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Besides his campaign, Lamont foots bill for transition

December 21, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — After pouring more than $12 million of his own money into his successful bid for Connecticut governor, Democrat Ned Lamont is now footing the bill for his transition.

The wealthy Greenwich businessman and cable television company founder, along with his venture capitalist wife Annie, expect to spend about $250,000 on the two-month changeover. The cost includes staff payroll and office expenses, said Lacey Rose, a spokeswoman for the Lamont’s and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Susan Bysiewicz’s transition organization.

“The Lamonts chose to finance the transition themselves without taxpayer funding,” Rose told The Associated Press. “They are committed to running a professional transition organization that will position the next administration to begin governing on day one.”

Lamont has also promised to forgo the $150,000 annual governor’s salary. In a July campaign TV ad, he also said he didn’t need a state car if he was elected. It’s unclear whether that will happen.

Other wealthy new governors have taken various approaches to fund their transitions. In Colorado, for example, Democratic Gov.-elect Jared Polis, who spent more than $21 million of his own money on his successful election, is allowed to use leftover funds from the campaign for the transition. His co-chairs and committee members are not being paid.

Both outgoing Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly didn’t originally envision the next governor-elect covering the cost of the transition between the two administrations. Malloy had included about $100,000 in his budget proposal, a figure the legislature reduced to about $20,000 during budget deliberations. Lamont has declined those state funds, opting to cover the full cost of everything from employee searches to a transition administration website . Many people helping Lamont with the transition have also volunteered their time.

“I am not surprised that he is not taking the transition money seeing that he self-financed for the campaign and the fact that he’s not going to take a salary as governor,” said state Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stamford, a member of the General Assembly’s Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee. “As a taxpayer, thank you.”

Rose said the Lamonts are not accepting individual or corporate donations for the transition, even though informal opinions by the State Ethics Commission from 1994, provided to Lamont and Bysiewicz, indicates a governor-elect’s transition organization can accept “funds, goods and services, without restriction as to source.” That’s because there’s a statutory exemption for “gifts which facilitate state action or functions.” However, if any registered lobbyists in Connecticut donate time to Lamont’s committee and are compensated by their employer, they must report it to the State Ethics Commission, just like any other gift to the state.

The opinions note how any funds donated as a gift to the state cannot be spent by the governor-elect or his staff for personal use. The gubernatorial transition organization is not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Lamont will be sworn into office Jan. 9. Rose said state law requires the state’s Military Department to oversee the inaugural activities, including the inauguration ceremony at the William A. O’Neill State Armory in Hartford. She said funds for the inaugural ball will come from ticket sales and corporate and individual donations, which are capped at $25,000. She said they’re also considered gifts to the state and are sent directly to the Military Department.

“No campaign or other political fundraising is associated with the inaugural,” Rose said, adding that contributions will help cover the cost of discounted tickets for younger ball attendees, people aged 21 to 25 years old.

The Hartford Courant reported Friday the ball will be open to the public and held at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Joe Scarborough, the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, will perform with his band. Actor Christopher Meloni, a friend of Lamont’s, will be the master of ceremonies. Tickets cost $200 apiece, or $99 for the younger people.

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This story has been corrected to fix the spelling and hometown of state Rep. Joe Gresko, D-Stamford, not state Rep. Joe Gresco, D-Bridgeport.

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