Scandal with a twist

Former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell worked with a Democratic legislature in developing the state's public campaign financing law - The Citizens' Election Program (CEP) - to address the corruptive influence of money in politics.

Now money flowing out of the CEP is the focus of a federal corruption probe. Talk about irony.

To qualify for public financing, candidates for state office must demonstrate broad support by collecting a large number of small donations. The intent is to free candidates from soliciting big money from special interest groups. This leaves them, in theory at least, beholden only to voters.

Now, however, a federal grand jury is looking at whether campaign work, paid for with hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds provided to candidates under the CEP, was illegally directed to select businesses. Ken Dixon, a veteran political reporter for the Connecticut Post, reports that federal investigators want to determine whether anyone received "finder's fees" from businesses - in other words kickbacks - to push campaign money their way.

Last Thursday George D. Gallo, chief of staff for House Republicans, resigned after acknowledging he is a person of interest in the probe. Federal investigators have been asking questions at the Legislative Office Building. Subpoenas delivered to the House Republican Campaign Committee, the House Republicans office and a GOP political action committee, seek "any and all documents" involving Mr. Gallo and staff members.

Investigators are looking at companies in Florida and Ohio that have received a lot of money from Republican legislative candidates to print and deliver the fliers and other campaign materials that flood homes during election time, but so far no allegations have been lodged against the businesses.

Legislative candidates receive much advice from party officials on how and where to spend the campaign cash they get from the state. House candidates qualify for grants up to $27,000. Mr. Gallo is a major player in the state Republican Party who managed the 2002 campaign of Gov. John G. Rowland (forced from office and imprisoned one year for receiving illegal gifts) and he served as party chairman while Gov. Rell was in office.

It is too soon to say whether laws were broken. However, the questions the investigation raises are troubling. If individuals manipulated public campaign finance money to enrich themselves illegally, they should face prosecution to the full extent of the law. Try as it might, the state cannot seem to escape its "Corrupticut" label.

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