Friday, June 29, 2012

Blumenthal, The Other Attorney General

Both of Connecticut’s U.S. Senators, Joe Lieberman and Dick Blumenthal, would seem to have a great deal in common with besieged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Mr. Lieberman, due to retire from the Senate at the end of his term, clawed his way into the U.S. Senate from his previous position as Connecticut’s Attorney General, as did Mr. Blumenthal.

Mr. Holder was cited for contempt by the two senators’ congressional colleagues in the House on Thursday, June 28. The charge brought against Mr. Holder is that the Attorney General has refused to surrender to Congress documentation the Congress has determined it must review to discover what role Mr. Holder’s Justice Department may have played in “Fast and Furious,” a disastrous scheme in which agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, a department under the supervision of Mr. Holder’s Justice Department, facilitated the purchase of guns by Mexican drug dealers. One of the guns, it was later determined, was used by drug dealers to murder U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. Somewhat like Antigone, his family is calling out for justice..

Mr. Blumenthal had the opportunity to question Mr. Holder last November.
The following is a transcript of Mr. Blumenthal’s interrogation of Mr. Holder:

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Mr. Attorney General for being here today. I’ve listened to all the questions and all of your answers, and I want to thank you for effectively addressing many of the questions surrounding Fast and Furious and dispelling any doubt that you are determined to uncover all the facts surrounding some of the very regrettable circumstances here. Just so we understand a lot of names have been mentioned here – Attorney General [Michael] Mukasey, Kevin O’Connor who happens to be a former U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, and others in the department now – there’s no evidence before us here that they knew or participated in any wrongdoing, is there?”

“U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: Yes, I hope my testimony was clear. I just don’t know.

“Blumenthal: It has been. Thank you. Also that there’s an ongoing investigation, which eventually will disclose whether or not and who knew about what was going on. I want to thank you for being so candid and straightforward on that point. I want to join my colleague, Sen. [Chris] Coons in expressing my determination that there should be more assistance and sufficient support for our police on the streets of Connecticut, in our neighborhoods, as well as the firefighters and other personnel that I would regard as law enforcement, which are really in more than one sense the cops on the beat who protect us day in and day out. Despite the very excellent performance by the FBI, they’re the ones who do the bulk of the law enforcement for our nation, and I appreciate and thank you for your support. I think perhaps for me one of the most important aspects of your testimony today is really the vigor and intensity that the Department of Justice is devoting now to stopping gun trafficking and drug dealing and gang violence on our borders and throughout the country, but most particularly in connection with the Mexican gangs that pose such a threat to Americans as well as Mexicans. As I understand your testimony, there have been record numbers of seizures, arrests, prosecutions, convictions, and extraditions, is that correct?”

“Holder: That is correct. We have moved substantial number of resources to the border in an attempt to stop the flow of guns into Mexico, to stop the violence along the border. We have worked in the interior of Mexico with our Mexican counterparts in training, in trying to come up with ways in which we could fight the cartels. Our Mexican counterparts have sacrificed a great deal and even with their lives in this fight, and we have tried to be good partners in their struggle.

“Blumenthal: Would it be fair to say that the Mexicans are increasingly becoming good partners in this effort?

“Holder: Yes. I think so. I think through the use of vetted units, through the use of other techniques that we have shared with them, through their growing sophistication with the use of electronic devices, I think they are becoming more proficient in this battle.
“Blumenthal: There’s no question that the Department of Justice under your leadership will continue to work on disrupting and dismantling these gang-led efforts or other efforts on drug trafficking and gun dealing and so forth.

“Holder: Yes, this will continue to be a priority. Too often when we describe it as a southwest border problem when the reality is that it’s a national problem. What happens along the southwest border can have an impact in Connecticut, can have an impact in Chicago. And the person, his name has been mentioned a lot and I think deserves a little bit of credit here. The person who has been leading the effort for the Department of Justice is Lanny Breuer, the head of our criminal division. He has devoted an inordinate, a huge amount of time to this fight, has established good relationships with counter-parts in Mexico, and has been a person who really stood for in this country in developing good techniques to reduce that level of violence and the danger that the cartels pose to this country.
This pitiful excuse of an interrogation is what one of Mr. Blumenthal’s former associates at the attorney general’s office might call “a walk through the roses.” No one would have been surprised if Mr. Blumenthal had reached over and planted a wet kiss on Mr. Holder’s cheek. Perhaps if Mr. Holder had been a small entrepreneur who owned an herbal distribution business in Connecticut or a pellet sales business, Mr. Blumenthal might have sunk his vampire fangs into Mr. Holder’s neck. This is, after all, the bully who gets off on breaking butterfies on wheels.

Considering the seriousness of the House's citations – two actions, one criminal the other civil were brought against Mr. Holder by Mr. Blumenthal’s colleagues – Mr. Blumenthal’s interrogation of Mr. Holder was, some would say, much more mild than most of the interrogatories initiated by Mr. Blumenthal when he was Attorney General of Connecticut. Then he was a man on fire to uncover the truth and right moral wrongs. Since his elevation to the senate, 99 percent of the man’s pluck has gone out of him.

The criminal contempt charge could be referred to Obama appointed U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who answers to Mr. Holder, an obvious dead end. Flunkies, when their patrons are under attack, tend to use the law as a shield to protect them from legal arrows shot in their direction. A deputy attorney general already has written to House Speaker John Boehner that he would not pursue prosecution because the Justice Department does not consider the withholding of information from Congress to be a crime.

Mr. Blumenthal is not incapable of criticizing the highly politicized Justice Department. In March, 2012, according to a CBS report, Mr. Blumenthal chastised Mr. Holder for failing to investigate energy speculators, many of whom are hedge fund operators living and paying exorbitant taxes in his state. Heggies were one of Mr. Blumenthal’s frequent targets when he was plying his trade as Connecticut’s Attorney General and vowing as U.S. Senator to represent his state’s interests rather than narrow partisan interests.

Alas, collegiality and acute partisanship soften the stiffest of spines.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nappier Harpoons Malloy

State Treasurer Denise Nappier points out in a letter to the Journal Inquirer important differences between her view on expanded bonding authority and that of Governor Dannel Malloy.
In the course of her letter, Ms. Nappier shoves a boney finger in the governor’s chest and warns, “… when legislation is enacted that will result in unnecessary additional costs of issuing state bonds, and may jeopardize investor confidence in our bonds, it is my duty as state treasurer to speak out against the measure and urge corrective action."
Mr. Malloy wants expanded bonding authority for the Connecticut Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Ms. Nappier wrote that she had always supported the consolidation of two quasi-public authorities, the CHEFA and the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority, and she heartily agreed with the governor that the consolidation would enhance efficiency. “However,” she writes, “CHEFA’s new authority to issue bonds for UConn is unnecessary, costly, and may confuse investors and undermine their confidence in existing UConn 2000 bonds.”
Apparently, Ms. Nappier had shared her misgivings with Mr. Malloy to no avail.
The new bill just signed into law establishing a new bonding process is, Ms. Nappier stresses, “duplicative of what has been in place for 17 years, and that will surely cost taxpayers much more than what the treasury, as the public financing arm of the state, has provided. Higher costs would result from CHEFA’s administrative fees, as well as likely higher interest costs. Based on comparisons we have done, this new duplicate process could result in additional expenses of more than $8 million on a typical $200 million financing.”
The original UConn 2000 program, Ms. Nappier notes, as initially proposed was a 10-year, $1.25 billion venture. However, the program had been extended a few times, ballooning the cost to $2.5 billion over 23 years. Partnering with the university, Ms. Nappier’s office has issued almost $1.9 billion in new money bonds to sustain the program.
Bonding legislation, Ms. Nappier points out, is exceedingly complex and subject to change. Mr. Malloy and the Democratic dominated General Assembly, Ms. Nappier asserts, ignored “serious implications for expanding CHEFA’s bond-issuing authority.
“This begs the question: Why did the treasury’s attempt to call attention to another ill-advised and poorly crafted provision to grant CHEFA new authority to see UConn bonds fall on deaf ears?
“Simply put, when legislation is enacted that will result in unnecessary additional costs of issuing state bonds, and may jeopardize investor confidence in our bonds, it is my duty as state treasurer to speak out against the measure and urge corrective action.”
Ms. Nappier had advised Mr. Malloy of the legislation’s shortcomings, which he and legislative gate keepers in the General Assembly chose to ignore.
In her letter, Ms. Nappier washes her hands of the predictable consequences: “That the governor chose to ignore my advice will be at his doorstep.”
Republicans are somewhat astonished – though delighted -- by Ms. Nappier’s very public quarrel with Mr. Malloy. Republicans, shooed unceremoniously out of the room when the governor’s office was hammering out its budget with Democratic Party leaders and union officials, have yet to suggest that the governor had loftily ignored the treasurer’s seemingly sound advice because he may have thought she was a Republican.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rowland On A River

As the John Rowland-Brian Foley FBI investigation unfolds, it will be important to bear in mind that neither Mr. Rowland nor Lisa Wilson Foley, Brian Foley’s wife, is an active politician.

According to a report in the Register Citizen,“A federal grand jury is investigating Rowland’s connections to the 5th District Congress campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland worked as an “unpaid volunteer” consultant to the campaign while at the same time being paid $30,000 by Apple Rehab, a company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband.”

Mrs. Foley is running for the U.S. Congress and has not previously held office. Mr. Rowland is a radio talk show host for (WTIC) and an ex-felon who resigned his position as governor of the state. After having pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to steal honest service, Mr. Rowland spent a year in prison and four months under house arrest. Following his release, Mr. Rowland was hired by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce to drum up business for the city, after which he became a successful radio talk show host for WTIC-AM. Mr. Rowland lost his Waterbury position after a change of mayors.

The political disconnect means that the FBI investigation will not focus on bill-rigging, since neither of the principles mentioned by the media in connection with an FBI probe of Mr. Rowland’s business relationship with Mrs. Foley’s husband could possibly have shaped legislation. Though FBI appearances may be exceedingly misleading at the opening of an investigation, it appears that the FBI probe of Speaker of the House Chis Donovan’s office does indeed center on possible bill-rigging. Unlike Mr. Donovan, Mr. Rowland’s influence over legislation is indirect, leveraged through his radio program, the same sort of influence exerted by political columnists, editors, reporters, television news readers and talking heads.

In some overheated brains, former Governor Rowland is the devil himself; but because Mr. Rowland is not an active politician, the corrupt influence he may exert over politics in his present position is no different in kind than that of a politically influential journalist. Journalism is full of worldly scribblers who have produced copy favorable to specific politicians, afterwards moving on to work for their darlings, in the course of which they are handsomely renumerated for their efforts. Moving from the world of journalism into politics, one leaves oneself open to the charge that the prospect of employment may have affected the journalistic product.

The Berlin Wall separating politics and journalism has in it a door that opens both ways. Some former journalists have moved into politics; some politicians have traveled in the opposite direction; both have occasionally set up shop as consultants. Just as war is diplomacy by other means, so consultancy is politics by other means.

Mr. Rowland’s route -- from politics to jail to journalism –is highly unorthodox, though not unprecedented. Forced to leave office after he pummeled a gentleman he had accused of stealing the affections of his wife, former Mayor of Providence Rhode Island Buddy Cianci found a soft berth in radio broadcasting, after which he ran for governor again and won. Providence bloomed under Mr. Cianci’s hand. Ten years later he was in jail, convicted on a single charge of racketeering conspiracy. Trial Judge Ronald R. Lagueux said of Mr. Cianci, “In this mayor's two administrations, there has been more corruption in the City of Providence than in the history of this state." Upon his release from prison, Mr. Cianci once again resumed radio broadcasting.

While comparisons have been made between Mr. Rowland and Democratic Party nominee for the 23rd State Senate District Ernie Newton, both of whom served time in prison, it is important to note crucial differences.

In Connecticut, where corruption should matter more than on the national stage – because this is where we all live — Republicans can no longer appreciably shape legislative bills and budgets or distribute political patronage. Since Republicans have lost the gubernatorial slot, Connecticut has become, for all practical purposes, a one party state. And this means that the kind of corruption one associates with pol;itically active office holders lies, except in the municipalities, almost wholly in the hands of Democrats.

At present, Mr. Newton is the Democratic Party candidate for the state Senate. Objections to his candidacy on the part of Democratic leaders in the General Assembly and the governor’s office have been muted to the point of indifference. Mr. Rowland is a talk show host whose ambitions for political office almost certainly would be rebuffed by his fellow Republicans.

Some friendly Republican would do Mr. Rowland a great service were he to tap the former governor the shoulder and whisper in his ear that large amounts of money honestly arrived at cannot be had in two professions – journalism or politics. There ain’t any gold in those mines.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Ins and Outs of Politics

The ins, of course, are incumbents; the outs are everyone else.
How difficult is it for the outs to get in? The short answer is – nearly impossible.
Campaign finance reform was supposed to make it easier for the outs to break into the magic political circle. This has not happened, partly because of the influence of Super PACs.
A PAC is a Political Action Committee; a Super PAC is a very large and wealthy PAC operating outside the precincts of political parties.
McCain-Feingold – and its equivalent in the U.S. House, Shays-Meehan – more or less illegalized large “soft money” contributions to political parties. The U.S. Supreme Court, reviewing the campaign finance bill, determined that a legislative directive outlawing “soft money” contributions to PACs not directly connected to political parties was an unconstitutional prohibition that violated the First Amendment. The court’s ruling opened a Pandora’s Box that now allows outliers, persons and groups not formally attached to parties, to raise and spend unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against political candidates.
In an interview with Ameriborn News, former U.S. Representative Chris Shays was asked by interviewer John Doyle to dilate on the relationship between Shays-Meehan and Super PACS:
“Doyle: I’m realty short on my time, but I can’t resist just asking you this, and I tried to cage you into it before: After Citizens United, there are a great many people in the United States who say to both parties, I think, that are just rolling in money, and the corrosive effect it’s having on our campaigns, whether it’s the presidential campaign.. now it’s the Obama fund raising machine with its Super PACs and, of course, the wealthy people supporting various Republican candidates… ah, Shays-Meehan, one of the early…
“Shays: That’s campaign finance reform. Let me give you the quick version. The quick version is: In 1906 the Tillman Act said corporations could not contribute to campaigns. The Taft Hartley Act in [19]47 said unions can’t contribute to campaigns, and you got FEC, the federal Elections Commission, to bypass the laws by creating the concept of soft educational money, which was just a front to bring both the corporations and the unions back in. So, John McCain in the Senate and I in the House looked to enforce the [19]06 laws: no corporate money, no union dues money. We had already limited what individuals could contribute to campaigns. And John McCain said if it’s constitutional, we’ll call it McCain-Feingold and, if it’s unconstitutional, it’s called Shays-Meehan. And then, they [the Supreme Court] revisited one part and said you couldn’t limit what corporations could contribute to campaigns. And they’re just [describing] the marketplace in a way that I think is really destructive. But you know what? I’ve fought that battle. I’ve come to the conclusion if the Federal Elections Commission isn’t going to be with you, however you write the law, they’re going to twist it, and it will be a wasted effort. And I kind of feel like -- You know what? – our country is going bankrupt; we have no energy independence; our infrastructure is falling apart; we haven’t reformed the tax code; we haven’t gotten rid of the red tape. Those are where I’m putting my focus.”
The evolution of the Tillman Act is instructive. Following the 1904 presidential election, charges were made that Republican President Teddy Roosevelt had accepted campaign contributions from corporations, a great personal embarrassment. Once in office, Mr. Roosevelt proposed that all contributions by corporations to any political committee or for any political purpose should be forbidden by law. Mr. Roosevelt, one of the more accomplished demagogues of the Gilded Age -- just ask Mark Twain – during his independent run for the presidency on the Progressive Party ticket in 1912, would make it a point to denounce the malefactors of great wealth who once generously had invested in his winning 1904 campaign.

South Carolina Senator Benjamin Tillman obliged Mr. Roosevelt by sponsoring a bill that became known as the Tillman Act. The bill passed the Senate in June of 1906, causing the New York Times to burst into song. One “great financial authority who is a Republican,” the Times reported,“gave assurance that 'he and all the financial men with whom I have talked have welcomed this legislation with very much the same emotions with which a serf would hail his liberation from a tyrannous autocrat.’”
The Tillman Act, said the Times, “will not bring about the millennium, but will lessen a very mean and sordid practice of blackmail... the great number of corporations that have suffered extortion through weakness and cowardice will have their backbones stiffened, and parties will be put to it to fill their coffers by really voluntary contributions."

The end result of McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan is not a happy one. The bill ultimately removed from political parties large and politically decisive contributions and placed them in the hands of extra-party financers who are able, by investing in individual politicians, to determine political winners and losers. And Super PAC operators are no less autocratic or tyrannous than the malefactors of great wealth once denounced by the first progressive; they are simply less visible and more irresponsible.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shays’ Signature Bill

The Shays-Meehan House bill, the equivalent of McCain-Feingold in the Senate, is that single piece of legislation for which former U.S. Congressman Chris Shays is likely to be remembered, just as former Senator Chris Dodd’s congressional legacy will be forever bound up with his massive regulatory scheme, the Dodd-Frank bill. Mr. Shays at the tail end of January announced his candidacy for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat. The consequences of the Dodd-Frank legislation – more importantly, the unintended consequences of the bill – are still in the pipeline. But some of the less anticipated consequences of Shays-Meehan have already been amply displayed.

Initially, Shays-Meehan was designed to ban national parties from raising and spending “soft money.” The soft-money ban, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a year ago, limits individual contributions to political parties even if the money is to be spent on activities unrelated to federal elections. The bill also prohibited “federal officeholders and candidates from soliciting or raising soft money for political parties at federal, state, and local levels, and from soliciting or raising soft money in connection with Federal elections,” according to a summary of the bill prepared at the time by the offices of Mr. Shays and Mr. Meehan.

The bill additionally prohibited state parties from using soft money to pay for TV ads that “mention federal candidates and get-out-the-vote activities that mention Federal candidates.” Not wishing to hobble political parties altogether, Shays-Meehan permitted state parties and local party committees “to use contributions, up to $10,000 per donor per year, for generic GOTV activities and for GOTV activities for state and local candidates. Each state party or local committee must raise its own contributions and a portion of each expenditure must include hard money.”
Unintended consequences were not long in coming. The soft money ban and other provisions of the bill were to take effect November 6, 2002. Earlier in April of the same year, the Progressive Donor Network gathered in Washington to exploit a loophole in the law. A lengthy article on the convention was published in the Washington Times under the title "Democrats to exploit finance-law loophole".
Exploit they did. The loophole in the law was large enough to accommodate many of the usual suspects who, before the advent of the law, were presumably corrupting political parties with large donations. After the convention, they would similarly corrupt individual politicians, rather than political parties, by raising and spending unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against political candidates.The game was on. The amount of time that normally elapses between the creation of a bill to solve problem A and the subversion of the solution has diminished considerably in the modern age. Money in the political stream dammed up here always seeks a way there.

Later in the fifth inning, the Supreme Court knocked a part of McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan into a cocked hat when it ruled in 2007 that a portion of the bill violated First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, still widely observed in the United States.
The Shays-Meehan bill, which initially sought to remove the deadly hand of corruption from national and state parties by decoupling large corporate and union donations from federal, state and local party organizations, following the Supreme Court decision left much of the financing in the hands of outliers that could raise and spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for individual candidates, nearly all of whom have set themselves up as petite political parties. This arrangement generously benefits incumbent politicians, lobbyists and ideologues but is hostile to party building. And indeed, incumbent politicians who are able to generate campaign funds from other questionable sources in return for favors done do not even see the defects of Shays-Meehan, because the unintended consequences of the bill help them and hobble their political competitors.
Most incumbent politicians begin their campaigns with vast sums of money their opponents cannot hope to match – the spoils of incumbency. And the Shays-Meehan bill does nothing to “even the playing field,” an expression favored by, just to pick one incumbent’s name out of a hat, current U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. It is generally supposed that Mr. Blumenthal will be moved from his seat only when he resigns, as had his predecessor, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, before Mr. Dodd got his feet caught in a series of mini scandals that up-ended him in Hollywood where, pulling in a $2.5 million a year salary as a lobbyist, he will soon be a multi-millionaire, if not quite as wealthy as Mr. Blumenthal, Connecticut’s new senator for life.

And Shays-Meehan, which some critics have called “a congressional incumbent protection act,” will do nothing to hasten Mr. Blumenthal’s departure.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Courant And Catholics

The magisterium of the Hartford Courant -- its editorial board -- has issued a pronouncement on the matter of an interpretation of a federal bill by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that would require Catholic institutions to assist in dispensing birth control pills and abortifacients.
The ex-cathedra pronouncement from Courant editors opens with the following lede:
“Roman Catholic protests against certain requirements of the health care reform law, though heartfelt, are misplaced. No one’s first amendments rights are being compromised, and – despite loud cries to the contrary – religious liberty is not in jeopardy…”
There are at the moment numerous suits filed by Catholic prelates and institutions challenging the constitutionality of Ms. Sebelius’interpretation of the Obamacare bill. The Supreme Court is due to rule on the bill before its session closes at the end of June. The Obamacare bill very well may be unconstitutional, in which case the entire bill will be overthrown– because the Solons who wrote the law did not include in it a severability clause that would have permitted its authors to retain portions of the bill not deemed unconstitutional by the high court.

While the Courant’s obiter dictum that “no one’s First Amendment rights are being compromised” certainly is heartfelt, it is premature. A late Associated Press report advises that the Obama administration is taking precautions should the Supreme Court strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional.
One of the objections made by Catholic bishops to Ms. Sebelius’interpretation of the Obamacare bill is that the state should not be permitted to determine the mission of any Christian Church. And by “church” the bishops mean “both clerics and laity united in the faith.”
In connection with the Catholic Church, G. K. Chesterton speaks of the “democracy of the dead,” and it is a common belief among Catholics that their “church” includes all who, from the beginning of the world, have believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace, a very large assembly indeed
Since pre-Civil War days, churches and the American state have developed a tender political ecology that leaves both state and church unentangled in a church-state alliance, so that churches could enjoy the wide door of liberty vouchsafed to them by that clause in the First amendment that prevents the state from restricting the free exercise of religion, as determined by religious institutions. As soon as one allows the state to fix in law the mission of a church, this organic political accommodation is overthrown, and the authoritarian state then is permitted to determine the boundaries of religious expression, a commonplace occurrence in all fascist authoritarian regimes such as the former Soviet Union or present day China.
Brave Courant editorialists do not fear to enter—with hobnailed boots -- where the better angels of our natures, not to mention those of the founders of the nation and the U.S. Constitution, fear to tread.
“When operating colleges and hospitals,” the Courant magisterium writes, “Catholics step out of a purely religious setting into one that must comply with the laws of the country, which may not necessarily be the laws of the church. The Church of Rome, for example, admits only men to the priesthood; but when Catholic colleges or hospitals hire administrators, they must adhere to federal laws forbidding employment discrimination on the basis of sex.”
No one has yet suggested to Courant editorialists that since for purposes of law Catholic administrators consider priests to be independent contractors, the Roman Catholic Church SHOULD be forced by the civil authority to hire women as priests. Nothing in its editorial interpretation would forestall such a use of force.
What the paper is saying is this: In any Catholic institution – a university or a hospital, to mention but two instances – in which Catholics mix with non-Catholics, the Catholic layperson loses his or her Catholic character and therefore is no longer entitled to the constitutional protections afforded Catholics who find themselves in an unadulterated religious setting such as a mass.
This view not only radically redefines the mission of a church; it redefines the meaning of the very concept of a church – which, in the Catholic understanding, is the unity of clergy and laity in the faith. Under the Catholic definition of a “church,” a Catholic non-cleric is not less Catholic than a priest. And religious obligations weigh upon him or her no less heavily than they weigh upon church administrators.
It is absolute nonsense – a radical categorical mistake, a form of linguistic anarchy – to say that a Catholic cannot be Catholic in a partly secular setting. It would be like saying a Courant editorialist ceases to be an editorial writer when he is not writing editorials or that the sun ceases to be a sun at night or that blue is really red when it is found beside red in a child’s paint box.

Catholicism, which is an articulation of the historic church, inheres in people, not buildings. A Catholic does not become less Catholic when he leaves a church service and goes forth into the world to live his faith by establishing Catholic universities and hospitals and services for the poor. And the radical secular, anti-Catholic, re-interpretation of a church-- the operative principle of Obamacare -- applies not just to Catholics, but to all religious laypersons, whatever their creed. Obamacare severly punishes Christians and obliges them to abjure the precepts of their faith when they work in a Christian institutions that has in it one non-professing Christian.
The Courant concludes its editorial by deploring the “various groups” -- mostly Christians adhering to Matthew 5:16 – for having created a muddle: “The arguments over the adherence to the health care reform law is muddled by various groups’ claims that abortion is somehow involved. It isn’t. Birth control, and only birth control, is the issue.”
However, all of the arguments put forward by Courant editorialists to thwart Catholic opposition to birth control in Catholic institutions apply with event more force to abortion, which directly involves health issues. Why would a law forcing Catholic hospitals to provide patients with abortifacients not also force the same Catholic institutions to provide abortions?
Courant editorialists are not jesuitical enough to carve out an exception prohibiting abortions in Catholic hospitals that would not also prohibit such institutions from providing abortifacients or other forms of contraception. This is the next step for radical social anarchists who seek to so narrowly circumscribe religious faith that it will have no effect on the brave new world of their dreams. Once the nose of Ms. Sebelius’ the camel is in the tent, it will push out all religious based social restraints.
The authoritarian state, on its way to fascism, cannot abide such mediating religious institutions as Christian hospitals, schools and soup kitchens. All good works must either originate or be heavily regulated by the fascist or corporatist state as defined by Benito Mussolini: “Everything in the state; nothing outside the state; nothing above the state.”
The new Brave New World of Orwell awaits its administrators, its Newspeak and its radical redefinition of liberty – liberty for me, not for thee.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Newton Before Redemption

The conversation below has been lifted from Richard Bronson’s new book, “The War at the Shore,” an account of the struggle between Donald Trump and Steve Wynn over control of Atlantic City gambling interests. These words, perhaps harsh, were uttered by Ernie Newton before he ascended to Connecticut’s State Senate, according to Lennie Grimaldi, and well before Mr. Newton was carted off to prison for having accepted political bribes. Now a repentant sinner, Mr. Newton is the Democratic Party nominee for his old senate seat in Bridgeport, where else?
But for pure naked All-American avarice, the prize goes to a certain clown named Ernest Newton II, the Democratic state representative from Bridgeport …
“I have an idea,” said Ernie
“What is it?” I said.
“You lend me some money. Cash, of course, Then, I forget to pay you back? How’s that?”
“I said, Senator, I can’t do that.”
To which he replied: “Well, here’s what you can do. You can get the hell out of my office!”
Mr. Newton’s response:

“This is absolutely false, but unfortunately not surprising. When I decided to subject myself to public scrutiny again by running for office, I understood this kind of stuff comes with it.

“There are going to be plenty of people trying to tear me and my campaign down – and we know facts aren’t necessarily required. This campaign has never been about me – it’s about this community and raising the awareness of its need. The chorus of our voices will elevate that discussion while the long overdue redemption and opportunity for our community is placed in highest priority.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Big Smoke To Malloy: Thank You For Taxing

The old saying has it: You can’t beat City Hall. Municipal government is too big to beat. State government is bigger and, presumably, harder to beat. The federal government is mountainously big,

On the matter of taxes, all three unbeatables tend to hunker down whenever the little guy attempts to deny any of them their daily revenue fix.

In a “special session” of Connecticut’s General Assembly, usually called to tidy up legislative loose ends from the regular session, the Democratic dominated legislature this year closed what one newspaper styled in an editorial “an expensive loophole in the law that allowed tobacco shops with roll your own machines to sell professional style cigarettes at about half the cost of packaged ones.”

By “expensive” the paper intended to indicate the potential loss in revenue to the state.

And the “loophole?”

Sensing a loss in revenue should smoke shops be permitted to sell cigarettes at half price, the tax hungry administration of Governor Dannel Malloy first attempted through court action to shut down the new smoke shop businesses springing up in Connecticut like magic mushrooms. The absence of a tax – as everyone knows, though politicians conveniently pretend otherwise – is a true stimulant of business activity, which is why, come to think of it,“green” legislators favor high taxes on gasoline: The higher the tax, the less sellable the product.

The state, considerably bigger than City Hall, claimed the smoke shops were “tobacco manufacturers” and as such subject to the same excise taxes as Big Tobacco. The court chuckled at this assumption – Do big tobacco operations allow customers to “manufacture” their own smokes? -- and ruled in favor of the little guys, much to the annoyance of the lean and hungry Malloyalists. No, the court said, the Mom and Pop smoke shops were not tobacco manufacturers; no excise taxes this time, if you please.

Malloyalists were not pleased. The lean and hungry Malloyalists raced to Democratic leaders in the General Assembly, pleading with them: Find a way. Assembly leaders, hungry for more tax monies they might distribute to cosseted special interests, proceeded to treat the court ruling as if it were a metaphysical abstraction, and they got up an bill that would, in the immortal words of U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal, “level the playing field” between cash starved startup Mom and Pop operations and rich and contented Big Tobacco.

Should the bill imposing crippling taxes on small smoke shops pass, the Mom and Pop operations would pay the same amount in taxes as Big Tobacco, swelling state coffers with more tax swag that might be distributed to, say, a notoriously inept UConn Health Center or a too big to fail insurance company or a bribable mega-company threatening to leave the state for more even playing fields elsewhere or… fill in the blank; the possibilities are endless.

The Malloy administration most recently has given millions of dollars of tax money through the state’s Small Business Express Program to companies that “qualify for assistance.” In a recent media release, the governor is quoted to this effect: “The Small Business Express program recognizes the importance of small companies in Connecticut, both in their impact on the economy and their ability to push the dial on innovation and emerging technologies. By providing access to capital, we can help these businesses tackle the most important issue of the day – job creation.”

Even the lesser gods of the marketplace must envy the life and death powers wielded by corporatists Malloyalists. Mussolini preferred the term corporatism rather than fascism to describe the mutually advantageous relationship between his authoritarian state and preferred businesses. Mussolini defined corporatism this way: “Everything in the state; nothing above the state; nothing outside the state.”

Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men are sometimes torn asunder – on this occasion by the FBI. On the route to higher taxes and, inevitably, more spending, the smoke shop deal came crashing down upon the ears of longtime Speaker of the State House Chris Donovan, whose finance director was arrested for campaign financing irregularities, a momentary interruption in the forward motion of Mr. Malloy’s temporarily frustrated attempt to re-invent Connecticut.

Long story short: Things happen in politics in certain ways because powerful shakers and movers in politics want them to happen that way. Smoke shops likely will be run out of business, because Mom and Pop start-up operations cannot afford Malloyalist impositions; consequently, the revenue haul anticipated by Office of Policy and Management (OPM) guru Ben Barnes will likely fall short of Malloyalist goals. Why? For two reasons: 1) You can’t tax a business that you have taxed out of business; and 2) Creative smokers, who can count up to 25 more accurately than Mr. Barnes are likely to purchase a roll your own machine for about $25 and create non-taxable roll your own court approved “manufacturing” operations in their own homes.

But Big Tobacco will be happy to be rid of a dangerous competitor, thanks to a forward moving one party Democratic state... and… and… the campaign check will be in the mail. Count on it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

McMahon And Shays At UConn

After the debate at UConn between Republican contenders for the U.S. Senate Chris Shays and Linda McMahon, Mr. Shays, who mounted the stage favored by Connecticut’s left of center media, temporarily lost a few votes within the journalistic community.
David Collins of the Day in New London wrote:
“McMahon did so much better in Thursday's debate that it makes you wonder why she isn't the one calling for more debates in the primary campaign, not Shays…

“Shays looked every bit as testy, annoyed and frustrated at the end as when the debate started…”

“Shays on Thursday just seemed kind of mean-spirited.”
Mr. Shays’testiness began, Mr. Collins noted, with a microphone malfunction.
“In fact, Shays threw a bit of a tantrum at the outset when there was a problem with the auditorium sound system at the University of Connecticut.

“He snapped a terse ‘no’ when offered a handheld microphone, saying everyone should just wait until the wireless microphones were fixed. Everyone did wait.

“Then, once the debate was under way, the former congressman turned irritable again every time McMahon ducked one of his insults about her tenure as head of World Wrestling Entertainment, as if she were somehow approaching him with a WWE handheld microphone.”
It may not be the case that Mr. Shays’ testiness arose from annoyance at the thought that “someone who peddled TV trash would take a Senate seat he considers his due.” Mr. Shays does not strike most people who know him well as the prototypical arrogant politician. In politics, however, appearances are perceived as reality. More likely, the former U.S. Representative wished to communicate his personal distaste with the raunch exhibited at some past World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events. This distaste may have appeared as arrogance to some in the audience. Perhaps Mr. Shays could use a new debate coach.
The first rule of debate is this: When the audience has come to see a public debate, you’d best give then a debate rather than a public thrashing.

At the Hartford Courant, Rick Green scored the debate a win for Mrs. McMahon:
“But the lasting image of Linda McMahon is a candidate who stuck to her talking points and who brought the discussion back to the economy whenever Shays went nuclear. Because of that, she didn’t lose. For a candidate with a big lead, that’s all that matters. And with only one more debate scheduled, she’s more than half way to the nomination.”
The Shays camp is making fatal errors based on a few misleading theories.

The notion that Mrs. McMahon can buy elections with her personal fortune was put to flight during her last run for the U.S. Senate in a contest with then Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who won U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s vacant seat after Mrs. McMahon spent an inordinate amount of money -- $50 million in round numbers – attempting to defeat him. You cannot plausibly argue that Mrs. McMahon can buy a U.S Senate seat with money alone in the face of such a rout without appearing to be the much derided “used car salesman” of ancient memory.

It is not true that Mr. Shays can prevail over Mrs. McMahon by harnessing WWE thunderbolts deployed effectively by Mr. Blumenthal in his campaign. Every campaign is different and, whatever virtues he may possess, Mr. Shays is no Mr. Blumenthal. Neither is U.S. Representative Chris Murphy, the likely Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s soon to be vacant seat, Mr. Blumenthal. When you change the characterization in a play, you end up with a different narrative. Even Mrs. McMahon is not the same performer she was in her earlier campaign, and the differences were noticed in her most recent debate by commentators fully prepared to support Mr. Shays.

Some commentators remarked that Mrs. McMahon during her debate was well “scripted,” a devil word usually employed by opponents to suggest that there is no “there” there. But the absence of a “there” was not at all apparent during the UConn debate.


Mr. Shays, content to hurl flaccid thunderbolts, did not confront Mrs. McMahon on her program – which is detailed and thoroughly assimilated. Mrs. McMahon is not simply saying her lines trippingly on the tongue. Her program is an authentic reflection of her own passionately held views. And Mrs. McMahon is not the wooden, empty headed WWE bugaboo displayed in scores of reports written by left of center progressively inclined commentators whose dearest wish is that Mr. Murphy will not make the same mistakes made by Mr. Shays in his UConn debate with Mrs. McMahon.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weicker And The Destruction Of The Republican Party

Lowell Weicker’s unvarying message to his long discarded Republican Party, iterated and reiterated countless times during his 21 year congressional stint, is always, wearily, the same: Republicans in Connecticut could win office if they were JUST LIKE ME.

The 81 year-old Weicker, still the darling of the Hartford Courant, Connecticut’s only state-wide newspaper, surfaced briefly in June 2011 at an event called “Conversations at Connecticut's Old State House." His appearance was covered by the paper in a story titled “Former Governor Endorses Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, Income Tax Hike, Ending Super PACs.”

It is safe to conclude that Republicans in Connecticut would not have been surprised by either the title or Mr. Weicker’s views reflected in the story, however much Republican Party dissents from the former Republican U.S. Senator.

Mr. Weicker’s state party has over the years grown used to being shamefully used as a political foil. When then Republican Senator Weicker described himself approvingly as “the turd in the Republican Party punchbowl,” few Republicans in his state were astonished by either the abusive sentiment or the scatological reference. Following the rapid and irreversible expansion of Weicker’s self-inflated ego, always easily pumped up, the senator’s relationship with his party quickly deteriorated. Eventually, the two parted ways when then Attorney General Joe Lieberman challenged Mr. Weicker and absconded with his seat, assisted by a Republican Party that manifestly did not wish to be Weicker.

The parting between the turd and the punchbowl was not, as lawyers sometimes say in messy divorces, amicable.

When Mr. Weicker became governor of Connecticut, he ran as an Independent. When the independent, maverick governor imposed an income tax on his state over the hearty objections of most Republicans, he likely felt a stab of joy carousing near his spine: The greatest joy a man can have, Genghis Khan used to say, is to dance on the chest of his enemy.

The very nearly impassible bridge between Mr. Weicker and his cast-off party has not prevented him from offering Republicans in Connecticut advice and council, most of it converging on the golden perception that if Republicans were more like him, they would win more elections.

Here is what Mr. Weicker said at the Old State House:

President Barack Obama “inherited”rather than caused the problems that confronted him when he entered office, a non sequitur as large and imposing as Gibraltar, or Mr. Weicker’s estimation of himself.

Should Mr. Weicker have a real“conversation” with his audience, someone eventually might ask the former governor and senator to point to one president who did NOT inherit the problems of his predecessor, George Washington, not preceded in office by a president, being the single exception that that proves the rule.

In truth, there are presidents who “own”problems left on their doorstep by their predecessors, and there are those who shuck off their own presidential responsibilities by pointing to the errors of others. Mr. Weicker did not speculate to which category Obama might belong.

Instead, he tossed at his rapt audience a rhetorical question, here defined as a self-serving probe meant to illustrate the brilliance of the questioner and the stupidity of the person questioned, whose answer the questioner loftily presumes is unnecessary. Acknowledging that the predecessor gambit is no excuse for failing to apply corrective action, Mr. Weicker asked: “… but how in God’s name do you move forward under these circumstances, if the Republican leadership just keeps saying no?”

Monologists frequently ask themselves questions they leave dangling.

Political watchers will notice that the hackneyed political expression “move forward” is in political discourse little more than a naked rhetorical appeal to the “forward looking” impetus of most red-blooded Americans. But it’s a directional expression that begs the question: Move forward where?

Suppose you resolve to take a bus from Hartford to Springfield. You get on a bus in Hartford marked“Springfield.” After a few miles, it becomes startlingly obvious that you are traveling toward New Haven. At this point, when you know further forward direction will take you farther from your appointed destination, what would Weicker consider the proper response to a call to “move forward?” Considering the anticipated point of arrival –Springfield, as announced by the arrival sign on the bus -- would it not be more fruitful, for the sake of all the passengers on board, to resist calls to “move forward” by saying “NO” and advise the bus driver that he must turn around and travel in the opposite direction?

Republicans ought to be different than Democrats: As the French say, “Vive la difference!” Weicker’s notion of a winning Republican Party is one that differs from the Democratic Party only in unimportant details. Mr. Weicker supports Obama; Republicans don’t. The father of Connecticut’s income tax is quite willing cheerfully to support the Malloy tax increase, the largest in state history. Why, indeed, would the author of the second largest tax increase in state history, Mr. Weicker, harpoon the author of the largest tax increase in state history, Mr. Malloy, when both are fraternal brothers in the Order of Reckless Spenders? Republicans are queasy about this sort of thing because they perceive a demonstrable and direct connection between high taxes and increased spending. On some social issues, Mr. Weicker hugs the far left periphery. Republicans more conservative than Mr. Weicker worry that forward motion on some social issues – unregulated abortion, gay marriage, impositions made by the federal government on religious enterprises that traditionally have been afforded a wide door of liberty, and the like – might entail unfortunate unintended consequences.

But, says Weicker, Connecticut is blue, like me. If Republicans want to win office, they’ll have to paint themselves blue, like me. Perhaps it’s time to start a new party, and appoint Tom D’Amore chairman of it. And so it goes with Mr. Weicker, perhaps the most successful camouflage artist in the last half century. The self-justification, the shameless puffery, the fatal advice to Republicans, will end with the man’s last dying curse of his party. In the meanwhile, the GOP in Connecticut, grander now that it has cast off its incubus, really would like to move forward –preferably to Springfield, not New Haven.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Vivian Rockwell Nasiatka Interview

This interview with Vivian Rockwell Nasiatka took place over a few days. As I was preparing to cast it into stone on Connecticut Commentary, the Washington Post ran a story on a Federal Reserve Bulletin that was profoundly discouraging.According to the report,“the median net worth of families plunged by 39 percent in just three years, from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010. That puts Americans roughly on par with where they were back in 1992.” The recession has left its mark upon us all. It has lingered so long because the fire brigade that was supposed to douse the flames instead, in the immortal words of former Governor Lowell Wicker, “poured gas on the fire” by boosting taxes. Less spending certainly would have helped to boost Connecticut’s prosperity. Instinctively, we know that business, rather than government, is the best economic pump primer. Instinctively, we know that redistribution of wealth does not increase wealth. In moving money from the real economy to government coffers, we are taking a bucket of water from the low end of the pool and dumping it into the high end of the pool. It takes a gifted magician to convince people that the process increases the net amount of water – or wealth. Ms. Vivian Rockwell Nasiaka is, happily for all of us, instinctively wise in the ways of accounting, real estate and politics, a passion she hopes to turn into an vocation– with a little help from voters in the 64th District who may prefer her good sense, as reflected in this interview, over the magic realism of Connecticut politicians who have, for reasons touched upon below, very nearly destroyed Connecticut. She is living proof that the Democrat’s war on Republican women (and men) ultimately will fail. Vivian's site is here.

Q: You are running on the Republican ticket for the 64th House District, which has undergone a redistricting change. The District, which used to include Salisbury, Sharon, Cornwall, Goshen, Canaan (Falls Village) and about half of Torrington, now includes all of Kent, about 1/3 of Goshen and a smaller chunk of Torrington. How will the changes affect Republican prospects in the District?

A. On the surface, it should help as Kent, Norfolk, Canaan and North Canaan are currently represented by Republican Representatives Richard Smith and John Rigby. Representative Willis is not an unknown name within those towns and being an incumbent is always an advantage. However, those towns have also been long-time supporters of fiscal conservative State Senator Andrew Roraback who has a voting record for fiscal responsibility that is a standard to which Rep. Willis doesn’t come close. And she can’t hide from the fact that she has supported every single bill and act that Gov. Malloy and her Party has passed that increased taxes and state debt. I am clearly more in Senator’s Roraback’s mold when it comes to fiscal responsibility, which will give the voters in these towns a very clear choice this November.

Q: The District has been represented for five terms by Roberta Willis, a Democrat much taken with Governor Dannel Malloy’s agenda for the state. As you know, she is the host of Capitol Connections. In a recent broadcast, Ms. Willis praised Mr. Malloy on his budget – now balanced, she says, after years of accounting trickery. Do you agree?

A. Emphatically no. Do they give F’s anymore for failure? Actually I’ll be a little more generous and give the Governor a D for taking a harder stand with the CT Teachers Union. However, there’s little to substantiate that the Governor has turned the CT economy around, and he has repeatedly broken his campaign promise to not steal from Specific Funds for the General Fund to cover operating expenses. Winston Churchill believed there were two desirable traits for a politician. The first was to have the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. So in Malloy’s run for Governor, we heard a lot of good old Irish blarney filled with promises that can’t be met simply because the Democrat one party system refuses to address the problems that plague the state.

Democrat state Treasurer Denise Nappier’s June report to the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee reveals why Malloy gets an F on the economy. Despite Malloy’s more than $1.5 billion in state tax and fee increases ordered in May 2010, plus the Democrats’ May 2012 budget amendment increasing taxes by $2.6 billion, revenues are not coming in at the pace that was anticipated, and thus the Democrat administration is failing to achieve the budget blarney (savings) Malloy promised. Worse, Nappier stated Connecticut can expect $234 million less in tax and other revenue next fiscal year than originally forecast, and $311 million less in 2013-14. Why does it take a fiscally responsible Republican candidate to ask the question: If the economy has turned around and Connecticut is back on the road to recovery, why do Governor Dannel Malloy’s historic tax increases fail to generate as much revenue as forecast? And how long will Connecticut voters continue to allow the Democrats to keep siphoning off other state funds to keep the budget balanced?

Q: A very good question. I invite you to answer it. There is a point of diminishing returns with tax increases. As taxes increase, money that might be used by the private economy to create jobs or provide salary increases – both real job stimulants –are transferred to government coffers and made available to politicians to promote schemes some would say are unproductive. Crony capitalists love this sort of thing.

A: Sadly, too many people don’t want to see the reality of a problem that is staring them square in the face. It’s akin to the substance abuser who say’s they don’t have a problem as they continue sinking and drowning in ever increasing self-inflicted abuse. As we know, only when the addict hits rock bottom can the process of recovery and rehabilitation begin. I hope it won’t be like this for CT, but given the way people vote and give passes to the politicians would indicate this may ultimately be CT’s fate. If this is the case, then the answer to my own question is this: the Democrats will keep siphoning off funds until there are no more funds available.

It’s not unlike British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher saying how socialists will keep spending other people’s money until there isn’t any more to spend. I think our unrestrained politicians in CT will keep taxing until there’s no longer a sufficient tax base to tax; they will have departed to friendlier states. Or they will keep properties here, pay their real estate taxes but live outside CT for 6 months and a day to avoid CT’s onerous retirement and estate taxes. I hear and see this right here in the affluent NW Corner; it’s the reality the voters and politicians won’t recognize until it’s too late.

And you’re right Don, there is definitely a point of diminishing return with taxes. Why is it the more CT’s politicians increase taxes the more taxes our state government needs to operate? Taxes are our legislators’ addiction; they more they take the more they need to feed their spending habits. And far too much of those taxes are going to fund far too many state employees. This is partially due to the influence of urban and city legislators that believe the solution to any social problem is always to throw more money at it, increase regulation and build a bigger bureaucracy to manage it. And far too many of our legislators have become professional career politicians who retain office by spreading the wealth of CT around to their constituents and union pals.

I believe there are 151 representatives and 36 senators in the state legislature. Now think about this. How do 187 legislators generate over a thousand proposed bills and acts and vote on over 550 of them during a single term? And the vast majority of these acts and bills have to do with more regulations, increasing taxes, adding more debt and giving our money away; too often to curry favor and influence with specific groups and organizations. As one of my legislator friends said, there was a time when the Legislature knew to close down and go home; most of them had dairy cows to milk. Today CT’s unrestrained Democrat legislators are milking the tax payers.

Q. Governor Malloy has an educational reform plan, a major portion of which involves an expansion of pre-kindergarten classes. Based on that recent Capital Connections video, do you agree with Rep. Willis and Cook in their plans for education and their reservations about charter schools in Connecticut?

A. It was painful to watch the video of Reps Willis& amp; Cook—two perpetuators of Connecticut's serious economic problems—pontificate about solutions; especially when it was difficult to really understand what they were trying to sell. What did come through is that they are both caught up in the liberal vortex of excessive government control in the private lives of citizens is the best solution to Connecticut's woes.

I understand the need for many parents to have childcare support in order to be able to work and make a living, but I do not believe that turning our adolescent children over to the state is better than an actively involved stay at home mom or dad. But the tragic fact is the cost to live in Connecticut today—with the highest gasoline tax and 2ndhighest utility rate in the nation, which are just two examples of Connecticut's overtaxed citizens—require both parents to work. Too many parents can’t afford not to work, especially since Connecticut is # 1 in the Nation for Tax Freedom Day—May 5ththis year—which is the day Connecticut’s taxpayers have finally earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year. Far too many parents are forced to work for Uncle Sam and Father Malloy and then reply upon the state to raise their children. This is another reason why young people are leaving Connecticut to raise their families in other states.

Willis & Cook’s reservations about Charter schools are pure bureaucratic thinking. The facts are that between 1999 to 2009 the number of students enrolled in public charter schools more than tripled from 340,000 to 1.4 million students and the percentage of all public schools that were charter schools increased from 2 to 5 percent, comprising over 4,700 schools in 2009. This upward trend is due to success.

America also has a recent historic example in New Orleans of what Charter schools can achieve, particularly with inner city poverty level schools. After Hurricane Katrina, more than 85% that city’s schools—over 110 of them—were literally destroyed. But rather than rebuild them to old bureaucratic standards, New Orleans took the opportunity to do things differently. Today, over half of New Orleans city schools are Charter schools that are publicly authorized, funded, and evaluated, but independently operated. One benefit has been the drop from 67 percent to 34 percent of New Orleans students attending a low-performing school.

While this could be an example of a solution to Connecticut's underperforming schools, particularly in Connecticut's urban and inner cities, both Willis & Cook express serious reservations about Connecticut investing in independent Charter schools. Furthermore, they believe that Connecticut Charter school teachers who are not wholly required to be as certified their counterparts in the traditional bureaucratically run public schools, must be forced to meet all of the same certification requirements. This is a prime example of the liberal bureaucratic mindset; forced government control and more regulation and certification. Willis & Cook can’t help being what they are– controlling bureaucrats. They should take off their blinders, look at the success of independent Charter schools in New Orleans and take a long hard look to see if this is needed in Connecticut.

Q. What do you think of the Governor’s efforts to spur business activity in the state through tax credits targeted at preferred industries, grants and his“First Five” program?

A. It would have been interesting to hear the floor debate on Public Act No. 11-86, which created the Governor’s “First Five” program and learn why Senator Roraback voted NO and Willis& amp; Cook voted Yes. But again, Willis & Cook are pretty much straight party line voters for whatever the Governor wants.

Anytime a company can bring or create new jobs in Connecticut should be applauded, but the question remains to be answered - at what cost to Connecticut's tax payers? The Act requires the recipient company—and I quote the Act—“to(A) create not less than two hundred new jobs within twenty-four months from the date such application is approved; or (B) invest not less than twenty-five million dollars and create not less than two hundred new jobs within five years from the date such application is approved.” The Act doesn’t address what the penalty is if the company doesn’t invest the $25 million and then fails to create the required jobs. Furthermore, the 4thcompany to take advantage of this program, the NBC Sports Group, received a $20 million dollar loan from the state. So if they didn’t pony up $25 million and they received $20 million there’s a net capital difference of $45 million on the backs of the Connecticut taxpayers. Hopefully in the long run the state will be revenue positive in this program. Let’s hope a watchdog tax group like Connecticut's Yankee Institute or The Federation of Connecticut Taxpayer Organizationsfollows this program’s performance.

But tax payers also need to recognize that the “First Five”program is designed to attract large-scale business employers. As far as spurring on business, it’s Connecticut's small business person or employer, which employs almost three quarters of a million workers, who needs relief from taxes and too much government regulation. According to the 2010 U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy report, and again I quote, “Small businesses totaled 318,230 in Connecticut in 2009. They represent 97.2 percent of all employers and employ 50 percent of the private-sector workforce. Being such a large part of the state’s economy, these businesses are central to Connecticut’s health and well-being.”

If Connecticut is to ever get back on the path to prosperity, the Governor and his Democrat legislature have to stop pursuing the big media attention deals and focus on fixing what ails the state; the plight of Connecticut's real employers–small businesses. But don’t hold your breath. Until there is real change in Hartford, both small and large employers will continue to leave and our young people will follow. In fact, the Partnership for Strong Communities confirms this harsh reality reporting that Connecticut has lost a higher percentage of its 25-34-year-old population since 1990 than any other state with the exception of Maine and New Hampshire. To lose close connections between children and parents is a tragedy for Connecticut families.

Q. The governor also has claimed he intends to “reinvent” Connecticut. How is he doing so far?

A. As for reinventing Connecticut , I believe the citizens recently got to see the Governor’s true colors. The Governor’s $27 million marketing and branding campaign for the state, “Connecticut—Still Revolutionary,” recently lived up to its name when the Yankee Institute exposed Malloy and friends’ plan to borrow another $300,000 to repair the HQ building of the Connecticut Communist Party and The Worker’s weekly newspaper People's World. Imagine using our tax dollars to shelter communism right here in Connecticut!

The out-pouring of citizen outrage stopped the insanity this time, but as long as unrestrained Democrats remain in control of the legislature, and it’s been over 30 years, citizens must expect more taxes and debt. In fact, House Bill 5557 that was passed in the last legislative session, on which Roraback voted NO and yet again true blue to Malloy Rep. Willis voted YES, is a prime example of the on-going Democrat spending spree. For example, $20,000 granted to the West Indian Foundation, Inc. for a parade. $100,000 for the city of Norwich to cast a “Freedom Bell” so it can be rung on Emancipation day, and $600,000 to the Spanish-American Merchants Association of New Haven.

The Democrats believe money grows on trees in Connecticut's small towns, which is why for every tax dollar sent to Hartford, Kent for example gets back 6 cents, Salisbury gets 7 and Sharon gets just 3. Meanwhile, small town roads deteriorate and aren’t maintained as legislators like Rep. Willis & Cook, like drunken sailors, throw money for parades and bronze bells. This is the insanity the Connecticut tax payer faces. Connecticut's citizens must realize this unrestrained spending goes on in the face of massively underfunded pensions and continual increased borrowing as the state’s debt rating is downgraded.

Q. During this interview several times you have made reference to Rep. Willis’s voting in lockstep with the Democrat Party line. Can you expand on that and explain why you are against Party loyalty?

A. I am not against Party loyalty; it’s what makes for a vibrant party. But what I am against is one party rule like we have in the state legislature where partisan politics is the rule at the expense of the tax payer and employers. Let me give you an example.

CT Mirror,in a 2011 profile of Rep. Willis, reported that she cast herself as a defender of higher education against the newly elected administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who proposed and ultimately won legislation consolidating the community colleges and state university system. In March 2011, Rep. Willis said “she was lobbied by a number of administration officials, including Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, to approve Malloy's bill as written.” As a peace offering, Willis had her committee approve the governor's bill saying, “I am being very nice. If it was a Republican governor, I would have given the proposal a hearing, but it wouldn't have come out of committee.” That’s a pretty clear statement of partisan prejudice.

Thirty years of unrestrained one party Democrat rule that continues to spend money we don’t have is the vicious cycle destroying Connecticut. Until the voters break this cycle and stop sending people like Willis & Cook back to Hartford, Connecticut will continue to spiral down.

Q. You paint a picture that would seem to discourage people like yourself from running for office, especially against long-term incumbents such as Willis. Why are you taking up this challenge?

A. You’re right. On the surface it would seem to be an uphill battle against the Democrats that have owned both the Senate and the House for over 30 years with virtually no off-setting opposition. With no restraint, legislators like Willis &Cook have corrupted Connecticut’s once proud reputation as the “Land of Steady Habits” and made it the “Land of Steady Tax & Debt Increases.” But in fact there is light at the end of the tunnel. You probably know that Republican voter registration in Connecticut is at an all time historic low of 20%. But in the 2010 election just two years after going deep blue for Obama, the Republican Party won 15 additional seats in the 151 seat General Assembly. This significant 10% gain was the direct result of disillusioned Democrat and Unaffiliated voters deciding to restore fiscal common sense and accountability to our struggling State. Connecticut voters aren’t stupid. Once they understand the fiscal and economic facts that define Connecticut as one of the worst states in the nation, they will vote for fiscal responsibility, which typically means voting for a Republican candidate. I am that candidate.

I’m taking up this challenge because I love Connecticut. From our mountains to our shoreline, Connecticut is abundantly blessed with resources that offer the promise for a rich quality of life. As the gateway to New England with easy access to Boston and Manhattan, we should be a state that attracts businesses from across the nation. But the reality is we are failing to deliver this promise as our one party legislature squanders Connecticut's resources. We were once one of the greatest states in the nation and we can be again. But there needs to be real change in how we go about doing this.

Q. What makes you believe this transformation can happen in Connecticut, which remains a highly unionized non right-to-work state where the unions and Democrat party have a close working and mutually supportive relationship?

A. Again, you have to dig below the surface to see what could be for Connecticut. But you’re right, the Democrat Party and unions—over 32 in Connecticut—have a far too cozy relationship. This was exemplified in Gov. Malloy’s recent coercive executive order that paved the way for the forced unionization of Connecticut's in-home health care workers, most of whom are woman. Because these in-home caregivers are paid, in part, through a subsidized state program, some of the union dues these workers are forced to pay will undoubtedly be funneled back as political contributions to union friends in the Connecticut legislature that made this scheme possible. For the record—yet again—Representatives Willis & Cook voted YES to this forced unionization scheme while Senator Roraback voted No.

But don’t believe that everyone in a union wants to be there. In fact, the recent Wisconsin recall vote proved otherwise. Once Wisconsin’s union members were free to choose to remain or leave their union, over 50% of them left! In some unions, it's been even higher. There is no doubt in my mind that given the same choice in Connecticut something similar would happen. While Union bosses can tell their members how to vote, in the privacy of the ballot booth those members have free choice and they are voting differently. This is why the Card Check process in union votes where union bosses get to see how the worker voted is so corrupt. To reiterate, the voters aren’t stupid. This is why the Republicans increased their seats in the General Assembly by 10% and I expect this trend to continue in 2012.

Q. You say that Connecticut government has gotten too big. How do you define that and what could you do as a legislator to reduce the size of government?

A. Remember that Connecticut government—and its employees—produce little to nothing tangible that contributes to Connecticut’s Gross Domestic [State] Product. Their primary role is to collect 378 taxes and fees to pay government workers, fund pension plans, cover operating expenses and wisely re-allocate the surplus for the benefit of the people. With our taxes, State government has grown to be one of the largest employers in Connecticut. There are a lot of differing numbers thrown around by the Malloy administration as to the number of state employees, so I rely upon theConnecticut Department of Administrative Services’ 2010-2011 Report (see pg 25).

In 1975, Connecticut had 45,000 state employed workers. According to the Department of Administrative Services, today it takes 87,761 full-time and 13,291 part-time employees—that’s over 100 thousand state paid workers for a population of just 3.5 million. Why does Connecticut need 27 public employees per thousand residents when Florida—with a population 5 times that of Connecticut, an older aging population, a bigger minority population and more infrastructure—needs just 10? The national state average is only 15.

Rather than helping Connecticut's smaller businesses and entrepreneurs create jobs, Connecticut has essentially become an employment agency to increase the size of government. As a minority party legislator, the only thing I can do is be vocal about the problems and vote like Senator Roraback did against increasing the size of government, taxes and debt. I will actively pursue a pro-business agenda.

Q. Aren’t taxes a necessary evil to running government?

A. Of course they are, and there isn’t a state in the union that doesn’t collect some form of tax to fund itself. However, the degree to which they tax is one criterion that separates states that are doing well from states—like Connecticut—that are becoming fiscal disasters.

Out-of-control taxes are like a cancer that eats away at the heart of a state. Connecticut levies more than 378 taxes and fees generating over 20 BILLION dollars annually and it’s still not enough for our unrestrained Democrat legislature. Governor Malloy increased taxes by 2.6 billion dollars. The sales tax was increased and expanded. Taxes on certain alcoholic beverages increased twenty percent. The real estate conveyance tax increased fifty percent. They even put new taxes on nursing homes and care facilities for the mentally retarded, and started a Patient Revenue Tax on hospitals which, with the exception of Sharon Hospital, are Non-Profit operations. For the Party that claims to look after the welfare of the people, how do the Democrats justify taxing Connecticut's vital service providers thus making it more difficult for them to deliver their services to our most vulnerable citizens?

Q. You keep referring to Connecticut as a fiscal disaster when in fact it remains one of wealthiest state in America, if not the # 1 wealthiest. How do you justify that statement?

A. For too long Connecticut's legislators have gotten a free pass simply because Connecticut remains one of the wealthiest states in America with some of the highest per capita incomes. Greenwich, for example, is America’s # 1 wealthiest city amongst those with populations over 50,000, and is home to 8 of Connecticut's 11 billionaires who have a combined net worth in excess of 35 billion dollars. Connecticut's wealth is the GOLDEN GOOSE that our unrestrained tax and spend legislators seem intent upon driving out. But Connecticut residents—especially the wealthy—have options and they are leaving. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly 98 thousand people abandoned Connecticut going to states like Florida, which has no state income tax, no retirement income tax, no inheritance tax and a limited estate tax.

In the face of reality—and despite the fact that Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services supports the elimination of the estate tax—Governor Malloy lowered the estate and gift tax thresholds from $3.5 million to $2 million and kept the rate at 12 percent. This guarantees Connecticut will remain uncompetitive to America’s fastest growing tax friendly states.

Q. Is there any specific legislation you would want to propose if you are elected to the State Legislature?

A. Absolutely. I will tell you about one on which Rep. Willis would vote NO.

I support a right which Connecticut citizens do not have, but to date is the law in thirty one states. That is the right for citizens’ballot initiative, referendum and recall. This citizen right—direct democracy—gives voters the power to make laws, repeal laws and remove elected officials from office.

In the 2010 state elections, gubernatorial candidates Republican Tom Foley and Independent Tom Marsh and the Green and Libertarian Parties endorsed Connecticut having this right. In the 2010 election debate between Rep. Willis and Republican challenger Lauretano, despite the fact that a Rasmussen Poll of Connecticut voters found that 65 percent were in favor of this right, Willis emphatically stated she was against the citizens of Connecticut having it. More than half the Republican legislative candidates endorsed it as the entire Democratic establishment—including Rep. Willis—ignored it.

A good example of why Connecticut citizens needs it enacted is the recent GMO labeling bill HB 5117 - An Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Food, which over 90% of Connecticut’s residents favored. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, “before the bill had a chance to make it to the floor for debate and a vote, in a closed door meeting, Governor Malloy and his attorneys interfered in the legislative process by removing Section 2 of the bill. Section 2 was the heart of the bill, the section that called for mandatory labeling of all products produced with the process of genetic engineering, leaving HB 5117 meaningless.”

Need I say more?

Q. I think you have given the voters of the 64th District -- and perhaps many others -- a pretty clear idea of where you stand versus your Democrat opponent. Is there anything you want to say in closing this interview?

A. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to delineate some of the differences between me and Representative Willis. I will close by asking the 64th’s new towns—Norfolk, Canaan, North Canaan and Kent—to stay their course by electing a Republican to carry on in place of Republican Representatives Richard Smith and John Rigby who, because of redistricting into the 64th District, will no longer be representing them.

Electing Democrat Representative Willis is not in their best interest if they want to see Connecticut return to its past prominence as one of the nation’s great states in which to work, live and raise a family. We need to continue the trend of electing more Republicans who believe in fiscal responsibility while administering the right amount of government—not more government and taxes—to restore prosperity.

By the way, getting back to that Churchill statement about politicians, he said the second desirable trait in a politician was having the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.

Governor Malloy won’t balance the budget before year end without more trickery and broken promises. He can’t stop increasing debt because the Democrats won’t reduce spending. No doubt in the next election he’ll have plenty of reasons why he couldn’t do it in his first term as promised, but will do it in his next term; and that’s a promise!

I hope the voters of the 64thDistrict will remember: Fool you once, shame on Danno. Fool you twice, shame on yourself for being so gullible.

Lastly, the political cronyism that frankly has afflicted both political parties started immediately with Malloy when right after the 2010 elections several Democrat legislators resigned to take positions with his administration. It was the old political game of substantially increasing your last few years of salary to receive a substantial life time pension paid for by the tax payer. Talk about right in your face political stink!

Every town affected by these post-election resignations had to organize and fund another costly special election almost immediately following the general election. Too many of these career politicians have no scruples when it comes to putting themselves above those who pay their salaries. So it should also come as no surprise that most of the funds this administration is spending on developing business and jobs are going to larger corporations that frankly don’t need it, but take it because it’s there for the taking. And in too many cases the executives and owner of these large corporations have influence with the politicians that CT’s hundreds of thousands of small business owner’s lack. Is it any wonder that the productive tax payer and the small business person or company is looking at greener pastures in far friendlier states?