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.”