The city council is considering a resolution that would prohibit campaign contributions from city contractors to candidates running for mayor, council, board of education, registrar of voters or treasurer.
Councilman Luis Cotto introduced the resolution Monday, saying it comes at an appropriate time given former Mayor Eddie A. Perez's recent conviction on corruption charges.
"There's a fine line between bribery and what I would call legal bribery. We have to nip it in the bud," Cotto said.
He pointed to Carlos Costa, who is facing charges of bribery and tampering with evidence in connection with Perez's case, as an example of a contractor who has contributed to a political campaign or helped with fund-raising for a candidate.
Cotto said his proposed ordinance would define city contractors to include individuals, business entities and nonprofit groups that have agreements or contracts with the city, the Hartford Parking Authority, Hartford Housing Authority or board of education. People who have submitted bids or proposals to obtain an agreement or contract would also be included.
"Monetary contributions are a legitimate form of participation in our political process, but the financial strength of certain individuals or organizations should not enable them to exercise a disproportionate or controlling influence on the election of candidates," the resolution states.
The ordinance would ban contributions from city contractors to candidates, exploratory committees and political and party committees. It was referred Monday to the council's legislative affairs committee for review. Cotto said it could take the panel several weeks to decide on the matter.
This is the second time Cotto has raised the issue. It came up previously just after Perez's arraignment on extortion charges, but was withdrawn due to a lack of support from council Democrats, Cotto said.
Councilman Matthew Ritter, chairman of the council's legislative affairs committee, said he plans to seek a legal opinion from the city's corporation counsel and also write to the secretary of the state's office and the Connecticut Election Enforcement Commission to find out if the council has the authority to draft an ordinance banning campaign contributions from city contractors.
"It's an interesting idea. There's no reason to think it wouldn't work for the city," Ritter said.
He said his committee would likely take up the matter sometime in August, after members have received the necessary opinions.
In the meantime, the public will have an opportunity to comment on the issue at a public hearing July 19. The hearing will be held in council chambers on the second floor of city hall, beginning at 7 p.m.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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