Thursday, December 14, 2006

Election Fraud and Obstruction of Justice out of a Connecticut Governor's Office?:

POLITICS

Report: Top Rell Aide `Misled' Committee

December 14, 2006
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING And JON LENDER, Hartford Courant Staff Writers
Gov. M. Jodi Rell's chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, "misled" a legislative committee by giving sworn testimony that was "not credible" regarding a Rell fundraiser last year, according to a draft copy of a new legislative report.

The report, obtained Wednesday by The Courant, also says that state elections enforcement chief Jeffrey Garfield should face "some form of reprimand or censure" because he deleted important information from an investigative report and released the unedited version only after hearings were completed last spring.

Garfield "exhibited poor judgment and allowed personal relationships to impact his investigation and reporting" of the investigation into Moody's involvement in a Rell fundraiser in December 2005 at the Marco Polo restaurant in East Hartford, the report says.

Neither Moody nor Garfield would comment Wednesday night.

The report, written by Democratic staff members and leaders of the government administration and elections committee, will be considered at a Democratic caucus at 1 p.m. today at the state Capitol complex in Hartford. The document contains 16 recommendations for legislation in an effort to prevent future instances of impropriety and coziness that Democrats said was present in the case.

Moody was suspended by Rell for two weeks after admitting that she handed out invitations to commissioners on state time. Her actions led to seven days of often-contentious legislative hearings in May. Sixteen of Rell's commissioners or deputies were fined $500 each to settle a case under a state law that prohibits those officials from soliciting campaign contributions from their subordinates.

The 14-page report quotes Moody as telling at least one senior staff member, "I am not twisting your arm, but I am," regarding the fundraiser.

The report also states that Moody told one deputy commissioner that "this meeting isn't happening" and another that "it's after 5" - meaning that the workday was officially over for state employees.

Republicans on the committee have complained bitterly that the Democrats were conducting a witch hunt against Moody and had failed to investigate other Democrats for similar campaign-finance violations. The Democrats said they had an obligation to investigate serious allegations regarding the governor's office. The Democrat-written report is strongly worded against Moody.

"Based on the entire record before this committee, we conclude that Ms. Moody's sworn testimony before the GAE Committee was not credible," the report states. "We conclude that Ms. Moody consciously and repeatedly distributed fundraising invitations to gubernatorial staff members and to state commissioners and deputy commissioners with full knowledge that her actions violated the governor's own ethics policy and would result in illegal campaign practices."

Republican committee member Rep. Robert Farr harshly criticized the draft.

"I guess the Democrats didn't realize that the election is over," the West Hartford lawmaker said. "Why are they still running their campaign? Why in the world would you be doing this after the election is over? My assumption was there wasn't going to be a report. To have the report come out and attack Lisa Moody six months after she testified is ridiculous."

The Republicans, Farr said, had been kept in the dark on the issue by the committee's Democratic majority.

"How do we get a copy of the report?" Farr asked.

Moody's actions and the committee hearings were highly publicized, but Rell's poll ratings never suffered. She defeated New Haven Mayor John DeStefano in November's election 63 percent to 35 percent.

Although Moody was investigated, she was never prosecuted by Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane, who ruled in September that "there is no evidence that would support a criminal prosecution" on charges of perjury or other lesser offenses. Kane had studied whether Moody perjured herself on May 16, when she testified at a legislative hearing that she did not fully read an ethics memo that it turned out she had edited.

The draft report makes numerous recommendations, including prohibiting the chief of staff of any governor or the legislative caucuses from soliciting campaign finance contributions. The chiefs of staff for the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem, for example, are highly powerful and can help ensure that certain phrases are inserted into legislation that even many lawmakers don't know about during the crush of legislation at the end of the session.

Other recommendations are:

Strengthening the law to prohibit state employees from delivering fundraising materials on state time.

Clarifying the law about unclassified employees, such as Moody, regarding their use of state phones, copiers and computers for political activities.

Creating a new law that would prohibit the State Elections Enforcement Commission's executive director from being involved in the settlement of any cases.

Strengthening the laws regarding contempt of the General Assembly and interference with investigations.

Mandating that the campaign treasurer - not the campaign manager - must serve as the main contact person for a campaign.

Requiring that the campaign manager's name be added to registration forms filed with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The draft report is subject to review and change by the Democratic committee caucus today. Sources said the report, which is signed by Rep. Christopher Caruso, the committee co-chairman, and Vice Chairman Sen. Edward Meyer, was the result of the collaboration of several people.

Reached Wednesday, Meyer declined comment. Caruso said he would not comment on the details until he meets with the caucus. Caruso, a Bridgeport Democrat, said that no Republicans had seen the draft and that the Democrats had been asked to keep the report confidential. He was surprised that the draft had been released, asking, "How did you get it?"

The full committee is to hold a public meeting to discuss the report on Dec. 21, when the panel is expected to vote on the recommendations.

The report calls for Garfield's censure or reprimand because his investigation report deleted certain facts that the committee never knew about until after the hearings were closed. That included deleting the chief state's attorney's "interview notes" from two investigators who had spoken to Rell late last year, and deleting all references to DPUC Commissioner Anne George, "who kiddingly referred to Ms. Moody as `John Rowland.'"

The reference to George, an attorney, came up because then-gubernatorial aide Dan Moreland was said to have told investigators that when Moody handed George the fundraiser invitations, George responded, "Are you nuts?" George then told Moody, "OK, John Rowland" - a reference to the former governor who served a federal prison sentence on a corruption-related charge.



Contact Christopher Keating at ckeating@courant.com.

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