HARTFORD — Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy reimbursed People magazine $1,234.62 on Thursday for being the publication’s guest at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner after a potential gubernatorial rival questioned whether the trip violated ethics laws.
Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said the governor, a Democrat, wrote a personal check to reimburse the magazine ‘‘to remove a needless distraction when there are far more important public policy issues to deal with.’’
Senate minority leader John McKinney, a Republican from Fairfield, issued a news release on Wednesday claiming Malloy violated state ethics law by allowing a corporation to pay for his trip. People, which invited Malloy as a guest to the annual soiree, is owned by Time Warner Inc.
McKinney called on Malloy to provide all documents and correspondence pertaining to his trip to Saturday’s annual gathering of journalists, government officials, politicians, media personalities, and celebrities.
Doba said Malloy’s administration is confident the magazine’s payment would have been proper under Connecticut’s ethics law, saying Malloy attended the event in his official capacity as governor. Malloy’s legal counsel, Luke Bronin, said Wednesday that the governor’s office has been told a nonrestricted donor — someone who is not a lobbyist, seeking business with the state, or regulated by the state — may pay for a public official’s travel expenses to events that ‘‘facilitate state action or functions.’’
‘‘The governor’s office accepted People magazine’s gift in order to relieve taxpayers of the cost. Instead of shifting the cost to the taxpayers, the governor is personally paying the cost,’’ Doba said.
In a statement Thursday, McKinney recognized that Malloy had begun the process of making amends by reimbursing the magazine.
‘‘But he and his staff continue to set a bad example for elected officials and state government by defending his actions,’’ he said. ‘‘His dismissive attitude toward state ethics laws sets a dangerous precedent.’’ McKinney said he is looking forward to the advisory opinion from the Office of State Ethics that Malloy’s office requested Wednesday.
While McKinney downplayed Malloy’s official role at the event, likening it ‘‘talking up Connecticut over champagne and hors d’oeuvres,’’ Doba said the governor ‘‘engaged in substantive discussions with numerous senior officials.’’ Doba ticked off a list of conversations Malloy had on Saturday, including a discussion of Connecticut’s Hurricane Sandy relief plan with small business administrator Karen Mills.