Connecticut Republicans are preparing to elect a new party chair in the wake of Chairman Chris Healy’s decision not to seek reelection, and insiders are saying that the heir-apparent is, in fact, former corrupt state senator and John Rowland crony William Aniskovich.
“If there are any moderate, common-sense Republicans left in Connecticut, they ought to be up in arms about this coup Aniskovich is about to pull off,” said Democratic State Party Chair Nancy DiNardo. “While Chris Healy couldn't win an election, he wasn't corrupt. Bill Aniskovich lost his Senate seat in what was considered a safe Republican district over his questionable dealings.
“Republicans have continued to struggle to make inroads with the people of Connecticut. Now they’re preparing to anoint a Rowland apologist to help save them. I'm curious to see just how much farther out of touch Connecticut Republicans intend to go.”
The GOP’s apparent white knight—the leader who will bring them back from resounding Republican defeat in the 2010 general elections as well as special elections and municipal races held this spring—has a checkered history in Connecticut politics.
First elected in 1990, Aniskovich was reprimanded by state election officials for accepting improper campaign donations and was forced to return or forfeit more than $5,700 from his campaign in 1999. He had a total of $8,615 in fines the very next year to settle more election law violations.
While serving as the second-ranking leader in the state Senate, he was one of Governor John Rowland’s last legislative supporters during the corruption crisis that erupted in 2003 and eventually sent the disgraced governor to federal prison. Aniskovich refused to call for Rowland’s resignation and opposed early efforts to form a legislative impeachment committee.
In the midst of the Rowland corruption scandal, Aniskovich’s wife was appointed to a six-figure position leading the state’s culture and tourism industry, an appointment that the New Haven Register called “an embarrassment.”
Aniskovich lost his Senate reelection bid in 2004 when reports surfaced that he used his political position to influence the process by which Universal Health Services, Inc. sought to purchase the Stonington Institute, the mental health and substance abuse facility that Aniskovich still heads. The institute made millions through state contracts after Aniskovich joined the company in 1995, earning 73 percent of its revenue from the state; prior to that, the institute did no business with the state of Connecticut.
Aniskovich can keep his CEO position at the Stonington Institute if elected GOP chairman.