Saturday, December 28, 2013

The McEnroe Itch

Any admission from Colin McEnroe, a Courant commentator and host of his own radio show on National Public Radio, “The Colin McEnroe Show,” that he is disposed to vote Republican should be taken, as Mark Twain once said, “with a ton of salt.”

Mr. McEnroe wrote in a December 07, 2012 column, “Searching The Ballot For Worthy Republicans,” that he was “itchin' to vote for a Republican.”  And he even provided some tantalizing biographical information: Both of his parents had been Goldwater Republicans. Political obligations to one’s parents, however, rarely survive a Yale education, the fifth commandment having been seriously eroded by sophomore year. Mr. McEnroe noticed that his father had been sliding towards the Democratic heresy at the end. In his later years, his father had “taken to slipping into the voting booth and quietly voting Democrat. I could tell this was happening because he slowly stopped saying anything about politics in front of my mother.”

Around the time he wrote his column, Mr. McEnroe had two rare opportunities to scratch his itch. And so did the Hartford Courant, which multiple times claimed or strongly suggested in its editorials that the GOP should offer up to voters more moderate (read: liberal), pragmatic (read: liberal), non-ideological (read: liberal) Republicans.

Of Ross Garber, then running for attorney general in a Republican Party primary, Mr. McEnroe wrote in his column, “I also would have considered voting for Ross Garber for attorney general, even though I have no significant problems with the Democrat who won, George Jepsen. I think highly of Ross, and I would have been able to say, ‘I do NOT always vote for Democrats. As recently as 2010, I blah-blah woof-woof.’"

Mr. McEnroe was robbed of the opportunity of voting in the general election for a Republican Party attorney general who suited his taste because the Republican Party nominee for attorney general that year was attorney Martha Dean, about whom Mr. McEnroe wrote, “Just the other day I was remarking to my colleague John Dankosky that perhaps we all should have voted for Martha Dean Christian Space Warrior™, because life would have been really exciting and because the state could have written down its debt by selling action figures. But I didn't vote for her because I was afraid to roll the dice on someone who might get the state bogged down in litigation with secular humanist mole people living in tunnels on one of Jupiter's moons.”

The ghost of Mr. McEnroe’s politically active father, not to mention the ghost of his Goldwater supporting mother, could have advised Mr. McEnroe that he might easily have registered as Republican that year so as to have had the pleasure of scratching his itch by voting against the “Christian Space Warrior™” and for his preferred Republican Party candidate, Mr. Garber, in the Republican Party primary. Perhaps that route was too troublesome for Mr. McEnroe; or, as seems more likely, the itch to vote Republican was not very itchy.

Mr. Roraback that year did make it past the Republican Party primary filter to become the GOP’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut’s 5th District. Mr. Roraback edged out three other Republican Party U.S. Congressional contestants when Mark Greenberg, since pilloried by Mr. McEnroe, pledged his support to Mr. Roraback, who was without question Mr. McEnroe’s kind of Republican.

In his most recent column, “State Republicans Shouldn't Squander Chances," Mr. McEnroe writes, “The Connecticut GOP's leprous condition leaves too much room for rich guys who don't know what they're talking about and don't seem to care. Yes, Mark Greenberg, I'm looking at you.”

Mr. Roraback was the Courant’s kind of Republican too, uber-liberal on social issues and what has been called in Connecticut a “fiscal conservative” on economic issues. Indeed, Mr. Roraback styled himself during the general campaign a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. On the social issue front, Mr. Roraback’s bona fides were unimpeachable – almost. As noted in Connecticut Commentary,  Mr.  Roraback’s cousin, Catharine Roraback, “was a civil rights attorney in Connecticut best known for representing Estelle Griswold and Dr. C. Lee Buxton in the famous 1965 Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized the use of birth control and created the precedent of the ‘right to privacy’ later employed by an imaginative Supreme Court to rid the United States of its anti-abortion demons.”

Mr. Roraback had been praised by the Courant in previous editorials for having had a perfect attendance record in the state Senate. He never missed a vote, according to The Register Citizen Papers: ”Since beginning his service in the General Assembly on Jan. 4, 1995, Senator Roraback has cast 7,432 votes and has been present for every vote taken in his 15 legislative sessions.” Mr. Roraback’s score card on social issues was perfect, as noted by the usual left of center rating agencies. And Mr. Roraback had far more political experience under his belt than his Democratic challenger in the 5th District, Elizabeth Esty, the wife of Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The Courant fulsomely endorsed Mr. Roraback over other challengers in the Republican Party primary, noting with some relief that ”Mr. Roraback is a fiscal conservative but not an ideologue” – i.e. not a social conservative.

Yet in the general election, the Courant endorsed Ms. Esty over Mr. Roraback, the Republican Party endorsed candidate embraced by Mr. Greenberg who, according to Mr. McEnroe, “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” and “doesn’t seem to care,” a formulation that, as it rolls off Mr. McEnroe’s tongue, may mean little more than this: “Mr. Greenberg’s political prescriptions for what ails the United States do not correspond to my own.”

The Courant’s general election endorsement of Ms. Esty over Mr. Roraback was soddened with remorse: “… it is hard not to endorse Mr. Roraback. In his 18 years in the legislature, he has been a thoughtful and productive lawmaker with a reputation for hard work and personal integrity. There's no reason to think that wouldn't continue in Washington, should he be elected.”

Mr. McEnroe’s political prescriptions for most large issues affecting the nation are, as always, amusing but amorphous.

Neither the Courant nor Mr. McEnroe will have a future opportunity to scratch their respective itches and endorse or vote for Mr. Roraback as a Republican U.S. Congressional candidate in the 5th District, because some months ago he was appointed by Mr. Malloy as a Superior Court Judge, removing Mr. Roraback as a potential candidate for the U .S. Congress.

Both the Courant and Mr. McEnroe no doubt were pleased with the selection. It eliminated permanently a terribly inconvenient itch. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

McEnroe, A Thousand Laughs

One of the problems with columns written by humorists is that they may be taken seriously when they are intended as humor or – worse – they may be taken humorously when they are intended to be taken seriously. This was the curse that followed Mark Twain to the end of his days.

So too with Mr. McEnroe. “Give me the right guy,” he has said , “and I’ll vote GOP for once.”

Mr. McEnroe’s humor rests, like a coiled snake, in that “for once.” Has he ever voted for a Republican?

Not likely. Let the word go round at the Hartford Courant that any of its columnists voted Republican, and they would never survive the shattering laughter that would greet them when they sit down at their keyboards to advise Republicans who they ought to nominate to run against, say, U.S. Representative John Larson in the 1st District, or Rosa DeLauro in the 3rd District, both of whom are certain to die in office, Ms. DeLauro dressed as a 1930’s flapper, hip to the last.

Mr. McEnroe goes on to list the “wrong” guys: Tom Foley for governor; Mark Greenberg for the Congressional 5th District; Martha Dean for…  well, anything at all.

Perhaps the Republican GOP should take Mr. McEnroe at his word and offer him an opportunity to run on the Republican ticket in the 1st District against Mr. Larson. Mr. McEnroe, of a certainty, would be the “right guy” and someone on the GOP ticket he could vote for – “for once.”

Here is the ticklish question: Supposing Mr. McEnroe were to accept the GOP offer to run against Mr. Larson, how many votes would he garner from the editors and columnists and reporters at the Hartford Courant?

He should not be hasty in answering the question.

Years ago, when Barbara Kennelly held the seat, the sacrificial offering put up by the GOP was a very sweet, intelligent engineer who worked for Combustion Engineering, which went out of business after Connecticut became impatient with nuclear producers.

One day, the hapless GOP challenger called and lamented that he was not being covered properly by Connecticut’s left of center media, and could I do a few columns on his effort to overthrow the daughter of Connecticut’s last Democratic Party boss?

Of course I could – and did. He turned out to be a very respectable candidate. But the 1st District was then, as it is now, an unassailable Democratic fortress. He lost. But that was not what grieved him. What busted him up was that Combustion had given more money in campaign contributions to Mrs. Kennelly than to him -- a faithful employee of Combustion.

I wrote a last commiserating column that said, “If the Democratic Party were to run a fire hydrant in the 1st District and the GOP were to run God, the hydrant would undoubtedly win.” Ms. Kennelly’s communications’ director was not amused.

The GOP should seriously make Mr. McEnroe an offer and run him against Mr. Larson. Everyone would benefit from the arraignment: Mr. McEnroe would – "for once" – be able to vote for a Republican acceptable to him; the campaign would produce a thousand laughs, and the GOP would lose nothing in the venture they would not have lost had they run Martha Dean or God in the First District. 

Is Malloy Fooling All the People Some Of The Time Or Some Of The People All Of The Time?

One news publication apparently has an ear for a political pitch:

“In the first-term Democratic governor’s recent speeches, echoes can be heard of the broad themes that President Obama successfully used in 2012 to make a case for his second term, despite stubbornly high unemployment and a tepid economic recovery, the same conditions confronting Malloy.

“Like Obama, Malloy is asking for more time to overcome fiscal challenges left by a Republican predecessor, rattling off statistics that point to progress and ignoring those that do not. And like the president, the governor acknowledges the electorate’s fears and frustrations about the pace of recovery.”

The publication notes that Governor Dannel Malloy has not yet formally announced his candidacy. His on the stump remarks are styled by the publication as a “soft opening of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s unannounced re-election campaign.” Pause for a moment over the oxymoronic expression “soft opening of an unannounced campaign.” It is not modesty but rather political calculation that so far has prevented Mr. Malloy from shouting his candidacy for governor from Connecticut rooftops.

But suppose – just to suppose – that the state’s recovery from the national recession, always painfully slow in Connecticut, has been impeded by measures adopted by Mr. Obama to spur the recovery? In that case, would Mr. Malloy be willing to detach his political program from the usual made-in-Washington campaign script and head out, to vary a term use by Huckleberry Finn, “for the territories?” For Huck, “the territories” were potential states in which slavery had not yet had a chance to put down roots, an important consideration for his friend Jim, over whom the possibility of enslavement  hung pendulously like a damoclean sword.

It is true that a progressive script disclaiming responsibility for a lackluster economy did work well for Mr. Obama, even though he had occupied the presidential office for the preceding four years. A few months into his second term, however, Mr. Obama’s inauthentic campaign “reality” crashed into real reality. The Benghazi imposture, the raid by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the constitutional privacy rights of much derided and inoffensive conservative organizations, the defection of Edward Snowden to Russia and the consequent drip, drip of previously closely guarded spying methods of the American spook machine, the abject surrender of Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy to President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the stressful – some would say fatal -- architectural fault lines in Obamacare, and a continuing lack luster economy, all this and more has rubbed raw the trust Americans place, almost as a matter of course, in their president. The principal features of the Obama-Malloy script are a ganglion of suppositions, many of them untrue or doubtful.

No doubt new presidents and governors “inherit” problems from their predecessors. However, along with the manageable difficulties come certain benefits. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Malloy did pledge to overcome the difficulties of their predecessors, and both inherited, along with a weakened economy, a constitutional framework they did not have to invent from whole cloth, business enterprises they did not have to establish from the ground up, and traditional economic configurations they did not have to configure from scratch – on the whole, a rich, even an enviable patrimony. As for the “inherited problems,” both chief executives were swept into office on pledges that they would settle them; and if the problems remain unsettled or grow more severe during their time in office, one always hopes voters will have the good sense to throw the bums out. Grousing about predecessors after one has had years to implement plans offered in campaigns to solve such problems borders on whining.

During the soft opening of his thus far unannounced political campaign, Mr. Malloy, borrowing a page from the Obama campaign, boasted that jobs in Connecticut were on the uptick, presaging a recovery flowing from Mr. Malloy’s sagacious political programs. That soap bubble burst when it collided with a less politically campaign oriented report issued by UConn economists.

The report noted "Connecticut has not created and sustained net new jobs in 25 years. The extraordinary persistence of weak job creation argues powerfully for profound structural weaknesses in the state's economy, weaknesses that surely predates (sic) the devastating recession that hammered the state economy at the opening of the 1990s or the financial crisis in 2007-2008." The report did not stress that the “profound structural weaknesses” began in the state with the imposition of the Lowell Weicker income tax, that it took ten years for the state to recover the job losses incurred during the Weicker recession, or that Mr. Malloy’s “solution” to the budget deficits left to him by his predecessors, the largest tax increase in state history, was eerily similar to Mr. Wicker’s false solution. With considerable chutzpah, the UConn economists suggested that job losses in the state could be stemmed, if only temporarily, as soon as Mr. Malloy begins to spend bonded money already allocated for capital expenditures – perhaps by adding a few more buildings or professorships to UConn. Demands of this kind should be made discreetly.     

The real solutions to years of anemic economic growth lie outside Mr. Malloy’s progressive fantasy world. Stop borrowing money, except for justifiable state-wide capital projects; this year, the Malloy administration borrowed nearly a billion dollars to finance a change in state accounting processes. Reduce municipal mandates, thus relieving the pressure on town officials to increase property taxes. Cut business taxes across the board, and end the crony capitalism that transfers taxes from the dwindling savings accounts of   hard pressed taxpayers to the budging pockets of tax gobbling CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations. Cut spending. Establish term limits; more elections more often are a corrective for voter apathy. Tell the unions in Connecticut that no one has a right to strike against the public safety, anytime, anywhere, for any purpose.  Govern wisely, parsimoniously and well. And try as much as possible to keep your grubby hands off people’s bibles, their wallets and their guns.

These steps on the road to recovery would mark a promising beginning. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the Road With Blumenthal

Some stories just make your brain pop.

U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal was visiting with Gregory and Celeste Fulcher, whose daughter, Erika Robinson, 26, had been slain in a nightclub shooting by Adrian Bennett, 28, aka “Bread.”

Mr. “Bread,” Mr. Fulcher told Mr. Blumenthal, should not have had a gun, and he should not have been on parole: “It’s senseless, he shouldn’t have been out of jail walking the streets as a convicted felon.” Fulcher said of Mr. Bennett. “The system failed us, but I also blame the establishment.”

The “establishment” was the Key Club Cabaret in New Haven, no longer in business. Mr. Bennet is accused of having opened fire into a crowd of people at the club, killing Ms. Robinson and injuring five others. The “system” refers to the legislative, judicial and penology system in Connecticut, as well as a set of default assumptions that consigns the murders of African Americans living in cities to the dark recesses of our minds. What happens in the cities stays in the cities. Crimes outside urban areas in Connecticut quickly catch the attention of the media and politicians, but when an innocent young boy or girl is gunned down in the urban jungle, people nod their heads knowingly and quickly go about their business.

Such assumptions are salt rubbed into the open wound of the Fulchers.  This time, it was their daughter.

Mr. Blumenthal had mentioned Erika Robinson in a floor speech in the U.S. Senate. Good for him. The Fulchers deeply appreciated the notice. The familiarity with violent death in urban areas has bred in us a sort of contempt. It’s an uphill fight for the Fulchers. Forgive them, won’t you? They, like many a father and mother living on the outskirts of urban violence, expected their daughter would be safe. They, like the rest of us, live within the protective castellated walls of our reasonable expectations, one of which Mr. Fulcher stated eloquently in the New Haven Register story: “It’s senseless, he [Mr. “Bread”] shouldn’t have been out of jail walking the streets as a convicted felon.”

At Ms. Bennet’s funeral, a childhood friend of Ms. Robinson’s father, Brian Jenkins, delivered a citation from Connecticut’s General Assembly and then gave vent to long pent up feelings: “Black men need to stand up and be black. Fathers need to stand up and be fathers. We are the black men of the city and it is more than just taking out the garbage and painting the church…The church is filled with old people and the funeral home is filled with young people. I am sick of it.”

Mr. Blumenthal commiserated with the Fulchers. According to an account in the New Haven Register, “Blumenthal said one of the weaknesses in the judicial system is the failure to properly supervise or even confine people who are dangerous.

“‘Every human being, every person in the United States of America, is deserving of protection that our society failed to give to this young woman. It really goes beyond what happened in the bar, in a way it’s an indictment of the system.”

Mr. Blumenthal, for 20 years and more the Attorney General of Connecticut before he was installed in the U.S. Senate, is used to speaking in legalese: “indictment of the system.” It is difficult to break through the ice of such formulations and touch the marrow in the bones, but Mr. Jenkins came very close.

The family of Ibraham Ghazal is still living the Fulcher’s nightmare, months after a felon released early on a new Risk Reduction Earned Credits program developed by Governor Dannel Malloy’s undersecretary for criminal justice policy at the Office of Policy and Management, Michael Lawlor, illegally acquired a gun, entered an EZMart store in Meriden and shot to death co-owner of the store Ibrahim Ghazal after Mr. Ghazal had obligingly handed Frankie “The Razor” Resto the cash in his register.

Because they’ve been through the political process wringer, the Ghazals perhaps understand much better than Mr. Blumenthal the bumps in Connecticut’s justice system. Indeed, Mr. Blumenthal himself has long been a part of the system since 1977 when he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter as U.S. Attorney for the district of Connecticut. He was Attorney General for the state of Connecticut for more than 20 years before he became a U.S. Senator.

So, how did the Ghazal murder shake out? Frankie “The Razor” Resto was a violent criminal, well known to Connecticut prison guards, and he never should have been paroled or released early under Mr. Lawlor’s problem riddled program, which never received the scrutiny it deserved by the General Assembly before it was smuggled through in an omnibus implementer bill. The early release credits in Mr. Lawlor’s program were applied retroactively to prisoners who had not completed the program.

When leading Republicans in the General Assembly forced a belated public hearing and insisted that violent criminals should not be allowed to participate in Mr. Lawlor’s program, their objections were loftily ignored. After Connecticut Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz appeared in public to represent the interests of the Gahazals and began to point out the shortcomings of Mr. Lawlor’s Risk Reduction Earned Credits program, her job was put on the auction block. When a State Senator attempted to receive from Mr. Lawlor data that would show whether or not the early release program beneficially affected recidivism rates, he was given the run around. Neither the media nor the General Assembly has sufficiently examined closely the flaws in Mr. Lawlor’s defective program. All of these matters might have been brought to public notice during Frankie “The Razor” Resto’s murder trial. A public trial might have focused bright light on “the weaknesses in the judicial system” one of which, Mr. Blumenthal told the Fulcher, “is the failure to properly supervise or even confine people who are dangerous” – like “The Razor” and “Bread.”

But – lucky for the system – it will not be “indicted” in a public trial of Mr. Resto. At his own indictment hearing, Mr. Resto loudly proclaimed that he would reject any deal prosecutors would make, choosing instead to go to trial, but he later repented and decided to accept the deal offered to him by “the system” Mr. Blumenthal condemned in his conversation with the Fulner’s. Mr. Blumenthal  has never sat down to commiserate with the Gahazal family or former Victims Advocate Cruz or Republican legislators who have been unsuccessful in persuading the Malloy administration that violent felons such as rapists should not expect get-out-of-jail early credits from Mr. Lawlor. 

Concerning Mr. Resto, it appears that someone made him an offer he could not refuse: There will be no public displays of the serious fault lines in Mr. Lawlor’s defective Risk Reduction Earned Credits program. And thanks to Mr. Lawlor’s reticence, legislative monitors of the program will not be able to judge from the recidivism data he is reluctant to supply to inquiring state senators whether his brainchild actually reduces recidivism rates – which is, Mr. Lawlor has stated elsewhere, the underlining rational for his program.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The War on Constitutional Rights

The war on the Tea Party, much more than a rhetorical offensive, continues unabated months after the putatively non-partisan Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – the guys and gals that audit you to make sure you are paying your “fair share” to support your president, your U.S. Congress and your federal courts – had targeted tea party political groups for punitive audits.

The same “death to the Bill of Rights” progressives at the U.S. Treasury Department have now promulgated rules that will, they hope, insure the extinction of the political sons and daughters of Sam Adams, John Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and – coming closer to Connecticut  -- Roger Sherman, William Samuel Johnson, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, Lyman Hall and the authors of Connecticut’s 1818 “Declaration of Rights,” Governor Oliver Wolcott Jr. among them, which declares in section 4:

“Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.”

And in section 5:

“No law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech or of the press.”

And in section 9

“No person shall be arrested, detained or punished, except in cases clearly warranted by law.”

And in section 14:

“The citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble for their common good, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government, for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.”

No one in Connecticut surrendered such rights and immunities, many of which are also mentioned in the U.S. Bill of Rights, when the state moved into the 21st century, which has turned out to be far less liberating than the 18th, the crucible of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For some reason, a muscular federal agency, this time the U.S. Treasury Department, now feels comfortable in abolishing such rights through administrative edict.

Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal tells us how the MS functioning IRS assault on the liberties of Americans is to be accomplished:

“In the media blackout of Thanksgiving week, the Treasury Department dumped a new proposal to govern the political activity of 501(c)(4) groups.”

U.S.  House Ways and Means Committee investigators are concerned that the new regulation “was reverse-engineered—designed to isolate and shut down the same tea party groups victimized in the first targeting round. Treasury appears to have combed through those tea party applications, compiled all the groups' main activities, and then restricted those activities in the new rule.”

Here’s how the constitutionally dubious attempt by Barack Obama’s White House and Tea Party averse Democratic Congressmen to overthrow commonly accepted constitutional immunities will work:

“To get or keep tax-exempt status, 501(c)(4) organizations must devote a majority of their work to their "primary" social-welfare purpose. Most tea party groups were set up with a primary purpose of educating Americans on pressing problems—the size of government, the erosion of the Constitution—and did so mainly via nonpartisan voter guides, speakers forums, pamphlets or voter-registration drives.

“What the proposed Treasury/IRS regulation would do is to re-categorize all these efforts as "political activity"—thereby making it all but impossible for tea party groups to qualify for 501(c)(4) status. Say an outfit's primary purpose is educating voters on our unsustainable debt, which it does mainly with a guide explaining the problem and politicians' voting records. Under the new rule, that guide is now "political activity" (rather than "social welfare"), which likely loses the group tax-exempt status.”

Here is a question that ought to be put to every citizen of the “Constitution State,” not excluding the state’s governor, members of the General Assembly, jurists, members of the state’s media and little children studying, one hopes, the once proud history of Connecticut: Are were really prepared in this brand spanking new century to allow a poorly administered federal bureaucracy to deprive, through an ill-conceived administrative regulation, the people of this state of rights and immunities in defense of which all the political heroes mentioned in this column were willing to give their last drop of blood?

Well… are we?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Jepsen Skirts Statutory Obligations

The office of Attorney General in Connecticut evolved from the King’s Lawyer in the pre-Revolutionary period. It was the English attorney general who, after a hearing with Connecticut Governor John Winthrop, approved a bill for incorporation of the Connecticut Charter.

In Connecticut’s colonial period, the office of state’s attorney represented both the administrative and criminal interests of the crown. The office of Attorney General was established in 1898 to represent the civil interests of the state, the criminal interest to be retained by the chief state’s attorney. The office of Attorney General today retains its initial purpose in colonial law. The Attorney General’s office is statutorily obligated to represent the legal interests of the governor of the state and his administrators. While the nature of the chief executive in Connecticut has changed from king to governor, needs remain constant. Both king and governor operate politically within set legal constructs, and both need an office to advise the chief executive and to represent its interests and those of its agents in civil legal proceedings.

The principal duties and responsibilities of the state’s Attorney General are set forth in Conn. General Statute Section 3-125, which authorizes the Attorney General to “represent the interests of the people of the State of Connecticut in all civil legal matters involving the state to protect the public interest, and to serve as legal counsel to all state agencies.”

People in Connecticut may be forgiven for assuming that the principal duty of the office is to serve as a sort of consumer protection agency on steroids, the chief focus of two assertive and politically minded former Attorneys General, Joe Lieberman and Dick Blumenthal, both of whom used their time in office as springboards to the U.S. Senate. The first duty of the Attorney General, however, is to serve as lawyer representing the interests of the governor and state agencies.

When an Attorney General represents at any hearing a governor who has been sued by a non-governmental agency, he is fulfilling the statutory obligations of his office. When the Attorney General sues or threatens to sue an herb dealer on a complaint from a citizen that the vendor may have violated a questionable term in a contract, he is operating on the outer edge of his statutory authority. When such suits become the primary focus of the office of Attorney General – as was the case under former Attorney General Dick Blumenthal – the legislature should yank on the statutory reins that limit the authority of the Attorney General’s office.

Present Attorney General George Jepsen’s refusal to press a case involving former Governor John Rowland beyond an appellate court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court borders on a dereliction of duty. The most recent appellate court decision, which reversed an earlier decision in favor of Mr. Rowland and against a powerful, politically connected union, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC), should be contested at the highest level, especially since the Attorney General’s office has spent considerable time and expense defending the ex-governor in a suit that claims Rowland abused his gubernatorial power by singling out state union workers for lay-offs.

The interests of the state do not disappear because the plaintiff at trial is a former governor who had been convicted of depriving the state of honest services, a charge to which Mr. Rowland pleaded guilty and for which he was sentence to a year in prison and four months of house arrest.

Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Jepsen are union friendly government officials. Mr. Malloy has marched on the picket line with striking unions. His first budget – negotiated by the governor and SEBAC after Republican leaders in the General Assembly had been ejected from the negotiating table – was praised by union-friendly state Senator Edith Prague as too good to be true; she said at the time that union leaders would be crazy to reject a deal arranged by Mr. Malloy and SEBAC bargaining officials. Mr. Jepsen’s first job after graduating from college was as staff counsel for the carpenter’s union of Western Connecticut, UBC Local 210. For nearly ten years before entering the General Assembly, Jepsen negotiated contracts for wages and benefits, represented injured workers, ensured job safety, and advocated for different bidding practices.  Mr. Jepsen served in the General Assembly for 16 years, the last 6 as Senate Majority Leader.

Rather than press the reversal of the appellate court to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Jepsen has decided to negotiate the case with SEBAC, which represents a significant step backward in the train of litigation. It is possible that Mr. Jepsen has traded in his statutory obligation to represent the state’s legal interests for a nostalgic turn at union negotiations? Given Mr. Jepsen's past close ties with unions, the trade is certainly understandable. And given his past close ties to the state Democratic Party and a union friendly governor, the Attorney General’s decision to forego further litigation in favor of a further bout of union negotiation is unsurprising, though some may think it highly political -- in the bad sense.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sullivan Laughs, McKinney Gags

Last Year the state – i.e. Governor Dannel Malloy and majority Democrats in Connecticut’s General Assembly -- decided to end its long-time practice of sending out paper checks for tax refunds. The state decided instead to use refund cards for a variety of purposes, including the refunding of tax over-payments.

When state Senate leader John McKinney, now a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, called for a hearing on the change, autocratic Democrats snickered that a public hearing was quite unnecessary. Indeed, the Republican Party, it would seem, was quite unnecessary. Go away.

It turns out that some data in the cards has now been exposed to possible identity theft. About 14,335 accounts have been breached, and State tax commissioner Kevin Sullivan, who once served in the state Senate with Mr. McKinney, is still snickering.

Mr. McKinney once again has called for a hearing, this time on the breach of private information, including social security numbers and other data that those affected by the breach would rather not share with potential criminals. Mr. Sullivan has responded, “Senator McKinney wants to have a hearing on everything, and I appreciate that his gubernatorial campaign needs [publicity]. His response to everything is to have a hearing.’’

Naturally, Democrats such as Mr. Sullivan, who now control all the levers of state government – including the governor’s office, both houses of the General Assembly, committee chairs and appreciative judges– are hearing shy, because public hearings tend to shine a spotlight in dark corners and prevent autocratic Democrats from hiding political dirt under their rugs. Progressive experts especially would rather banish from the halls of power taxpayers and other milch cows who do not understand that governing is best left to credentialed experts in government, provided they are progressive enthusiasts and not odious members of the Tea Party.

One understands; one sympathizes. In a one party state, the governing class can well afford to overlook such democratic measures in support of ethical government as public hearings and bi-partisan legislatures. The governing autocrat does not appreciate eyes – hostile eyes at that! – peering over his shoulder when he wants to slip one by alert members of the General Assembly, or reward with an unexamined contract someone who may contribute generously to his campaign, or stave off an annoying question put to him by a wide-awake reporter not yet in thrall to the prevailing regime.

Mr. Sullivan has advised Mr. McKinney that any problems arising from the selection of JP Morgan Chase as a business agent responsible for the hacked accounts will be settled, so to speak, in-house. The legislature, so far, has not been involved in crafting the public’s business; why complicate matters by insisting on a public hearing now?  

Following Mr. Sullivan’s too hasty rejection of Mr. McKinney’s call for a legislative investigation, Mr. McKinney noted he had sent a letter to Mr. Sullivan and state Treasurer Denise Nappier: “If Commissioner Sullivan is afraid to come before the legislature and answer questions, I would hope he would answer the questions I sent him in the letter. It is certainly not in keeping with an administration that claims to be open and transparent. The old cliché is if you have nothing to hide, why don’t you come out and talk about it?’’

Why indeed? A frank and unvarnished answer to Mr. McKinney’s question might run as follows: 1) Mr. Malloy has made it clear from the beginning of his administration that minority Republicans are not to play a significant role in the state’s new one party government, a message first pressed upon Republicans when Mr. Malloy shooed them from the room during budget negotiations with Connecticut’s fourth branch of government, public employee unions; 2) public hearings are unnecessary in any progressive government that relies chiefly upon “rule by a body of experts,” most of whom are engaged in refashioning the state along lines acceptable to enlightened progressives; 3) in case non-progressives in Connecticut’s new one party state are having some difficulty in deciphering the operative rule of the Malloy administration, it is this: Everything in the progressive state; nothing outside the progressive state; nothing above the progressive state. Is that clear enough?

But, of course, Mr. Sullivan and other Malloyalists may wish to dress up their messages in more acceptable rhetorical garb – furnished, as usual, by such experts as Mr. Roy Occhiogrosso, Vice President of Global Strategy and Mr. Malloy’s flack catcher in waiting.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Malloy’s One Percenter Crony Capitalist Campaign Contributors

When Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May talks campaign donations, his managers listen. But then, Governor Dannel Malloy’s crony capitalist friends tend to be effusive in their praise of their benefactor. "While he has accomplished much, there is more to do," Mr. May wrote in an e-mail to 50 of his managers. "Please join me in providing support to continue the work begun, providing new opportunities, and securing the leadership to make it happen."

Of battling Dannel, Mr. May enthused, “he battled through issues of historic proportions — from nature's wrath to one man's horrific actions," a reference to Adam Lanza’s slaughter of children in Sandy Hook Elementary School. Storm Sandy, of course, stood no chance when confronted with battling Dannel. And mention of Mr. Lanza by politicians in campaign modes cannot help but generate among the voting public a thumbs up for the politician and a thumbs down for Mr. Lanza.

Mr. May provided in his e-mail to his managers the nexus that tied Mr. Malloy to Northeast Utilities. The governor “has clear energy goals that align with our corporate mission and initiatives. He wants clean, reliable and affordable energy — so do we. He brought all appropriate stakeholders together to develop the state's first comprehensive energy policy. He understands the value of and is supportive of expanding access to natural gas… He is supportive of bringing clean, affordable and carbon neutral large scale hydro power into New England. And, he has been a supportive partner in our system hardening efforts and storm preparation initiatives."

Following these effusions, came the hard sell: “"Please make contributions payable to: CT Democratic State Central Committee — Federal."

Convinced by Mr. May’s irrefutable proofs of Mr. Malloy’s leadership and boundless energy in “continuing the work begun,” Mr. May’s employees ponied up. Campaign cash in return for political favors delivered is the heart and soul of crony capitalism.  The exchange, it should be noted, benefits both the crony capitalist suck-ups, who receive from the politician favors that tend to give them an advantage over his competition, and the politician, who magically creates the favorable impression that he is rescuing his state from the penury he himself has brought upon it through high taxes, union friendly agitation, which drives up the cost of labor, and excessive regulation, all of which tend to impact unfavorably smaller capitalist operations that do not have available to them the sycophantic resources of large corporations and quasi-public enterprises. 

NU contributors made their checks payable not to Mr. Malloy, the subject of Mr. May’s sycophantic appeal, but to “CT Democratic State Central Committee – Federal,” according toa copyrighted story in the Hartford Courant. And the managers were generous too. Campaign finance records show that $46,500 in contributions have been made by more than 20 NU executives in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the Connecticut Democratic Party following Mr. May’s appeal for funds on behalf of the heroic Mr. Malloy.

Since Mr. Malloy was the only person mentioned prominently in Mr. May’s appeal to his managers for campaign donations, one investigative reporter wondered, why were the checks to be made payable to the federal wing of Connecticut’s Democratic Party?

State campaign laws do not permit these kinds of campaign contributions. However, where there is a will, there is a way. Under federal campaign laws, more lax than the state campaign laws under which both Mr. Malloy and Mr. May are compelled to operate, a state party may appropriate and spend funds deposited in a federal account, provided the funds are used to support “get-out-the-vote activities” in connection with an election where a candidate for federal office is on the ballot, and never mind that such appropriations and expenditures also assist party candidates running for state office. The “federal option” is one of those campaign finance loopholes large enough to accommodate Santa Claus and his sleigh, outrigged with jingling cow bells and eight beefy and determined reindeer.

A brief consultation with NU lawyers confirmed that the company was operating within the confines of the law, according to NU spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman. Crony Capitalist Tom, Ms. Pretyman said, “consulted our internal legislative and legal affairs experts to determine where to direct any funds. There are rules and regulations that govern where donations can be directed when individuals do business with the state and the federal account is one that all NU individuals are lawfully permitted to participate in." Ms. Pretyman assured doubtful reporters that fatwas would not be issued against non-compliant managers.

Republican opponents of the governor, scandalized by such a blatant violation of the spirit of campaign regulations, might have responded to Ms. Pretyman in the accents of Mr. Bumble, a character in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” Told that the law supposed that Mr. Bumble’s wife was acting under his direction, Mr. Bumble responded, “If the law supposes that, the law is a ass — a idiot". And if the law supposes that slippery politicians will not take advantage of loopholes engineered into the law by other slippery politicians, we may say, along with the practical minded and astute Mr. Bumble,” If the law supposes that, the law is an ass – an idiot.”  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

McKinney’s Endorsement Of Greenberg

By endorsing Mark Greenberg’s candidacy for the U.S. Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, a seat now held by U.S. Representative Elizabeth Esty, state senate leader John McKinney has tossed a wrench into the political machinery.

Mr. McKinney is an announced candidate for governor, a position now held by Governor Dannel Malloy, the first Democratic chief executive in more than 20 years and the nominal head of his party.

The march to Washington through the 5th District has been traveled before by Mr. Greenberg. At the 2012 Republican nominating convention, Mr. Greenberg was a contender for the position, which ultimately fell to then state Senator Andrew Roraback who, following his loss to Ms. Esty, was appointed a superior court judge by Mr. Malloy. Mr. Greenberg endorsed Mr. Roraback. The Democratic contenders at the time were Ms. Esty and then Speaker of the State House of Representatives Chris Donovan, whose campaign was derailed when the FBI moved to arrest Mr. Donovan’s campaign finance manager and others associated with his campaign. A moderate Republican who was liberal on social issues, Mr. Roraback lost to Ms. Esty by less than 7,500 votes.

Mr. McKinney’s endorsement of Mr. Greenberg was immediately denounced by state Democrats in terms that mesh nicely with an effort on the part of national Democrats to tie Republican candidates to the U.S. Congress to the Tea Party, regarded by many Democratic strategists as an anvil that, once effectively fastened to the neck of any Republican running for office, would be certain to sink a campaign.

In the national campaign script, written for the most part by left of center progressives, the Tea Party is treated as a devilish institution. It was uber-propagandist V. I. Lenin who said that if you label something effectively, you don’t have to argue with it, and there are some who believe that Beltway script writers and labelers set a standard for political skulduggery when national agencies answerable to the executive department, such as the putatively non-partisan Internal Revenue Service (IRS), set out to frustrate conservative-minded groups by means of contrived and corrupt investigations. Last May, the internal auditor for the IRS reported that the agency had asked inappropriately probing questions and delayed conservative groups’ applications — in some cases for three years.

The Tea Party in Connecticut is a convenient campaign foil for Democratic Party leaders. During the last Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey gathering, Mr. Malloy singled out the Tea Party, took aim and fired: “They don’t give a darn about our economy. They would sink our economy for their own political good.”

Mr. Malloy would be hard pressed to name a single representative of the Tea Party in Connecticut. Certainly he has never invited any member of the Tea Party in in his state over to the governor’s mansion to have a beer summit on the state’s sinking economy, though Mr. Malloy has now been given the opportunity. Following the governor's strained attempt at Tea Party labeling, Bob MacGuffiethe co-founder of Right Principles, a conservative-libertarian blog, invited the him to a debate in the course of which the two might amicably discuss Connecticut’s hobbling economy.

One of the distinguishing marks of the Tea Party movement is a fervently held belief in what might be called a politics of limits. In insisting on constitutional probity, Tea Party folk are treading heavily on a very sore corn. One of the deepest buried assumptions of the progressive movement is that -- the sky’s the limit, constitutional prescriptions be damned.

There is nothing demonic about the Tea Party movement, though campaign demagoguery may yet succeed in putting horns on the heads of what Mr. MacGuffie has called Mr. Malloy’s neighbors. In Connecticut and throughout the left of center northeast, where progressives are feeling their oats, the once vital moderate center of Democrat Party politics has all but disappeared.  In Connecticut, where radical progressives presume to call Tea Party Patriots “extremists,” the sky is the limit, and the state Tea Party is not political force to be reckoned with – yet.

Connecticut’s Tea Party, however, can cause a world of hurt for members of the loyal opposition party who stray from constitutional orthodoxy. Just now, some members of Connecticut’s Tea Party are sorely disappointed with Republican leaders in the General Assembly who conspired with Democrats to write a gun restriction bill in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre that will not put a large enough dent in the criminal acquisition of weapons regularly used by gang members in urban areas to assault both peaceful and non-peaceful.

Mr. McKinney’s endorsement of Mr. Greenberg, who has managed to avoid arousing the enmity of Connecticut’s Tea Party, may take some of the sharp edge off a few highly charged opponents within the Tea Party. At some point, members of the Tea Party in Connecticut must decide whether opposition on a point of principle that may sink a vigorous Republican challenge to Mr. Malloy will advance or retard their long term goals, robustly stated by Mr. MacGuffie in his debate challenge to Mr. Malloy:

“Our movement is largely about reducing federal power by urging our representatives to pass only the laws permitted by the Constitution and to unwind those that are unconstitutional. We are part of the greater liberty movement of Tea Party members, conservatives, libertarians, and constitutionalists who propose a free-market alternative to every failing liberal boondoggle the Democratic Party has foisted on us.”

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sedensky’s Preliminary Report And The Sandy Hook Shroud Of Secrecy

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky released on Monday a 40 page preliminary report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. He has promised to release the full report numbering 2,000 pages sometime or other, perhaps in May. Release of the full report has now been twice delayed.

What, some people now are wondering, is the purpose of the preliminary report? There are no shockers in the document. Very little of the released information, now certified as correct by the preliminary report, can be construed as adversely affecting a prosecution, and indeed the preliminary report confirms that prosecutions were unlikely months ago:

“It is the conclusion of this State’s Attorney that the shooter acted alone and was solely criminally responsible for his actions of that day.  Moreover, none of the evidence developed to date demonstrates probable cause to believe that any other person conspired with the shooter to commit these crimes or aided and abetted him in doing so.
“Unless additional–and at this time unanticipated–evidence is developed, there will be no state criminal prosecution as result of these crimes.”

That datum, and other certified information in the preliminary report, might have been useful to the General Assembly that wrote a gun restriction bill in the absence of the authoritative data such a report might contain. That watershed moment passed long ago. The preliminary report is, among other things, Mr. Sedensky’s attempt to shape an understanding of the full report, when it is released.

The issuance of the criminal report has been a long time coming. One underwhelmed former Editorial Page Editor of a prominent Connecticut paper noted after she had read the preliminary report, “Little in this report is new. My prediction: State's attorney Sedensky will redact so much from the final report that it will look like Morse Code. Why has he insisted on secrecy, fought to keep the 911 tapes secret, and taken longer to issue this report than it took the Warren Commission to report on the JFK's murder?”

We are at the point of memorializing the first year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. A year is a long time to wait for an authorized report on a mass slaying. Mr. Sedensky has consistently stated that a full and authorized account of the crime has been delayed because of “an ongoing investigation.” Now that the preliminary report has been brought out of the closet, it may appear to some people that Mr. Sedensky’s explanation was a dodge rather than a reason.

Other police spokesmen have said, much earlier in the investigation, that no future prosecutions were to be expected. There are few direct witnesses to the crime. Adam Lanza, the shooter, was a very thorough mass murderer. Mr. Sedensky’s report confirms he was a single shooter. On the face of it, it would seem there never was anyone to investigate. Mr. Lanza committed suicide, removing himself from the possibility of a prosecution interview. His victims have all died.

Governor Dannel Malloy is a former prosecutor, and even he was beginning to show signs of impatience more than a week before the release of Mr. Sedensky’s preliminary report. Mr. Malloy told reporters in Farmington on November 12, “I’m frustrated that the report has not yet been issued.”

The governor was careful to put some distance between himself and Mr. Sedensky. State attorneys, Mr. Malloy pointed out, are attached to the division of criminal justice, an independent executive branch agency. “So that people understand this,” Mr. Malloy said, “they don’t work for me. So I’ll put it a different way: if they did, this report would be out already. I'm anxious to get this report out to the public, out to you folks," Mr.Malloy told the assembled reporters. "That's what I'm anxious about."

The governor, as well as legislators who did not have available to them a preliminary report when they wrote laws putatively designed to forestall future murderous assaults on Connecticut schools, should insist that the reasons for the unaccountable delay of the full report should be included by Mr. Sedensky in the final full report.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dannel Daedalus Gets Antsy

It’s now official, though it may take some time for Governor Dannel Malloy’s message to trickle down to the members of Connecticut’s all Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation: “I understand this frustration,” Malloy said. “I’m frustrated. I think the federal government has messed up big time. This couldn’t have been a worse rollout, except in the states that embraced what we’re trying to do. In Connecticut, we're signing up people left and right.”

Mr. Malloy’s “rebuke of the White House over Obamacare” may be found in a short piece in CTMirror, “Malloy rebukes White House over Obamacare.”

Mr. Malloy’s rebuke, it should be noticed, does not touch the essence of the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare. The act itself, he thinks, is praiseworthy, but its execution leaves much to be desired – unlike Mr. Malloy’s own flawless roll-out of the Connecticut Obamacare exchange.

Right from the get-go, Mr. Malloy stepped boldly, even eagerly, on the Obamacare plank. Unforeseen – actually, they were foreseen – technical problems arose, called “glitches” by the White House, and the roll-out flopped so dramatically that even President Barack Obama’s Stakhanovite supporters, as well as the president himself,  were forced to admit the Obamacare launch was an abject failure. The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, for instance, was not amused.

“The bad” was on Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama --  just before he tossed his problem to Mr. Malloy.

“They shifted their problem to me, and I don’t appreciate it,” said Mr. Malloy, according to CTMirror.

The problem shift occurred when Mr. Obama, under pressure from former President Bill Clinton to keep his often stated promise that the little folk could keep their insurance policies if they liked them, kept his promise, causing supporters in blue states such as Mr. Malloy’s considerable agita.

Obamacare was all along designed to shift people out of their preferred insurance plans into Obamacare. The forcible push towards Obamacare was to follow on an insistence that insurance companies deep-six plans considered “substandard” by the new insurance mavens in the Obama administration. Under pressure to abandon plans that, for instance, did not require men to purchase maternity coverage, the insurance companies bowed to White House pressure and canceled their so called “substandard” plans. In point of fact, the substandard plans were designed to appeal to a diverse marketplace: In the real marketplace outside the walls of the Washington D.C. Beltway, needs determine the nature of sellable products; inside the Beltway, political considerations determine public needs.

When Mr. Obama, purely for political reasons, caved under pressure from Mr. Clinton and numberless incumbent Democratic Congressmen whose seats would have been threatened by broken promises, the diverse plans abandoned by the insurance companies could not, purely as a practical matter, be restored. Humpty Dumpty had already fallen from the wall. The insurance companies also had ventured far out on the Obamacare plank, along with Mr. Malloy. What drew them there was an artful measure in the Obamacare law that would force young people by means of monetary penalties to purchase insurance policies they did not need or want.

By restoring his promise – for a year only – Mr. Obama created a big problem.

The astute Obama-watcher will notice that this big problem – How is it possible to finance Obamacare if the president allows substandard policies, if only for a year, to remain, washing away the breakwater that prevents the monetizing of Obamacare? – is not a technical glitch. It is essential to the success of Obamacare.

One supposes that Mr. Malloy and the Malloyalists, the brightest brains ever assembled in Connecticut to assist Mr. Malloy in re-inventing what used to be called “the insurance capital of the world,” understand all this better than more pedestrian geniuses.  But it simply is not in the political interests of Democratic Party power brokers in Connecticut publicly to notice big problems. And so, all the political chatter is of technological glitches foisted by imbecilic federal agents upon a Democratic regime in Connecticut that now feels it must put some distance between itself and a technologically incompetent president whose vision – the radical readjustment of a sixth of the U.S. economy – remains, never-the-less, doable.

This unearthly hubris is a larger problem still; it torched the wings of Daedalus and may yet incinerate the ambitions of progressive utopianists in Connecticut. It will not dissipate until the architects of disaster are removed from office.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Soucy, Plunkitt And The Dovonan Sting Operation

The FBI’s singing canary in the Donovan probe, “labor activist” Ray Soucy, was not given prison time for the part he had played in the attempted corruption of former Speaker of the State House Chris Donovan.

“A labor activist at the center of an attempt two years ago to kill a tax on tobacco by bribing a top state lawmaker with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign money was sentenced Monday to three years probation, the first six months to be served at a halfway house.”

Connecticut’s majority Democratic Party is full of “labor activists.” It’s only a slight stretch to say Governor Dannel Malloy, who has marched on the picket line with union workers, is himself a “labor activist.” Mr. Malloy pledged his troth to unions when he was in the political nursery, and he has renewed his vows several times during his administration, most notably when his first budget was on the drawing boards.

However, few labor activists are as colorful as Mr. Soucy, Connecticut’s equivalent of George Washington Plunkitt, a Tammany Hall boss in New York City who ran his political operation from a bootblack stand. Mr. Plunkitt – “I seen my opportunities, and I took’em”  – was on his way out even before he was interviewed several times by reporter William Riordan, who later stitched together his embarrassingly frank interviews in a small book, “Plunkitt of Tammany Hall.”  Mr. Plunkitt claimed he was casualty of the then new civil service system, the bane and ruination of political parties. Mr. Plunkitt’s Democratic Party, it may be noticed, has since adapted to the new reality and now counts unions and civil service workers as the I-joist of the Democratic Party.

The FBI wired Mr.  Soucy and provided him with a script with which he might ensnare the people – some young, others inexperienced in the ways of political lifers -- who surrounded Speaker of the State House Chris Donovan, then running for a U.S. Congressional seat left vacant by Chris Murphy, now a U.S. Senator.  The rancid odor issuing from the FBI sting operation persuaded Mr. Donovan to withdraw his Congressional bid in favor of Democrat Elizabeth Esty. The small-fry were easily ensnared. At some point during the FBI sting operation, the cover was blown – when and by whom we may never know – and most of the incumbent big fish, with some effort, swam upstream.

Hauling in the net, the Feds successfully prosecuted Mr. Donovan’s campaign manager, lower level campaign workers, and some benighted smoke shop owners drawn into the sting by George Washington Plunkitt Soucy, who teased fraudulent campaign donations from them by explaining that money made the wheels go round at the state Capitol. Or, as Mr. Soucy colorfully put it, “Politics is about the Benjamins. [Ben Franklin’s mug is on the highly inflated hundred dollar bill] This game runs on one thing -- dollars."

 "Chris Murphy will do anything in the (expletive deleted) world for me because he remembers that I was the first one to believe in and invest in him. That's how the system works."

After Mr. Soucy tells a wired FBI informant, Patrick Castagna, that he has been sowing the political ground in $10,000 increments, Mr. Castagna, the FBI straight man, doubts whether $10,000 is sufficient to buy a Connecticut politician. Inflation, after all, has taken a bite out of the purchasing power of the dollar.

Says Soucy, “The $10,000 was to let him know you are serious....We're dealing with politicians. We're not dealing with the mob [pause]. It's a close second."

“Pictures [the Benjamins again] they're worth a thousand words. The guy running in the 5th District [former House Speaker Chris Donovan] he got 10 pictures [a $10,000 campaign contribution].”

When all the dirt was flushed down the drain, “the guy running in the 5th District” gave up his campaign, and the FBI, thanks to the wired Soucy, managed to send a few Donovan subalterns to prison. But not Soucy the singing canary. The well connected union leader, now on probation, will spend six months in a half-way house because, according to one report,
“Soucy [sic] recordings and his help in raising and delivering about $28,000 in cash were instrumental in the indictments of two Donovan campaign officers and five roll-your-own owners or employees.”

The guys who got the Benjamins were inconvenienced but emerged unscathed from the FBI sting.

Mr. Plunkitt tells us why:

“Understand, I ain’t defendin‘ politicians of today who steal. The politician who steals is worse than a thief. He is a fool. With the grand opportunities all around for the man with a political pull, there’s no excuse for stealin’ a cent. The point I want to make is that if there is some stealin‘ in politics, it don’t mean that the politicians of 1905 are, as a class, worse than them of 1835. It just means that the old-timers had nothin’ to steal, while the politicians now are surrounded by all kinds of temptations and some of them naturally—the fool ones—buck up against the penal code.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Obama Switcheroo, Connecticut’s Congressional Delegation, And the Band Played On

An Obamacare supporter had just finished explaining on Facebook that Obamacare, once fully implemented, would ring out of the private insurance market all those expensive and useless “substandard” plans when, hesto presto, Mr. Obama, under pressure from Democratic notables such as former President Bill Clinton to keep his promise that insurance purchasers will be able to keep their insurance plans, announced during one of his infrequent press conferences that everyone he had promised could keep their plans could, following his change of mind, keep their plans.

The Obamacare Facebook supporter fell silent and went on to other matters.

Wrinkles began to appear in the smooth winding sheets of the usual Obama supporters.  Jon Stewart impaled Mr. Obama on his news/comedy show The Daily Show:

Following Mr. Obama’s switcheroo, Mark Steyn wrote in National Review a paragraph that ought to be put to music and sung to the Beltway maestros at the president's next press availability:

“Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.”

No one yet has criticized Mr. Obama for having defaulted on his implicit deal with the insurance companies. For as long as insurance companies have been in business, no insurance CEO has been able, prior to Obamacare, to force purchasers to buy plans they did not want or need. Obamacare, when fully implemented, will force young people into the insurance market by levying a tax (the Supreme Court’s verbiage) on those who perversely decline to purchase a product they do not want or need.

The implementation of this market magic has now been delayed by a year. When the country has moved beyond the mid-term elections, Obamacare once again will purge the insurance market of “substandard” products, prodding the young folk into the insurance market by means of fines (non-Supreme Court verbiage) levied against their best interests.

The Obama shape shifting caused one Hartford paper to lament that “every time Connecticut takes a step forward with health insurance, the federal government smacks us two steps back.”

In a year, however, the destructive Obamacare juggernaut will be back in business. The current “fix,” it seems to some Obamacare critics, is but a temporary measure on the way to a universal health care system.

Under a single payer system, private insurance companies, no longer able to compete with a public insurance system backed by taxpayer dollar, tend to become boutique insurance suppliers servicing clients who can afford higher premiums and tailored plans. The temporary “fix,” will create a necessary temporary uncertainty in the private insurance market – assuming major insurance suppliers swallow the bait thrown out to them by a beleaguered White House -- a roiling chaos almost certain to be followed by calls for a universal health care system.

Connecticut, home to major insurance companies and still heavily reliant on its insurance sector, used to be known as “the insurance capital of the world.” The uncertainty in insurance markets created by Obamacare, the relentless rhetorical bashing insurance companies have been subject to by the Obama administration, the prospect of universal health care and the consequent pairing back of insurance products, are bound to affect Connecticut disproportionately, both in terms of jobs lost and diminished tax revenues.

None of these very real possibilities have been considered seriously by the members of Connecticut’s Democratic U.S. Congressional Delegation, Obamacare enthusiasts all. Governor Dannel Malloy, rudely smacked down by Mr. Obama’s latest U-turn on his signature piece of legislation, appears unperturbed by possible job losses in Connecticut’s still vibrant insurance industry, not to mention consequent reductions in state revenue.

In the distance one sees, looming in the fog, the tip of a menacing iceberg. Aboard the ship of state, all is merry; the crew presses forward; the passengers are in a celebratory mood; the captain, champagne glass in hand, is about to toast to a successful journey; the band is playing a comforting waltz; the dance floor is crowded.

Full speed ahead.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Secrecy, The One Party State And The Public Interest

So then, what’s wrong with secrecy in politics?

Former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a Democrat from New York, was the chairman of a congressional commission that in the post-Cold War period inquired into the uses of governmental secrecy. Moynihan felt that a “culture of secrecy” had pervaded the U.S. government and its intelligence services for 80 years, starting with the Espionage Act of 1917.

The Commission’s findings were presented to President Bill Clinton in 1997. As part of his presentation, Mr. Moynihan secured the release of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Venona file, which documented Soviet espionage efforts in the United States during the preceding 50 years, a treasure trove of information that ought to have been released much earlier.

Moynihan’s view of unnecessary secrecy might be summed up as follows: In many cases, governmental secrecy IS the disease it purports to cure. The information in custody of the FBI for 50 years provided data necessary for Congressional overview of foreign policy. Good government depends on the public vetting of data necessary for good government, and this axiom applies to all forms of governmental secrecy.

This same view, that secrecy in government damages the constitutional fabric of the Republic, animated Connecticut’s Freedom of Information (FOI) law, which was promulgated in 1975. A broad brush law that applies to both municipal and state agencies, Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law placed windows in formerly insular smoke filled back rooms so that citizens could more easily discharge their watchdog roles as the primary guardians of liberty and good government in the state.

Most people believe that the free flow of information is necessary to prevent politicians from pilfering the government for their own private nefarious purposes, and that certainly is true. But the primary purpose of the Connecticut’s FOI law, as well as similar laws enacted in other states, is to assure good government – a government shorn of the secrecy necessary to politicians who seek secretly to act against the public’s interest.

So, the answer to the question “What’s wrong with secrecy in politics?” is that good government in a constitutional Republic such as ours cannot be maintained in the absence of transparency. In a Republic of laws not of men, the people and not its governors or judges are the final arbiters of good government. Just as in the private marketplace creativity and the free flow of information is essential to wealth creation, so in the public arena transparency is essential to good government.

Even in a state government with strong FOI regulations, many are the ways of concealing government operations. When it comes to drawing the veil over open government processes, the Malloy administration is no slouch.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s administration recently came under fire when a Hartford political columnist who had filed an FOI complaint discovered that Malloyalists were using non-official e-mails to correspond with each other concerning state business. Work on Mr. Malloy’s first two budgets was effectively concealed from Republican legislators who, for the first time since the state had elected a Democratic governor, were excluded from budget negotiations. A budget is a government’s action plan for the fiscal year. A major penological reform initiated by Mike Lawlor, Mr. Malloy’s Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning, was launched through an implementer bill, a haystack of legislation originally designed to implement bills already considered and approved by the General Assembly. Mr. Lawlor’s needle, the Risk Reduction Earned Credit Program, a new piece of legislation not reviewed by relevant legislative committees, was cleverly concealed in an omnibus implementer bill. Republican legislators thus far have been unable to prevail upon Mr. Lawlor to exclude from his program violent criminals convicted of manslaughter, assault in the first degree, rape and other violent crimes. A state senator who petitioned Mr. Lawlor for information that would allow the legislature to gauge the effect of Mr. Lawlor’s “get out of jail early” credits on recidivism rates has, he says, been given the runaround. A criminal report concerning a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has not yet been released; the General Assembly voted in favor of a gun restriction bill without the advantage of having seen the authoritative data included in the criminal report, the release of which has been twice delayed by Danbury State Attorney Stephen Sedensky on the grounds that the criminal investigation is still open – even though the prospect of future prosecutions is not likely.

Whatever else all this concealment and dodging represents – it is NOT transparency. The Malloy administration, particularly since Democrats now control both the General Assembly and the governor’s office, very well may be the most secretive government in living memory, and the itch to conceal from the public the public’s business certainly is not in keeping with the spirit that nearly forty years ago inspired Connecticut legislators to pass the state’s Freedom of Information law.