Gov. Dannel P. Malloy moved today to shortcircuit controversy over People magazine paying his way last weekend to the White House Correspondents' Dinner by personally reimbursing the magazine.
"To remove a needless distraction when there are far more important public policy issues to deal with, Gov. Malloy has made the decision to personally reimburse People Magazine for the costs of his attendance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He has written a personal check for $1,234.62," said his spokesman, Andrew Doba.
The governor's office did not retreat, however, from its insistence that the gift fell within bounds, despite a complaint Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, that Malloy had run afoul of ethics rules.
"We are confident that People Magazine's payment would have been proper under Connecticut's ethics laws," Doba said. "The governor attended the event in his official capacity and used the opportunity to advance Connecticut's interests. The governor's office accepted People Magazine's gift in order to relieve taxpayers of the cost. Instead of shifting the cost to the taxpayers, the Governor is personally paying the cost."
As part of his defense, Doba essentially made the case that his boss is that annoying guy at the cocktail party who corners you about the really interesting elements of the JOBS Act.
"First, during the event, Gov. Malloy engaged in substantive discussions with numerous senior officials," Doba said. "To note just a few discussions among many, he talked with Small Business Administrator Karen Mills about Connecticut's Hurricane Sandy relief plan and small business investment programs under the JOBS Act, talked with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer about the strategy for pursuing federal gun control legislation, and talked with Congressman Steve Israel about proposals for the establishment of a regional infrastructure bank.
"And Gov. Malloy promoted Connecticut's economic development agenda in discussions with numerous business and media leaders.
"Second, there's a reason that Connecticut's ethics law allows those who do no business with the state to pay the costs of events that advance the state's interests. The alternatives are to make taxpayers pay costs unnecessarily, or to limit the governor's active advocacy on behalf of Connecticut on the basis of his own private personal resources. We would rather decrease costs to taxpayers. And we don't believe that personal wealth should be a pre-requisite for the governor's active promotion of this great state."
The announcement today is consistent with the administration's past handling of controversy: Shut it down fast, either with an apology or other corrective action.