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It appears that Peoplegate is over. As controversies go, this was more amusing than substantive.
To recap - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last Saturday attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Once an event that provided a rare chance for the president and White House officials to mingle socially with the journalists reporting on the presidency, and take a few good-natured satirical pokes at one another, it has of late become a star-studded event with more celebrities and fewer journalists.
Being neither a member of the White House staff nor a correspondent, Gov. Malloy would seem to come closest to the celebrity category. It may be appropriate, then, that People magazine paid for his trip and appearance. What motivated the magazine remains a mystery. How symbolic of current reader priorities, however, that in an age when print magazines devoted to news and substance approach extinction, a magazine dedicated to fluff, gossip and entertainment so flourishes that it can afford to bankroll gubernatorial hobnobbing.
Republicans, not surprisingly, charged that the arrangement violated state ethics regulations. Since People magazine is not a lobbyist, or seeking business with the state, or regulated by it, the payment would not appear to run afoul of the conflict of interest rules. Another rule, however, restricts gifts to no more than $100, yet there are exceptions that might apply.
In any event, the deal was tacky and showed poor judgment by the governor. To accept such an arrangement from a celebrity magazine so he could attend a popular Washington soiree suggests a lack of seriousness and desire for self-aggrandizement. It was un-gubernatorial. But it hardly rises to the level of scandal.
A spokesman for the governor said he accepted People's largesse to "advance Connecticut's interests" at the event and "relieve the taxpayers of the cost." Frankly, we don't believe it was the state's interests being advanced. And Gov. Malloy could have better relieved taxpayers by not going or by paying his own fare.
In the end, after Republican outcries, Gov. Malloy did wind up paying his way. Wanting to move past the dispute, he wrote a personal check Thursday for $1,234.62 to reimburse People magazine.
We wait to see if People devotes any reporting to this political soap opera or if it will simply be including yet another photo spread.