HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — As another legislative session comes to a close, the News 8 Investigators uncover how Connecticut politicians spend their last weeks – sometimes their last hours – before taking seats in the capitol.

Recent campaign finance records from the State Election Enforcement Commission reveal that both Democrat and Republican politicians held fundraisers to raise contributions from lobbyists in the weeks before session began on Feb 2.

“I have yet to actually talk to anybody about a particular topic, a particular subject, or a particular bill at one of these,” Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said. “It’s just social.”

These fundraisers highlight the remaining ties between Hartford’s lobbyists and politicians, despite election reforms that significantly changed their relationship in 2005. Lobbyists have since faced restrictions on their financial contributions. In the aftermath of the former Gov. John Rowland scandal, who was sentenced to federal prison for corrupt political acts, a series of campaign finance reforms were instituted in the state by his successor, Gov. Jodi Rell. Some of those reforms include a ban on lobbyist contributions during session as well as a maximum contribution amount of $100 from a registered communicator lobbyist, or a person who receives payment to influence public officials.

Campaign finance records show that both Democratic and Republican political committees held fundraisers just before the sessional ban would kick in, raising thousands of dollars from lobbyists.

“If they think they’re buying influence, they’re sorely mistaken,” said Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, of lobbyists who attended the fundraiser that her Republican committees hosted just a few hours before session began. Their fundraiser took place at the Officer’s Club in the Armory, just steps away from the legislative building. The event brought in over $5,200 dollars from lobbyists.

The Democrats held at least two fundraisers in the week before session, on Jan. 26 and Jan. 27. Both were held at Salute, a restaurant across the park from the capitol. Lobbyists gave them $8,100 at these events.

Although these fundraisers are legal, some government watchdogs think that political influence is at stake.

“The question is not whether or not someone can be bought for a certain amount of contribution,” said Evan Preston, director of ConnPIRG, a consumer advocacy group. “The question is whose voices matter the most as someone who is debating public policy. Whose voices are going to be heard first?”

Hartford-based attorney Ken Krayeske, an advocate for clean elections, is also concerned about the fundraisers.

“This has got all of the appearances of money for access corruption that we’re concerned about.”

The News 8 Investigators found that there are legal ways that lobbyists can give slightly more than the $100 limit as well.

One way is for a lobbyist to donate $100 to each of the three political committees co-hosting the fundraisers, raising a potential contribution to $300. We found that 32 lobbyists gave to at least two of the committees at these three fundraisers.

Lobbying firms can also purchase advertising space in an ad book, similar to an event program, for $250. These ad books are generally printed on 8 ½ by 11 inch paper, folded in half, and stapled, and have a series of advertising or well wishes from lobbying firms, contractors, or committees.

The politicians we spoke with argued that this amount of money is still relatively small, especially when compared to federal elections.

“If I can be bought for $100, then I have much bigger problems,” Klarides said.

Godfrey, who has spent over two decades in Hartford, told us that before the reforms, all legislators were dependent on lobbyists for financing their campaigns. Today, that has changed.

“I don’t have to go to lobbyists,” he said, outside the capitol building doors. “That is so liberating. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I don’t have to do that anymore.”