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Connecticut Post

Auditors begin probe of Rell’s use of taxpayer-funded study

By Ken Dixon STAFF WRITER He said that one of 200 recommendations “It’s important work,” Dautrich said,
Updated: 10/08/2009 was for the state program to divert adding that the focus group cost $2,200
unclaimed bottle deposits that for 30 years of the $100,000 spent interviewing state
HARTFORD -- State auditors on reverted to beer and soda distributors. commissioners and others involved in
Thursday began investigating the role Another was to reduce the state motor public policy.
a University of Connecticut professor fleet by 1,000 vehicles. Both programs
played in running a focus group and were adopted. But Democrats immediately charged Rell
advising Gov. M. Jodi Rell on political with using state resources for political
positions that she later took, including a Rell, in a statement Thursday afternoon purposes.
tough stance this year against new taxes. from her Capitol office, said Dautrich’s
duties for the state Office of Policy and Speaker of the House Christopher
Robert G. Jaekle, of Stratford, one of Management were confined to preparing G. Donovan, D-Meriden, and Senate
Connecticut’s two auditors of public a two-year budget proposal. Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-
accounts, said that Thursday reports in New Haven, said in an afternoon news
The Day newspaper of New London on “I am very pleased with the work that conference in the Capitol complex they
Professor Kenneth Dautrich’s role in Rell’s Ken Dautrich did to define issues for were “disappointed” and “extremely
political strategy prompted the probe. reducing state spending, working with concerned and disturbed” by the
agency commissioners to identify areas governor’s apparent tactic.
“I’ve learned about this from a newspaper where savings could be achieved, and
article,” Jaekle said in an interview. providing insight and new ideas as we “We’ve been trying to put a budget
“That’s all I know. I anticipated concerns struggled -- and continue to struggle -- together and we’ve been looking for a
raised by people. I don’t know what the with the most difficult budget situation in partnership with the governor to try to
facts are. We’ve started reviewing this modern memory,” Rell said. “We worked deal with our severe economic downturn,
matter.” very hard to ensure that the work he did and what we find difficult to swallow is
and the questions he asked were policy- that while we’re doing this and trying to
Rell’s budget office contracted Dautrich, based, dealing with budget, spending and figure out what’s best for the state the
a professor of public policy, for more taxing issues.” governor is employing a consultant to
than $220,000 to conduct a two-and- give her political advice on how to make
one-half-year study of ways to make The Day reported Thursday, first in its decisions based on political advantage
state government more efficient. But the print edition and later on its Web site, that over the budget,” Donovan.
newspaper quoted Dautrich, a former Dautrich ran a focus group that reviewed
long-time UConn pollster, as admitting the governor’s budget and policy outlines. Donovan said that officials have to find
that he advised Rell on potentially out how much of the taxpayer-funded
popular positions with state voters. “I don’t think opinion should drive $220,000 grant was diverted for political
decisions, but at a minimum should be purposes. “It seems that at least these
The advice Dautrich exchanged with Rell taken into account and the governor documents associated with the study
and M. Lisa Moody, the governor’s chief should take the lead in shaping it,” should be accounted for and shared with
of staff, had potential value of thousands Dautrich wrote in an e-mail to Moody the state of Connecticut,” Donovan said.
of dollars, though Rell didn’t claim it in June 2008 that was among dozens
in her state campaign-finance filings. reviewed by the newspaper. “A set of polls “Why were there questions asked about
Connecticut law also prohibits state can be very useful in this regard.” Attorney General Blumenthal in this,
employees from using state resources for because he’s not someone who has a
political purposes. Another Rell staff member, in an e-mail specific role in the budget process?”
exchange with Dautrich, speculated Looney said. “That really does put it more
Dautrich, in an interview Thursday on the relative popularity of Attorney in the context of an electoral campaign
evening, said the project, which is about General Richard Blumenthal, a potential kind of poll.”
halfway through and has spent $100,000, Democratic challenger against the
has created “important” research for the Republican governor.
state and has already resulted in millions
of dollars in savings.