Blumenthal wins challenge to former outside counsel policy

John O'Brien Aug. 17, 2009, 4:15pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - A federal appeals court has dismissed a challenge to a former Connecticut policy that forbid outside counsel who were performing work for the attorney general to make campaign contributions to any candidate for the office.

Former attorney general candidate Martha Dean, a Republican, challenged the policy in 2002. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Tuesday declared her argument moot because the policy has not been enforced in six years and isn't expected to be re-implemented.

Dean claimed the policy, which Blumenthal began including in outside counsel contracts in 1995, deprived her of her right to collect contributions.

"In light of (1) the undisputed fact that the contractual bar is no longer in effect, (2) the Attorney General's consistent and voluntary conduct over an extended period of time in not enforcing the contractual ban, (3) his removal of the challenged contractual language based upon his belief that legislation has 'wholly and permanently' rendered the challenged practice unnecessary, (4) his representations that he has no intention to re-implement the practice, and (5) his declining to re-implement the challenged practice despite a favorable ruling from the district court dismissing Dean's complaint, we conclude that Dean's requested relief for a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a cease-and-desist order are moot," the opinion says.

Before Election Day in 2002, Dean filed her complaint, and Blumenthal responded by suspending the practice one week before the election. The provision in his contracts read: "No partner, owner, director and/or employee, with managerial and/or discretionary authority, of the counsel may directly or indirectly make financial donations to any candidate for the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut during the course of this agreement."

Blumenthal continued to refuse donations from his outside counsel, the opinion says, despite suspending the policy. The suit had not been concluded by Election Day 2006, and Blumenthal kept the suspension going.

In 2005, the General Assembly passed legislation that prohibited contributions from state contractors and prospective state contractors to certain committees affiliated with attorney general candidates.

As a result, Blumenthal said the bar on contributions would be permanently superseded by the legislation. Blumenthal noted a difference between the policy and legislation, though.

His policy applied to all contracts, while the legislation pertained only to contracts worth more than $50,000.

The Court said it was not clear if Dean sued Blumenthal as an individual or as attorney general. It denied her claims for damages, declaring there was no constitutional right to collect campaign contributions established at the time of Blumenthal's policy.

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