It might be the most expensive hotel buffet ever served in Hartford: Access to a breakfast with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a Democratic Governors Association conference Wednesday requires a sponsorship of at least $10,000 or a company membership at one of the association’s two premium levels, priced at $100,000 and $250,000.

Malloy, who is counting on a signficant boost from the association as he runs for re-election next year as one the nation’s four most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, plays host Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning to 120 executives and lobbyists, most representing companies and trade groups that have contributed generously to the Democratic governors’ group, the DGA.

The DGA’s annual Winter Policy Conference opens Tuesday evening with a two-hour cocktail party at the Wadsworth Atheneum, followed by a half-day conference Wednesday at the Hilton Hartford. The policy conferences are members-only events, and the DGA offers corporate and union memberships costing between $10,000 and $250,000.

The conferences, which provide access to governors and sometimes to their staffs, are one of the benefits that the DGA and the Republican Governors Association offer as they raise money from corporations and unions that cannot give directly to candidates.

Both groups spent heavily on the Connecticut gubernatorial election narrowly won by Malloy in 2010: The DGA spent $1.78 million; the RGA, $1.6 million. Spending was even heavier on competitive races in 2012, as the DGA and RGA each spent more than $7 million in New Hampshire.

In 2014, voters elect governors in 36 states, including Connecticut and every border state: New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Connecticut and Rhode Island are two of the nine states, only four of which now have Democratic governors, expected to have competitive races.

Malloy has been raising money for the Democratic governors” group and the Connecticut Democratic Party, both of which can make unlimited, independent expenditures to support him or attack the Republican nominee. Malloy’s own campaign will be limited to maximum contributions of $100, if he participates again in the state’s voluntary public financing program.

The DGA raised $13.8 million through June 30. Its donors ranged from unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers, to the nation’s largest retailer, the decidedly non-union Walmart. A national AFT political committee contributed $150,000, while Walmart gave $260,000. Both groups are on the list of expected attendees for Wednesday.

The union will be represented by Melodie Peters, president of AFT-Connecticut, or her first vice president, Stephen McKeever. Walmart is sending its New England spokesman, Chris Buchanan. According to a posting on a Walmart site, Buchanan dined last month at the home of Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts at a DGA event to benefit the re-elections next year of Govs. Peter Shumlin of Vermont and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

The Hartford conference has an emphasis on health care policy, and a list of attendees obtained by The Mirror shows a presence by pharmaceutical companies and the industry trade group, PhRMA. In the first six months of 2013, PhRMA gave $300,000 to the DGA, according to IRS records. Other attendees include representatives of GlaxoSmithKline, Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Pharma and three Connecticut companies, Alexion, Boehringer Ingelheim and Purdue Pharma.

Malloy, Shumlin, Patrick and Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware are attending a series of panel discussions Wednesday. All but Patrick are scheduled to attend the cocktail party, which is open to all attendees.

All four governors will be at the more exclusive “seated buffet breakfast” at the Hilton, open to conference sponsors and representatives of companies that are members of the “Chairman’s Board” ($100,000) or “Founders’ Circle” ($250,000). Sponsorships for the Hartford conference are offered at $10,000, $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000. They will provide purchasers access to other DGA policy conferences.

Connecticut companies are prominently featured at the four policy discussions, including two of the five recipients of major economic aid packages under Malloy’s First Five program: Cigna, $71 million; and Alexion, $51 million.

Vanessa Proctor, the senior director of Global Government Affairs for Alexion, is on a panel titled, “Creating Jobs through Medical Innovation.” Two other state pharmaceutical companies, Boehringer Ingelheim and Purdue Pharma, also will be represented.

Chris Hocevar of Cigna is on a panel titled, “Innovations to Create Jobs in the 21st Century.”

Northeast Utilities is one of the power companies listed as a participant on a panel discussion on disaster preparedness that will be moderated by Jim Hodges, a former governor of South Carolina who now advises clients on energy issues for McGuireWoods Consulting.

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Mark PazniokasCapitol Bureau Chief

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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