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Lobbying Relationship Exposed and Questioned

December 3, 2007

The Connecticut State University System last month celebrated a major legislative accomplishment when the governor signed into law a 10-year, $1 billion bond program.

While the final plan had broad, bipartisan support, plenty of legislative negotiations were involved, as is typical for a major bond package. On Sunday, a columnist for The Hartford Courant revealed that the main legislative lobbyist for the university was having an affair with a key legislative backer of the package while the bonds were being considered.

State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, who is chair of the Education Committee and Vice Chair of the Higher Education Committee, reached at home Sunday, declined to comment to Inside Higher Ed. Jill Ferraiolo, who heads the university system's government relations operation, did not respond to e-mail or voicemail messages. But a spokesman for the university system confirmed the relationship between the two.

The column quotes from e-mail messages between the two that establish both their relationship and their reactions to various lawmakers who questioned parts of the bond package. The columnist, himself a former legislator, does not say so in print, but via e-mail said that he used state Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain the e-mail.

According to the column (and confirmed separately in the case of the university), leaders of the State Senate and of the university did not learn of the nature of the relationship until after the bond measure was debated. The state ethics office issued a finding to both the senator and the university -- after inquiries into the relationship started -- finding no violations of the ethics code because Ferraiolo is not a family member of Gaffey's and the senator didn't receive "any benefit" from the bond measure's approval.

Kevin Rennie, the columnist, wrote that the ethics issues did not go away just because Connecticut's ethics code doesn't view romantic relationships outside of marriage as being relevant. "This kind of relationship, as is recognized throughout our land, clouds judgment. People involved in such entanglements end up serving each other rather than their constituents," he wrote.

 

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