benefits CRRA.
He said he doesn’t believe the statute prohibiting communication about donations to state agencies applies to his situation.
“We can publicize, if we want, any pro bono issues that we work on. Also, while the Courant says that I did pro bono lobbying for CRRA, the major matter that is referenced is the Hartford landfill matter. I was retained by the City of Hartford for that issue, which I did pro bono to help my City,” Ritter said in an email.
Ritter received a legal opinion authorizing his lobbying on behalf of Hartford in 2006, after the ethics opinion banning gifts by regulated individuals and before the legislature modified that ruling and added the new statute.
Information about Ritter’s relationship with CRRA has come out amid a lawsuit against the quasi-public agency filed by Tremont Public Advisors, a firm that bid against Ritter for the CRRA contract but did not receive it.
According to emails between Ritter and CRRA director of public affairs Paul Nonnenmacher, obtained by Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, Ritter has, on at least two occasions, included this pro bono lobbying on a list of his CRRA duties.
“After an opinion from Ethics, I was hired pro bono by the City and was able to get $5,000,000 in the bond package–$3,000,0000 of which we have already received,” Ritter wrote Dec. 14, 2011.
“I still talk with OPM about the money for the landfill. As you recall, since CRRA cannot have a lobbyist, I was a pro bono lobbyist (with ethics comm. approval) to lobby the State for money for the closure,” he wrote on Oct. 4, 2009.
Nancy Nicolescu, spokeswoman for the Office of State Ethics, said “there have been no public resolutions” related to this specific statute since it became effective in 2007.