Big stories of 2009: Gov. Rell's pollster

The most closely held secret in Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office over the past year wasn't a policy proposal or a tax hike. It was the fact that a University of Connecticut pollster, Ken Dautrich, was helping the administration shape its political messaging.

Dautrich's advice came in extensive e-mail correspondence with Rell's chief of staff, Lisa Moody, and included both tips on upcoming political maneuvers of legislative Democrats, and analysis of recent public poll results. Dautrich's own research on behalf of Rell, including a focus group that gauged voter opinion of budget reform and strategy, was being paid for as part of a $223,000 publicly funded project in which the professor also examined the structure of state government in search of savings.

When the pollster's project came to light, Rell at first denied having received any political advice from Dautrich. But his analysis project was put on hold. And two investigations are pending about the administration's relationship with Dautrich, one by state auditors and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the other by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

- Ted Mann

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