M. Lisa Moody, Governor Rell’s longtime chief of staff, finds herself in ethics trouble today following revelations by the Courant that her actions in distributing invitations to a fundraiser to state commissioners violated her boss’s self-imposed campaign ethics standards, and quite possibly state ethics rules.
…Rell's top aide violated her boss's own ethics policies by handing out fundraiser invitations to top appointees on state time at the Capitol.
Chief of staff M. Lisa Moody also directed those appointees, the governor's commissioners, to distribute the invitations for a big fundraising reception last week. That was less than two months after Rell publicly reminded commissioners that it is against the law for them to solicit campaign contributions.
Despite the prohibition against commissioners and deputies soliciting contributions, Garfield said, state election laws do not ban a person in Moody's position from handing out fundraiser invitations in a state building on state time.
But Rell's own self-imposed rules clearly apply to what Moody did. On Oct. 19 … the governor's special ethics counsel, Rachel Rubin, issued a detailed list of policies and prohibitions for all agency heads and their deputies. First on the list: "State employees shall not engage in any political activity during regular working hours unless during lunch or while on approved leave."
The memo also stated: "State employees shall not use state funds for political activity. This includes the use of the office." (Lender)
Moody claims that she didn’t know she was violating ethics rules, and others in the Rell campaign, including the governor herself, say they were unaware of Moody’s actions.
I don’t believe the first. Moody has been around the Capitol for a long, long time, and is known as someone who pays a lot of attention to detail. She’s also one of the people who is primarily responsible for cultivating the governor’s image as a squeaky-clean reformer. She should know ethics rules for the state and for her boss’s campaign backwards and forwards.
As for the second…
Officials in Rell's campaign said they were unaware of Moody's actions, including finance director Peggy Deschenes, who was listed on the invitations as the person to respond to. (Lender)
So if Moody (and probably others) knew what she was doing, why take the risk? The answer, in all likelihood, has to do with the looming end of the fundraising reporting period. Rell’s own ethics rules make it nearly impossible to raise as much money as her Democratic opponents, but Moody must be under enormous pressure to deliver respectable numbers. The Rell campaign so far has seemed very willing to bend their own rules, which could eventually backfire on their candidate.
The elections enforcement commission, the same one that gave Rell a pass on campaign materials created too far ahead of the date of her official announcement, needs to make a good faith effort to get to the bottom of this.
There should be consequences for Moody, if Rell wants her image to remain untarnished. At the very least, the governor should consider whether having the same person run both her Capitol and campaign operations is in her best interests.
Lender, Jon and Edmund Mahoney. "After Rell Draws Ethics Line, Aide Crosses It." Hartford Courant 14 December, 2005.