Kevin Rennie, a Harford Courant columnist, is regarded by some in politics as the Torquemada of Connecticut commentators – especially in matters of what one might call political ethics. Many politicians have felt his bite and winced.
After an appearance on WFSB’s “Face the State” with Dennis House, Tom Foley, who is expected in the near future to announce his bid for governor on the Republican Party ticket, had much to wince at.
In the most recent Rennie column, Mr. Foley was still mercilessly flailed – “Foley served a dog's breakfast to viewers in his return as a candidate for governor. Foley was a flailing amateur. He's been unable to provide proof for some of his allegations, despite claiming they met some journalistic standard that lives a solitary life in Foley's head” – but into this whipping crept a softer tone.
One of Mr. Foley’s supposed boneheaded allegations was that the relationship between Governor Dannel Malloy’s former media liaison and flack catcher, Roy Occhiogrosso, and Connecticut crony capitalist head of state was unseemly, profitable to them both and unethical under the standard of ethics embraced by Jesus Christ -- even though the bi-profitable relationship was perfectly legal. A transcription of Mr. Foley’s remarks may be found here at “Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State.”
In the course of his “Face the State” interview, Mr. Foley noted that he was relying on multiple reliable sources who wished to remain anonymous, after which he spoke the fatal words: “But these are all things that have been told to me by more than one reliable source, and so it meets a journalistic standard.”
The intake of breath among Connecticut scriveners was audible from New London to Hartford. One could smell brimstone in the air: Who does he think he is, Woodward or Bernstein? These were the two renowned reporters who, relying at the beginning of their investigation chiefly on a single reliable source, “Deep Throat,” finally shoved Tricky Dick Nixon off the political stage? “Deep Throat” remained anonymous for decades after the Nixon putsch, finally outing himself just before he kicked the bucket.
The gauntlet thrown down to Connecticut’s media by Mr. Foley – just investigate this stuff – has now been taken up in part by Mr. Rennie.
And the result is a softer, more gentle Rennie:
“This is state government, so there's always money to be found for friends, no matter what the condition of the economy. I overstated the case last week when I wrote that the contract to Global Strategies had been awarded by competitive bid (emphasis mine).
“Three insiders at Access Health CT invited three public relations companies to submit proposals for the lucrative contract. They did not open the process to the many firms that could meet the basic requirements of a public relations contract whether with innovative or stale ideas. The insiders included former Enfield Democratic state Rep. Kathleen Tallarita, Access Health CT's head of government relations and communications. In 2012, Tallarita became the rare suburban legislator to lose her seat in a party primary.”
This sort of thing happens frequently in Connecticut politics: Backs are scratched; friends are rewarded, enemies punished. Good investigative reporters occasionally uncover dubious, possibly unethical practices when a gored enemy plops a story on their desks. These sources are generally given protective anonymity as the reporter turns over a few rocks and examines the hitherto undisclosed swarm of ethical muck beneath them.
In a one party state, the possibility of such disclosures is markedly reduced. And there is no reporter in the state who does not now know that Connecticut has crossed the bar: The state’s entire U.S. Congressional Delegation is solidly Democratic; the Democratic Party boasts in Mr. Malloy its first Democratic governor in more than two decades; the state’s General Assembly is solidly Democratic. We know from the history we do not wish to repeat that the one party state is more successfully corrupt than the state that has an active two party system in which political power is evenly and justly shared. It’s what you think you know for certain and don’t that kills you. In a one party state the rocks are larger and more immovable.
Moving the rock that seals the tomb requires a media that is unflinchingly non-partisan, alert, energetic and courageous.