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Jury Finds Rowland Guilty On All 7 Counts; Attorney Vows Appeal

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 19, 2014 2:44pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland walks into court last week with his daughter

NEW HAVEN — A federal court jury unanimously agreed Friday that former Gov. John G. Rowland was again guilty of corruption. A decade after he resigned amidst scandal, jurors handed Rowland seven guilty verdicts related to two congressional campaigns.

After 12 days of evidence, witnesses, and arguments, it took jurors about seven hours to agree the former governor was guilty of all the crimes prosecutors accused him of when they indicted Rowland in April.

Those crimes are: falsification of records in a federal investigation, conspiracy, causing false statements, and illegal campaign contributions. Although it is unlikely to be imposed, the crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than 50 years. Rowland is scheduled to face a judge for sentencing on Dec. 12, but prosecutors offered to delay the hearing until after the holidays.

The jury began deliberating Rowland’s fate Thursday afternoon after his attorneys and prosecutors made closing arguments. A court clerk announced a verdict had been reached at 2:27 p.m. Friday.

Rowland stood, looking stunned as the jury foreman read the verdicts one by one. Members of his family wept quietly as they stood directly behind him in the first row of court benches. After the hearing, Rowland and his family left the courthouse without addressing the throng of news media assembled outside.

Hugh McQuaid photo

Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney

Reid Weingarten, his lead attorney, stood on the steps of the courthouse and promised to appeal the case. There were many “interesting” elements of the U.S. Attorneys’ case and Weingarten said he was looking forward to “litigating them further. We are going to appeal this case for sure.”

“The prosecutors have made a very large mountain out of a very small molehill, all triggered by an all-too-mundane political dust-up in a congressional campaign,” he said.

Prosecutors called the verdict a victory for transparency and the electoral process. The jury agreed that Rowland conspired to do work on two Republican congressional campaigns and had pitched a scheme to keep his pay hidden from federal election regulators.

“It ought to be — no it has to be — that voters know that what they see is what they get. In this case, the defendant and others didn’t want that to happen,” Michael J. Gustafson, Criminal Division Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told reporters.

Hugh McQuaid photo

U.S. Attorneys Michael Gustafson and Christopher Mattei

“The jury’s verdict today sends a very clear and simple message to candidates and people who work for campaigns. That simple message is this . . . put your name on it,” he said.

Rowland was sentenced in 2005 to a year and one day in prison followed by four months of house arrest for corruption while he was governor. That conviction played a central role in the more recent charges against him.

Prosecutors argued that Rowland’s past prevented him from working openly for political campaigns. That prompted him to propose to work for campaigns in secret, accepting payments from other entities for work he would do for candidates, they charged.

“Mr. Rowland couldn’t sell his most valuable assets on the open market, but if he could keep it hidden, maybe then he could,” U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the jury Thursday.

Rowland’s crimes stem from two campaigns.

In 2010, the former governor aggressively courted Republican Mark Greenberg, who is now in his third consecutive run for the 5th Congressional District seat. Rowland pitched Greenberg a consulting contract, which included $35,000 a month in compensation. But the former governor wanted the pay to come from Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter, the Simon Foundation. The Greenberg campaign eventually rejected Rowland’s proposal.

The former governor successfully entered into a similar arrangement with Brian Foley, the wealthy husband of Lisa Wilson-Foley, who ran for the seat in 2012. Foley paid Rowland $5,000 a month as a consultant for Apple Rehab, his nursing home company.

Meanwhile, Rowland worked as one of two main consultants to the Wilson-Foley campaign and used his afternoon talk radio show on WTIC 1080 AM to echo the candidate’s messages and attack her opponents.

Throughout the trial, Rowland’s attorneys maintained the former governor’s work at Apple Rehab was legitimate and his work on the campaign was a volunteer effort.

However, prosecutors presented the jury with evidence that Rowland sent about 10 times as many emails to Wilson-Foley’s campaign staff than he did to the Apple Rehab executives with whom he was purportedly working.

Rowland spoke publicly about rebuilding his life after he was released from federal prison in 2006. He was hired as Waterbury’s economic development director before becoming an afternoon radio host for WTIC. He resigned from the radio job in April just before being indicted by a grand jury.

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New Malloy Ad Focuses On UTC Deal

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 19, 2014 11:18am
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Screengrab of commercial

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign sought to defend Malloy’s economic development policies in an ad released Friday that touts a $400 million deal with United Technologies Corp. approved earlier this year.

Malloy is hoping for a repeat of the 2010 gubernatorial election, in which he defeated Republican Tom Foley. But Malloy has trailed Foley slightly in recent public opinion polls.

Foley has been critical of the tax incentives Malloy’s administration has offered employers during his first term. In an editorial published in the New Haven Register, Foley said Malloy has sought to bribe companies with “corporate welfare” rather than fix the business climate.

In the 30-second TV spot, released Friday morning, a narrator accuses Foley of threatening Connecticut jobs by opposing a common practice.

“Every state uses incentives to keep or attract jobs, but Foley says he won’t. The states that want to take our jobs are for Foley. Are you?” the female narrator says.

The ad begins by highlighting a tax credit deal Malloy’s administration negotiated with United Technologies Corp. earlier this year. The agreement, which had bipartisan support from the legislature, allowed UTC to use $400 million in stranded tax credits to reduce their tax liability. In exchange, the corporation agreed to invest in Connecticut facilities and keep jobs here.

Malloy’s new ad paints a dire picture, saying UTC’s departure from Connecticut was imminent in 2010.

“Four years ago, our state’s biggest employer, United Technologies, was about to leave,” a female narrator says. “Then Dan Malloy fought and won the battle to keep them here.”

The ad bases the claim that UTC was “about to leave” on a Hartford Courant article from 2010, in which UTC’s CFO Gregory Hayes paraphrased another company executive and said “Anyplace outside of Connecticut is low-cost.” Hayes did not state any specific plans to leave the state.

The ad then transitions to attacking Foley.

“Tom Foley opposed that deal, threatening up to 75,000 jobs. But Foley did support tax breaks for millionaires,” the narrator says.

The 75,000 jobs referenced is the number of positions the Malloy administration estimated the deal could “impact,” when it announced the deal in February. The claim that Foley supported tax breaks for millionaires stems from a 2012 Hearst Connecticut Newspaper article. In the story, Foley called for the Bush-era tax breaks to be extended across the board.

In a statement, Malloy’s campaign spokesman Mark Bergman said the UTC deal ensures that Connecticut will remain a leader in the aerospace industry for years.

“As we’re competing against 49 other states, Tom Foley would have done nothing to keep these jobs at home — and that makes him a risk Connecticut workers can’t afford,” Bergman said.

Foley’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment for this story. He was scheduled to tour businesses in Meriden and Bristol on Friday afternoon.

However, Foley was critical of the deal during a debate with his primary opponent, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney. McKinney voted to approve the agreement in the legislature.

“John is using career politician talk. He’s saying tax credits are okay. Tax credits are spending,” Foley said.

Last month, Foley was asked about the $1 million equity investment in his running mate Heather Bond Somers’ company, Hydrofera, by the Connecticut Development Authority in 2000, which then received $475,000 back when it was sold in 2012.

The state told the New Haven Register that it was a routine investment in a startup. The firm paid $10,000 of an $80,000 fine for not meeting the 150-person job goal.

Foley said he is “not against incentives for businesses that are properly conceived and administered. Many of the incentive programs that the government has offered long before Governor (Dannel P.) Malloy, I support.”

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OP-ED | Don’t Let Foundation Money Be A Trojan Horse

by Sarah Darer Littman | Sep 19, 2014 11:00am
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Posted to: Education, Opinion

I’ve written a great deal — some complain too much — about the corporate education reform issues in our state. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like Cassandra of Greek mythology, but the reason politicians don’t believe me isn’t because I’ve denied them favors like the Cassie of yore. Rather, it’s because I haven’t given them big enough campaign donations.

Then this week I read the Hartford Courant report on the discovery that computers and equipment are missing from the Jumoke Academy at Milner, and realized that despite all I’ve written previously, it’s time for this Cassandra to revisit the Trojan Horse story.

Last year, Hartford received a “gift” in the form of a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hartford is a city where the Board of Education is under mayoral control — a situation the corporate education reformers in this state (and many forces from outside the state) tried extremely hard and spent a lot of money to try to replicate, unsuccessfully, in Bridgeport in 2012

This means that Mayor Pedro Segarra appoints five members of the Hartford Board of Education, and four are elected by the people of Hartford. However, according to its bylaws, the Board is meant to act as a whole.

But that’s not what happened in the case of the $5 million grant announced back in December 2012.

On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012 — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

The grant was paid through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which receives 3 percent of the total ($150,000) for serving as fiscal agent. $150,000. Just think of all the Donors Choose literacy programs in Hartford that money would fund, saving teachers the indignity of having to beg donations for sets of classroom books.

But that’s not the worst part about the Gates grant. What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.

I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions when it comes to transparency and accountability.

But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

I wrote to the Gates Foundation this week asking them what due diligence they did on Jumoke and how a foundation with the legal and accounting resources that surely must be available to them could have missed the kind of financial improprieties that were going on at the charter school management organization that managed the school. They did not comment prior to deadline.

Family Urban School of Excellence (FUSE) — the charter school organization that oversaw Jumoke Academy and Hartford’s Milner Elementary School — no longer manages any Connecticut schools and is the subject of an FBI investigation. It’s also the subject of a state Education Department investigation. Those investigations were prompted after Michael Sharpe, the charter school management group’s CEO, resigned following news reports revealing his criminal past. Sharpe also admitted to a Hartford Courant reporter that he had lied about his education credentials.

I’m also curious as to how the familiar alphabet soup of edreform organizations who were involved in the private meeting in June 2012, and who consistently showed up at Board of Education meetings supporting charter takeovers by Sharpe and FUSE, were so surprised by that organization’s financial and ethical improprieties. Aren’t these the same people who are telling us to run schools like businesses? Isn’t due diligence part of doing business?

Jennifer Alexander of ConnCAN, for instance, wrote a glowing recommendation of FUSE in support of the Booker T. Washington charter school application for New Haven shortly before the whole house of cards imploded. ConnCAN was founded by Jonathan Sackler and counts familiar names among its major 2013 contributors. There’s the Lone Pine Foundation — in other words, Stephen Mandel, who through his Zoom Foundation was instrumental in trying to change Bridgeport’s charter to give the mayor control of the city’s schools. Mandel is the treasurer for the national Board of Directors of Teach for America. In other words, yet another example of a “charitable” foundation trying to control policy away from the disinfection of sunlight. ConnCAN issues an annual report card on public schools. I think it’s time for a report card on ConnCAN.

And let’s not forget others in this edreform circus, like the Rev. Kenneth Moales Jr., an ally of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and Paul Vallas who said, and I quote from ConnCAN’s own blog: “Sharpe’s credentials are beyond reproach.”

If it hadn’t imploded, the Gates Foundation grant conditions required Fuse/Jumoke to be managing two additional schools besides Milner by the end of the grant period in 2015. In return, the foundation would allocate FUSE/Jumoke Academy $1,054,143 of the $5 million grant.

I wrote asking the Gates Foundation how much of the grant had been paid to Jumoke before the Feds showed up at the door. They didn’t respond.

In January, I questioned why we were financing short-term technology for Common Core implementation with long-term construction grants. At the time, I asked the state Board of Education why certain charter and magnet schools were getting so much more funding per pupil than the surrounding district schools. Take for instance, FUSE/Jumoke.

“The Jumoke Academy Charter Schools network, which are operated by an organization called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) received a $260 per pupil grant, whereas the districts in which its charters operate, Hartford and Bridgeport, received $30 and $45 respectively.”

I was told by the state Education Department that I shouldn’t be looking at these figures on a per pupil basis, because they were construction grants. But interestingly, when I called a FUSE employee to get the most up to date pupil count for the story she went straight to per pupil when I explained the focus of my piece. It was pretty clear I wasn’t the only one thinking in those terms, yet the State Department of Education was most anxious that I shouldn’t.

This week, I emailed to the state Board of Education to find out if there’s any chance that we’ll see any of that $360,000 technology grant back now that FUSE is under FBI investigation. After all, we taxpayers are the ones on the hook for those long-term bonds. Not surprisingly, the answer was . . . no answer.

After the Gates grant was announced in December 2012, elected Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto Jr., who is chair of the board’s Policy Committee, proposed revisions to HPS’ existing policy on state and federal grants in early 2013 to that committee.

“In support of these revisions, I referenced the Gates Foundation grant that committed the Hartford Public Schools to substantial policy changes (more testing and more charter schools) even though the Board never voted on the Gates grant itself, only to accept funds later on. The Mayor, as a member of the policy committee, and the Kishimoto administration would not support the revisions to this policy to require a Board vote before applying to a private foundation for a grant. Brad Noel, the final member of the committee, was undecided. This can be shown in the minutes and audio of the meetings in the policy committee,” Cotto said in an email.

Mayor Segarra, Matthew Poland, The Gates Foundation, ConnCAN, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Achievement First, and those who pushed for and agreed to these conditions outside public scrutiny, should now take the responsibility for their failure.

Let’s recognize that just because someone is a wealthy business person doesn’t mean they always make the right choices. Look at Microsoft’s performance during the stacked ranking years. By accepting a gift from the Gates Foundation in this manner, Hartford admitted a Trojan horse to disrupt public education and disable democracy, submitting voters to the dictates of one wealthy man.

That’s why we need transparency and accountability in our state, not backroom deals structured to avoid the public eye, but which still impact the public purse.

Note: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the state Department of Education declined to comment on this piece by deadline.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | Can’t Stop the Campaign Cash Flow

by Susan Bigelow | Sep 19, 2014 8:00am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election Policy, Opinion

istockphoto


About a decade ago, after John Rowland was chased from office, the state’s leaders decided once and for all to reduce the influence of campaign money on politics and government. The legislature passed a sweeping campaign finance reform bill, which, among other things, instituted a public finance system for state campaigns and banned campaign donations from state contractors.

So, how did that turn out?

To give you an idea, this week the State Elections Enforcement Commission ruled on a case where the CEO of Northeast Utilities, which quite obviously does plenty of business with the state, sent an email to company managers prodding them to donate money to the state Democratic Party’s federal campaign account in support of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election bid. Sadly, while the SEEC noted that the email “violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” the case was dismissed 5-0 because the email asked for donations to be sent to a federal account, not a state one.

That’s quite the loophole.

Basically, what’s happened since campaign finance reform was passed is that the money hasn’t stopped or even slowed down — it’s just found a different way to get where wealthy donors and activists want it to be. Campaign finance reform was supposed to be like a dam, but really all it did was chuck a big rock in the middle of a wide stream. There was a splash, and some of the water was forced onto a different course, but the flow never really stopped.

Right now a lot of the money is flowing into political action committees, so-called “super PACs,” which are allowed to raise and spend as much money as they want, as long as they don’t actually coordinate with campaigns. However, a lot of these organizations tend to have close ties to campaigns and political parties.

The PAC “Grow Connecticut,” for instance, is running ads opposing Gov. Malloy. Their ads focus on how miserable everyone is because of the economy, which is a similar message to the one Tom Foley is peddling. This may be because it’s run by a woman who was caught up in an election scandal last year, when her former super PAC came under fire for paying Foley’s pollster. The biggest donors to Grow Connecticut, according to the disclaimer at the end of the ad, are the Republican Governors Association, a little-known Colorado-based group called Citizens for a Sound Government, and Greenwich resident, former diplomat, and Foley ally Craig Stapleton.

Republicans are by no means alone in this. There’s a PAC called “Connecticut Forward” that was created by the Democratic Governors Association. They have already spent at least $1.25 million on ads, including one bashing Tom Foley over his disastrous press conference in Sprague during the primary campaign. The Republicans have filed an election complaint over the group, pointing out that Malloy was a member of the DGA and has fundraised for them in the past.

Both sides are using fear of the other side to pump even more money into their campaigns. Stapleton told the Connecticut Post that “there’s a lot of union money and concentrated public-sector employees who are funding campaigns. We need to offset it, and that’s why these entities are being set up.” Democrats, on the other hand, raised the minimum amount that could be contributed to the state party based on fears that Republican outside groups would outspend them.

What we’re left with is the kind of campaign money arms race that ensures the wealthy, the connected, and the best of the fundraisers have plenty of leverage over the political process. Tom Foley, for example, was a major fundraiser for George W. Bush’s campaign, and he managed to land a job in Iraq and an ambassadorship.

So how do we fix this mess? Sadly, there’s not a lot that we can do, because at the federal level campaign money is becoming less and less regulated. The Citizens United decision, coupled with a Congress that has zero appetite for looking into campaign finance, has all but guaranteed a cash free-for-all. Connecticut can tighten up some regulations, but actually stopping that flow of money is going to be viciously hard.

Meanwhile, in New Haven, the man who started it all has been on trial for campaign finance violations during his time as a drive-time host on WTIC. John Rowland, at least, is always there to remind us of why getting money out of politics is the right thing to do, no matter how difficult it might be.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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August Jobs Report Offers Mixed News

by Christine Stuart | Sep 19, 2014 6:24am
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Posted to: Business, Economics, Jobs

The state of Connecticut lost 3,600 jobs in August and the unemployment rate held steady at 6.6 percent, according to the Connecticut Labor Department.

It also revised downward its July numbers by 1,000 jobs. It had previously reported a gain of 2,400 positions that month.

But it’s not all bad news.

The core private sector, which makes up about 86 percent of Connecticut’s nonfarm employment, added 400 positions. The private sector has now added 13,000 jobs this year.

“Despite the overall nonfarm job decline last month, Connecticut’s private sector continued to add jobs,” Andy Condon, director of the Labor Department’s Office of Research, said. “This summer appeared to be the best economically since the recovery began in 2010.”

Condon said the lull in employment may be due to an early sample in August before educators returned to their classrooms. The biggest job losses in August came from the local government sector.

Economist Don Klepper-Smith said the number that really matters is the year-to-date total, which shows nonfarm employment has risen only 0.5 percent for the first eight months of the year, which is below the long-term annual rate of 1.2 percent.

“This one statistic, more than any other employment metric, tells the story about Connecticut job growth. In a word: lackluster! The good news is that we’re is positive territory, but not by much,” Klepper-Smith said Thursday.

Connecticut Business and Industry Association Executive Vice President Joseph Brennan said the report contained “mixed news.”

“We’re on track to gain 15,000 jobs this year, which is an improvement, but it shows that the Connecticut economy still has a long way to go,” Brennan said.

Connecticut has regained 59.9 percent of the jobs it lost during the recession. That’s lower than the national figure of 108.6 percent.

The politicians all wanted to spin the numbers Thursday.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is in a tough re-election battle, tried to put a positive spin on the numbers.

“For the seventh consecutive month, we are seeing the private sector do what we need it to do — add jobs,” Malloy said in a statement. “The unemployment rate is at a 5-year low, and we’ve added nearly 60,000 private sector jobs since 2011. All of these are positive signs of progress but we still have more work to do. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again — until every resident who wants a job has one, our work is not done.”

But Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola called Malloy’s statement a “desperate attempt to get re-elected.”

“The fact is that Connecticut lost 3,600 jobs in the month of August — the governor can try to spin that however he wants but numbers don’t lie,” Labriola said. “Dan Malloy can claim that he’s ‘making progress’ and that Connecticut’s economy is in great shape as many times as he wants, but that won’t make it true.”

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OP-ED | In Newtown, The Disaster After The Disaster

by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 19, 2014 5:29am
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Posted to: Opinion, Newtown

TERRY COWGILL

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And the saying — or some variation of it — is often true. Newtown was already in a living hell after the Dec. 12, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Unfortunately, well wishers who wanted to help the town heal made its agony even worse.

The words of Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra, who spoke before the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission last week, confirmed the sentiments of so many disaster-relief specialists, fundraising professionals, and family therapists.

hugh mcquaid / ctnewsjunkie For obvious reasons, small towns are ill-equipped to deal with disasters and what follows. Even large cities, such as New York on 9/11, struggle mightily when catastrophe strikes. So Newtown’s ability to cope during the mass shooting and in the immediate aftermath were to be expected.

But unbeknownst to the layman, a larger logistical problem awaited. No, I’m not talking so much about grief counseling or about the gaping hole left in a family whose six-year-old has been executed by a mad gunman.

After tragedy strikes, good people want to step forward and help. Most have no idea how to go about doing it, but they know they want to make a difference. Cash seems too impersonal, so they want to send items. This contributes to what relief workers call the “disaster after the disaster.”

The logistics of sending, receiving, and distributing the donated items are often problematic. And the donor’s choice of items to send aren’t necessarily responsive to the most pressing needs demanded by the disaster.

For every Walmart sending truckloads of badly needed bottled water to hurricane victims, there’s thousands of individual donors trying to send blankets to earthquake victims in tropical Haiti or still more who want to travel to the scene to offer their personal or professional services.

Furthermore, sending items is often a poor use of resources. Transporting and distributing a simple can of donated food, for example can cost $15 to $25. So ask yourself: Is there a better way to give after a disaster? The answer is quite simple, if less satisfying: cash.

An unrestricted cash gift allows relief agencies to marshal scarce resources, determine the greatest need, obtain goods and services locally and allocate them where needed. This is simple common sense, but too often donors either don’t consider it or they mistakenly think their case of chicken soup will get there faster and help more people than a check for $100.

Consider the donations that came pouring in to wealthy Newtown after the massacre: 65,000 stuffed teddy bears, hundreds of backpacks, books, sneakers, candles and other gifts — most of which were simply unneeded and were either thrown away or given away to the deserving outside of Newtown.

Dozens of mental health professionals descended on the town to offer their services, but overwhelmed town officials had no way of vetting their credentials. Town Hall received more than 200,000 pieces of mail and was getting about 6,000 phone calls a week after the shooting. Four town department heads and their staffs worked full-time to deal with these issues.

The normal business of town government all but ground to a halt and was in danger of collapse. Things got so bad that General Electric, which employs about 150 Newtown residents, sent four executives over to town hall to help with the logistics of organizing and allocating the generosity.

In Newtown’s case, there were problems even with cash gifts. A total of 77 organizations collected more than $28 million with about $13 million yet to be distributed, angering some of the families who wondered why the remaining funds were being held and leaving what Selectman Llodra called “a permanent fracture in the community.”

The situation was reminiscent of a close-nit family coping well with the death of a patriarch, only to argue hurtfully over how the money was divided in his last will and testament.

It looks like the problem was that cash wasn’t really the main obstacle to dealing effectively with the Sandy Hook tragedy. It was the sheer size of the afflicted who needed help coping with the violent loss of loved ones as the holidays were approaching. It was the pervasive and sometimes intrusive presence of a news media that insisted on hanging around for weeks on end covering funerals, trespassing on survivors’ property, and interviewing the gunman’s barber, among other transgressions.

Perhaps the best thing that came out of the Newtown affair is Llodra’s suggestion that the state, independent of the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, conduct a full review of her town’s response to the shootings. And to that I would add: a concerted effort to educate donors that good intentions can make things worse.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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New Gun Safety PAC Endorses Candidates

by Ellen R. Delisio | Sep 18, 2014 5:54pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Public Safety, Newtown

Ellen Delisio photo

Ron Pinciaro, chairman of CT Voters for Gun Safety, announces the endorsements Thursday

Determined not only to maintain Connecticut’s status as home to some of the toughest gun laws in the nation but also to continue to promote gun safety, a new political action committee made its endorsements Thursday on the steps of the state Capitol.

CT Voters for Gun Safety endorsed all six constitutional officers, including Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

Ron Pinciaro, chairman of CT Voters for Gun Safety, said Malloy earned their endorsement for his “leadership and courage” and his calls for action –and willingness to act—after the Sandy Hook shootings that left 20 children and six educators dead.

“No governor in the state’s history has shown as much courage in the area of gun safety,” Pinciaro said.

Spurred largely by the Sandy Hook tragedy, the state’s General Assembly in 2013 passed legislation to strengthen gun regulations, including prohibiting the possession or transfer of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranked Connecticut’s gun laws the second strongest in the nation behind California.

“Smart gun laws work,” Pinciaro said. “We want to keep Connecticut strong in terms of gun safety laws and want to keep things the way they are and improve them.”

Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League (CCDL), a Second Amendment group which has endorsed Malloy’s Republican opponent Tom Foley, said he is not surprised by the groups’ position.

“We stand for liberty and individual rights. They stand for taking our liberty one chunk at a time,” Wilson said. “These are the people the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the Constitution.”

Wilson’s group supported candidates who voted against or would vote against stricter gun laws.

CCDL opposes any efforts to expand regulations on firearms’ possession or sale, Wilson said. “The reason is, we feel we have all been punished for the acts of one individual who was bent on murder anyway,” he said. “This is not how a free society should operate.” 

Newtown activist Kate Mayer admitted that with so many reports of shootings in the media over the past several years, she had almost become immune to gun violence until the Sandy Hook tragedy. Now, she urges people to make their views known by voting for those who support gun safety laws.

“This is about making sure your voice is heard,” Mayer noted. “Voting counts.That is the only way gun safety will win. American apathy got us into this and American action with get us out of it. Don’t wait for a reason for gun safety to matter to you.”

Like many people, Jonathan Perloe, treasurer of the Brady Campaign’s Southwestern Connecticut Chapter, said he also became involved in the gun safety movement after Sandy Hook and wants to keep the momentum going.

“We know these laws work,” said Perloe. “We’re working hard to make sure legislators who support gun safety are elected and re-elected.”

Out of a total of 62 endorsements announced by the group Thursday, all but five are Democrats. Asked about if there’s a partisan divide on the gun issue, Pinciaro said he doesn’t believe it is a partisan issue.

The group’s endorsements were based on a number of factors, including positions candidates took with the media and their responses to a CT Voters for Gun Safety questionnaire. Far more Democrats voted for the 2013 gun safety legislation and responded to the questionnaire than did Republican legislators, he added.

Voters have to keep the pressure on lawmakers and make their support for gun safety legislation known, Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, said.

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a vote,” Murray added.   

The day of the Sandy Hook shooting was the day many who support the political action committee became “single-issue voters,” Murray said.

“We are in it to win it,” she continued. “The corporate gun lobby is strong but we are stronger.”

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Labor Unions Question Foley’s Business Record in Pennsylvania

by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 4:51pm
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Posted to: Business, Election 2014, Middletown

Christine Stuart photo

Tom Foley with Ted Xenelis of the Middlesex Fruitery

The Democratic Party and labor leaders spent Thursday afternoon reminding Connecticut voters about what happened at a manufacturing company in Pennsylvania once owned by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley.

Foley, a private equity manager, owned T.B. Wood’s Sons Co. in Chambersburg, Pa. for 17 years before selling it to its competitor, Altra Holdings Inc., in 2007 for $94 million.

During the time he owned the company, which was a power transmission device manufacturer, news accounts detailed an ugly battle in the early 1990s with 260 members of the United Auto Workers Union Local 695. The vote to reject a contract, which included a 50-cents-per-hour pay raise, and to go on strike was decided by a slim 152-140 margin.

A news article in the Baltimore Sun described the lives of union workers on strike and the hard choices they had to make. The 1992 story said a few strikers lost their homes, declared bankruptcy, or separated from their wives.

“The union doesn’t always represent a rank-and-file well,” Foley said Thursday outside the Middlesex YMCA. “In this case they didn’t and they put their members at risk. The company did what it could under the circumstances to protect the jobs of those employees.”

Julie Kushner, president of the United Auto Workers in Connecticut, said she doesn’t know the workers who were involved in the strike at TB Wood’s Sons Co., but based on the duration of the strike it’s easy to conclude that “they had something very important to them they felt they had to stand up for.”

Christine Stuart photo

Julie Kushner of the UAW and Lori Pelletier, executive secretary of the Connecticut AFL-CIO

She also cautioned that labor unions are not against good businessmen.

“What we’re opposed to is someone who profits off of destroying lives and destroying businesses,” Kushner said. “. . . He can walk down Main Street in any town in Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean he really understands and knows who we are and who the middle class are.”

Foley spent his afternoon touring a businesses in Middletown, including a YMCA, a small fruit stand, a bank, and a cupcake shop.

Kushner said Foley should have to prove to voters that he will focus on moving the entire state forward and not just businesses. She said there’s also a disconnect between Foley and the middle class.

Foley said he doesn’t remember how much he sold T.B. Wood’s Sons Co. for, but he remembers that the company lost almost $12 million as a result of the strike.

The Irish Times and The Associated Press reported that Foley was the largest shareholder and chairman of the company when it was sold at $24.80 per share. Foley owned 1.6 million shares, which means he would have grossed about $40 million on the sale.

The union leaders also wondered how someone wouldn’t remember making $40 million in a business deal.

“I don’t understand what this has to do with that,” Foley said. “. . . This is a union that failed their workers. So this is a story I’m happy to talk about as long as people want to talk about it.”

Kushner said that if she made $40 million she guarantees she would not forget how much money she made.

“That just shows the real divide between Tom Foley and the working people in the state of Connecticut,” Kushner said outside a union hall in Higganum.

Christine Stuart photo If he’s elected governor, Foley has said he wouldn’t seek to change the current deal the state has with its public employee unions. But he also said he wants to see Connecticut have a “Wisconsin moment.”

The Wisconsin quote has been repeated often by labor advocates who interpret it as a desire to see collective bargaining rights scaled back as they were in Wisconsin after Gov. Scott Walker was elected. Foley maintains that he meant he was hoping to see Connecticut repeat Wisconsin’s state government flip from Democratic to Republican control.

“When a union recommends to its members that they go on strike, they put their members at risk of their jobs and benefits,” Foley said in a statement Thursday. “TB Woods worked hard to make sure the bad advice a union gave its members had the least impact possible on the company’s workers. I am neither pro-union nor pro non-union, I am pro-worker.”

But Connecticut AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Lori Pelletier wondered how Foley’s handling of the labor situation at TB Woods would make him a good governor.

“If this is his example as a businessman, how can we think it will be any different when he’s governor?” Pelletier said.

Asked what he learned from the experience,  Foley said “some circumstances in the business world, some circumstances in government — people, leaders have to make tough decisions and those are very tough decisions we had to make. We didn’t have any choice. Those decisions were handed to us by others and we did what we could.”

He said he felt the outcome was good for the company and the workers.

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Jury Deliberating Rowland’s Fate

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 18, 2014 11:44am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Hugh McQuaid / ctnewsjunkie

Former Gov. John G. Rowland enters court Thursday for closing arguments

(UPDATED 4:25 p.m.) NEW HAVEN — Lawyers on both sides of former governor John G. Rowland’s corruption trial wrapped up their closing arguments Thursday afternoon and left a jury to decide whether Rowland is guilty of conspiring to hide his role in congressional campaigns.

Jurors have listened to weeks of testimony regarding allegations that Rowland conspired to perform political work for two congressional campaigns while keeping the payments hidden from election regulators.

In closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the jury that the conspiracy was born of the former governor’s desire to make use of his political expertise.

But that expertise was overshadowed by the negative baggage Rowland carried from his 2004 corruption conviction, which saw him resign from office, Mattei said. On that charge, Rowland was sentenced in 2005 to a year and one day in prison, four months house arrest, and three years probation, and community service.

“Mr. Rowland couldn’t sell his most valuable assets on the open market, but if he could keep it hidden, maybe then he could,” Mattei told the jury. In the process, the conspiracy hid Rowland’s compensation arrangement from election regulators and voters, he said.

“This isn’t just politics. This is about hiding from the public what the public has a right to know,” he said. “You have a right to know certain things about [a candidate] and Mr. Rowland wanted to strip you of that. He didn’t want you to know. He just wanted to get paid.”

Mattei said Rowland drafted a proposal to work for 2010 congressional candidate Mark Greenberg and to be paid as a consultant for Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter. That overture was rejected.

Later, Mattei said, Rowland entered into a contract to work on 2012 candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign and sought to be paid by a lawyer for her husband, Brian Foley, who owned a chain of nursing homes called Apple Rehab.

“Ask yourself, what was Mr. Rowland selling? Was he selling his business consulting expertise? Was he selling his devotion to an animal center? Or was he selling the thing that was most valuable — his political expertise?” Mattei told the jury.

Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney, argued that the former governor’s work for Apple Rehab was completely legitimate. He said Foley was “trying to get John involved in his company” and he only agreed to testify against Rowland after pleading guilty to his own related charges.

Weingarten said Foley “only shifts after [prosecutors] threaten him with all sorts of things.”

Weingarten pointed to business correspondence between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab. “You can’t be half pregnant. Either this was a fraud or this was real legitimate business,” he said.

“If this was all a sham, all a fake, all BS, why are they bothering?” he asked. Why are they “sending back and forth substantive information about their business?”

Mattei described those communications as part of a cover crafted to hide Rowland’s campaign work and said, “These people aren’t stupid. They know they’re going to have to come into court one day. They’ve got to have something to wave in front of the jury.” He insisted the “whole thing is a sham.”

Mattei presented a slideshow with snippets of the evidence against Rowland. He reminded the jury of what the government contends was a trend by the former governor to make offers to candidates who were political newcomers, but who also were independently wealthy. He pointed to the contract Rowland pitched to Greenberg. “Who is going to pay somebody $35,000 a month to raise money for an animal shelter? Please . . . ” he said.

He showed the jury a slide comparing the 22 emails Rowland had sent to Wilson-Foley prior to his contract with her husband’s company with 321 emails he sent the candidate in the six months after the contract.

“Look at that. That says it all,” Mattei said. “What’s the one thing that happened? The money tap got turned on. That’s what happened.”

Weingarten said it was perfectly legal for Rowland to work for Apple Rehab and volunteer his time for a congressional candidate and close friend. “A significant part of this is they were friends. He wasn’t a beggar to the Foleys. They were friends for 20 years,” he said.

“John wanted to work and he wanted to help a friend get elected. Those were his two motivations and they weren’t ignoble at all,” Weingarten said.

Earlier Thursday, Judge Janet Bond Arterton prepared the jury for deliberations. During a two-hour charge Monday morning, Arterton explained the allegations against the former governor and how to weigh the government’s case against him. She said the prosecution needs to have proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Although Mr. Rowland has been indicted you must remember an indictment is only an accusation. It is not evidence,” she said. “The law presumes the defendant innocent of the charges against him.”

Arterton instructed the jury that a criminal conspiracy can be conducted without it being explicitly stated.

“Since conspiracy is, by its very nature, characterized by secrecy, you may infer its existence . . . by the actions of those involved,” Arterton said.

The jury began deliberations at 3:26 p.m.

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Malloy Goes To Cali To Raise $$

by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 11:14am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will be in California both today and Friday.

For whom?

“We do not comment on fundraising,” Puglia added.

The lack of information about the trip has the Connecticut Republican Party crying foul.

“Who is Dan Malloy accountable to—the liberal California donors who are writing massive checks for his campaign or the Connecticut families who he has seemingly abandoned?” Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said in a statement.

“Instead of hobnobbing with his Hollywood pals, Dan Malloy should be focusing on improving our state—which continues to struggle under the weight of his record-setting tax hikes and anemic economic growth.”

Malloy went to California on a fundraising trip in October 2013 before he announced his re-election bid.  When he returned he had little to share about the trip, which resulted in one donation to the Connecticut Democratic Party’s account.

Malloy’s October trip to California cost the state of Connecticut taxpayers about $13,760, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information request by Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican from Wilton. The state party has declined to reimburse the state for the expense.

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The Malloys Release Partial Tax Returns

by Christine Stuart | Sep 18, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Taxes

CTNJ file photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is behind Republican challenger Tom Foley in most public polls, released partial tax returns for his past four years of income on Wednesday and called upon his opponent to do the same.

The former mayor of Stamford, who beat Foley in 2010 by 6,404 votes, seems anxious to see the tax returns of his opponent who, like Mitt Romney, manages a private equity firm. In 2010, a comparison of their taxes showed Foley paid more in taxes in 2009 than Malloy and his wife, Cathy, earned that year.

“Today, Governor Malloy released four years of tax return summaries and Tom Foley should do the same,” Mark Bergman, a spokesman for the Malloy campaign, said. “If Tom Foley has nothing to hide, he should release his returns immediately. He has had weeks to prepare for a release and this should happen without delay.”

The Foley campaign said it will release his tax returns next week. In 2010, the Foley campaign released his returns about 13 days before the election.

The Malloys’ partial tax returns showed that the adjusted gross income for the couple was around $280,031 in 2010 — the year he was campaigning for the office and working at Class Green Capital as a consultant. That year they paid about 38.19 percent of their income in federal taxes and 4.8 percent in state taxes.

In 2011, after Malloy’s tax increase, the couple’s adjusted gross income dipped to $212,892. They paid about 20.7 percent of that in taxes to the federal government, while their state tax liability increased to 5.3 percent. In 2012, the Malloys had an adjusted gross income of $303,467. They paid about 25.3 percent of that to the federal government and 5.5 percent of it to the state of Connecticut. In 2013, their adjusted gross income was about $305,534. Their tax liability at both the federal and state level has remained about the same as it was in 2012.

Only four pages of the Malloy’s tax documents were released for each of the years.

Having the candidates release their tax returns prior to an election has become a common practice in Connecticut politics. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton released his taxes in April before he ended up dropping out of the Republican gubernatorial primary and Linda McMahon, a U.S. Senate candidate in 2010 and 2012,  released her tax returns as well.

In August, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel let the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Illinois know that he should release more supplemental information regarding his tax returns.

“Running for office and releasing your tax returns is like a rite of passage. You have to do it,” Emanuel told the news media.

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Survey Shows Obamacare Enrollees Are Satisfied With Enrollment Process

by Kristi Allen | Sep 17, 2014 4:27pm
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Posted to: Health Care

Christine Stuart photo

Jim Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health CT and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman

As Connecticut’s health care exchange gears up for its second open enrollment period this November, officials are touting the results of the state’s first enrollment effort.

A survey of 6,015 individuals who purchased insurance through Access Health CT showed that more than 80 percent of enrollees were satisfied with the enrollment process. More than 250,000 people were enrolled earlier this year.

Chris Barnes, senior vice president of client development for the Pert Group — the firm that conducted the survey — said that 54 percent of enrollees did not have insurance during the year prior to enrolling.

Barnes also said the report showed that 26 percent of private plan enrollees and 44 percent of Medicaid enrollees were African American or Hispanic.

“You can see that we’re closing the gap on the disparities in health care,” Barnes said. “We’re reaching underserved populations, which is one of the key goals of the organization.”

Access Health CT customers will have their plans automatically renewed this fall, unless they’ve seen a change in income.

“If their income has changed, then they will need to come back online and re-vet through our system,” acting Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh said.

Access Health CT will be opening storefronts in New Britain and New Haven again in mid-October, although the report showed that less than 10 percent of enrollees received in-person assistance.

Wadleigh said Access Health CT is still trying to get official documentation from about 2,000 immigrant enrollees with questionable legal status.

He said Access Health CT has been calling the customers who have not sent in documentation for the past four months.

“The expectation is, the beginning of November, they will be terminated formally” if they have not sent in official documentation, said Wadleigh.

About 25 percent of enrollees have not yet used their health insurance, according to the report. Twenty three percent of private plan enrollees and 33 percent of Medicaid enrollees said they did not have a primary care physician.

Barnes was optimistic about the upcoming enrollment period. He said that 45 percent of people who enrolled in a private plan did so through the website, without any help from Access Health CT.

“They’re going to be able to re-enroll and navigate the process very well with the resources, whether it’s the website or even getting assistance, that population is going to be able to handle it because the process was smooth last time” he said.

Advocates have expressed concern with the lack of focus on the in-person assister program.

“The fact that at this date, Access Health CT has no clear public plan for the next enrollment period is very disturbing,” Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, told the Access Health CT Board of Directors last month. “We are extremely disappointed that there may be no in-person assistance or navigation services available come Nov. 15.”

Wadleigh said there’s been a lot of confusion about the in-person assistance program and Jason Madrak, Access Health CT’s marketing director, will go into detail at Thursday’s board meeting about what resources will go into the program this year.

“While that program has been at the forefront, it’s not any different than any other program we have in our open enrollment process,” Wadleigh said. “We are in the process of planning through open enrollment in total. At a high level, we are going to have an in-person assistance program for the 2015 enrollment period.”

He declined to give further detail Thursday at the press conference about what exactly the in-person assistance program will include.

Of the 27 percent of enrollees in private plans who reported that they were ‘somewhat satisfied’ with the enrollment process, Barnes said “they didn’t list any particular issues. It’s more a case of it has not met every expectation they had.” The survey found 36 percent of that same population were “very satisfied” and 20 percent were “extremely satisfied.”

The full report, meaning all slides, will be posted online Thursday, according to Access Health CT officials. An abbreviated version of the survey can be found at http://bit.ly/AHCTcensus

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New Report Touts UConn’s Impact On State Economy

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 17, 2014 2:26pm
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Posted to: Economics, Education, Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

The University of Connecticut had a $3.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2013, according to an economic report paid for by the school and conducted by Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and UConn President Susan Herbst released the report at a Wednesday press conference held in UConn’s Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford.

“What this shows is something that many people have probably sensed all along — that UConn is a vital part of Connecticut’s economy,” Herbst said.

Paul Umbach, the firm’s senior principal, said the report tries to quantify the economic activity the state would lose if UConn did not exist. The report concludes that the university has a direct impact of $1.5 billion and an indirect impact of $1.9 billion.

In a per-capita comparison with other states’ flagship universities, “it is an impressive economic impact,” he said. Umbach said UConn “packs a lot of punch” given that the state’s size and geography are similar to metropolitan Houston.

Malloy waived off the comparison

“All right, you can stop now,” he said. “We’re a mid-sized population.”

The governor said it makes sense for the university to have commissioned the nearly $50,000 study.

“It’s important for the people of Connecticut to understand just how vital the University of Connecticut is to economic activity,” he said.

However, Tom Foley, Malloy’s Republican opponent in the November governor’s race, panned the report as political posturing Tuesday before it was released.

In a press release, Foley’s campaign predicted that the report would involve the UConn Foundation, a private entity that supports the university, and Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis. It was not done by Carstensen and the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis.

“I highly suspect that this press conference tomorrow will affirm my suspicions, that this economic study is highly political. What is going on at UConn and The UConn Foundation doesn’t pass the smell test and it will stop the day I am sworn-in as governor,” Foley said.

Asked about Foley’s statement during the press conference, Malloy said he wanted to answer “nicely.”

“He’s a candidate. Right? He wants to make points. He’s become a cheapshot specialist and my hunch is he’ll never, ever read the report,” he said. “To be very specific, I had nothing to do with it. This was an undertaking by the university.”

Foley’s statement questioned whether the study was commissioned as a “political puff piece” to tout projects Malloy funded during his first term designed to boost the university. Umbach said the study, which uses data from 2013, was conducted too early to assess the impact of those projects. But Malloy defended those projects during the press conference.

“Tom may not understand this but what we’re trying to do is build a Connecticut for the long run. So much of the investments we have announced around the University of Connecticut have not actually taken hold yet. They’re only starting to take hold,” he said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo Malloy and Herbst suggested the goal of the study was aimed primarily at boosting investments in UConn rather than helping Malloy’s campaign.

The governor said he suspected Herbst was “probably going to use this when you approach the legislature in the next budget.”

Herbst agreed.

“We are getting ready to make our case to the legislature for continued investment in the university because we think that investment pays off for all the citizens in the state so beautifully,” she said.

Ben Zimmer, executive director of the Connecticut Policy Institute, a group founded by Foley, said the survey failed to take into account what would happen if the state made the investments they’re making in UConn elsewhere.

“What is missing is any assessment of whether that money is *best* directed to UConn versus another source,” Zimmer said Wednesday. “This isn’t to say that government spending on UConn is misplaced, or is too high.  It is merely to say that the report offers no actual evidence indicating otherwise.”

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Judge Allows Witness Testimony, Defense Rests

by Christine Stuart | Sep 17, 2014 10:43am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Brian Bedard leaves court with his attorney Hugh Keefe

Reversing course from previous rulings, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton allowed a defense witness Wednesday to testify about a conversation he had with Brian Foley, the government’s key witness in its case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

Rowland declined to take the stand in his own defense after being reminded by the judge of his right to testify.

Meanwhile, Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer of a nursing home chain owned by Foley, testified Wednesday that he had a conversation with Foley at Foley’s home after Foley had pleaded guilty in March to a misdemeanor charge for his involvement in the scheme.

“Did there come a time after Mr. Foley pleaded guilty that he had a conversation with you?” Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s lead attorney, asked Bedard.

“Mr. Foley has told me that he never made a specific deal with Mr. Rowland,“ Bedard said. “There was no quid pro quo. He said I never made a deal with John.”

The government fought hard to keep the jury from hearing the testimony even though prosecutors said they don’t believe it’s inconsistent with the testimony given earlier in the trial by Foley. Arterton made Bedard, who had a tendency to stray during his testimony, keep his answers short.

Bedard, who was described Tuesday by Arterton as “woefully inaccurate,” was allowed to testify that during his conversation with Foley about the contract he used the word “sham” to describe it.

“Mr. Foley has used the word sham,” Bedard testified.

Foley testified the contract Apple Rehab had with Rowland was a sham to hide the fact that Foley was really paying him to work on his wife’s congressional campaign.

Outside the presence of the jury, Bedard, who previewed his testimony for the judge, said he asked his attorney to call the government and tell them, “I was embarrassed that he [Foley] lied to me. I trusted him and I was lied to. I’m not good with that at all.”

Bedard told the jury Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Foley’s wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, should have ever run for office.

“I never took her candidacy seriously. I don’t think she should have run,” Bedard said.

He said business people don’t understand public service.

“They’re clapping ‘cause they’re employees. They’re not clapping because they like you,” Bedard who participated in a mock debate with Wilson-Foley in 2010, testified.

Bedard ended up being the only witness Rowland’s defense attorneys called during the trial. The defense rested their case Wednesday before 9:30 a.m.

The government briefly called two rebuttal witnesses Wednesday before court adjourned at 10:10 a.m. Arterton instructed the jury that closing arguments would be given Thursday morning before the jury is charged.

Arterton reminded Rowland again of his right to testify in his own defense. Rowland told the judge he understood and declined the offer to testify.

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Foley Says He Supports Closing Restraining Order Gun Loophole

by Eugene Driscoll | Sep 17, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Law Enforcement, Legal, Public Safety, Ansonia

The Republican candidate for governor said Tuesday he would support proposed legislation prohibiting people who have temporary restraining orders against them from possessing a firearm.

“I said I support it,” Foley said outside Ansonia City Hall before embarking on a tour of Main Street with Ansonia Mayor David Cassetti.

“Can you put that in a longer sentence?” Ken Dixon, a state political reporter with the Connecticut Post, asked the candidate.

“No. I support it. Is there anything unclear about that?” Foley replied.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed the legislation last week during a campaign event in West Hartford.

Click here to continue reading the Valley Independent Sentinel’s report.

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Judge Wrestles With Allowing Nursing Home Execs Testimony

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 16, 2014 3:24pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

An exhibit in the case courtesy of the US government

Brian Bedard, on the left, at a fundraiser for Lisa Wilson-Foley

Calling a defense witness “woefully inaccurate” Judge Janet Bond Arterton rejected testimony, which would have been damaging to the government’s corruption case against former Gov. John G. Rowland.

The former governor is on trial facing charges that he worked as a consultant for Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign, but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.

Early in the trial, the government put Foley on the stand. Foley told the jury that Rowland’s contract with Apple’s corporate attorney was to cover his work on the political campaign.

But in a move that surprised prosecutors, Rowland’s lead attorney Reid Weingarten tried Tuesday to solicit new testimony from an Apple executive, which undermined Foley’s testimony.

With the jury recessed outside the courtroom, Brian Bedard told the court that even after he had pleaded guilty to related charges, Foley had told him there was never a secret deal with Rowland.

“He said I never made a deal with John Rowland to work with Lisa’s campaign. I never had a direct conversation. There was no ‘you work at Apple get paid and work for the campaign,” Bedard said Foley told him. “He said it over and over again, whenever we would meet if we talked about the case.”

Prosecutors heavily objected to the new testimony, which they said impeached Foley’s testimony and should have been offered by the defense when they cross-examined Foley.

Weingarten insisted he had only learned of the statements over the weekend when he talked to Bedard.

“I met with him on Sunday. That was the first time I laid eyes on the guy and he told me this story,” he said.

Weingarten insisted the court should allow the new testimony.

“What can be more relevant to this case?” he asked. “The one person they put on the stand to incriminate John Rowland, we now know told his CEO on more than one occasion, he never had a deal with John Rowland?”

But questioned by prosecutors, Bedard indicated he had spoken with another lawyer on Rowland’s defense team and told her that same thing as much as two weeks earlier.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei accused the defense of withholding the information until late in the trial.

“They knew about it. Now they’re coming in after Foley has testified and ambushing us, basically on the last day of trial. They knew about it,” he said.

Arterton seemed to go back and forth as she considered allowing the testimony. When she eventually ruled against the defense, she said it was in large part due to Bedard’s unreliability as a witness.

Throughout his time on the stand Monday and Tuesday, Bedard showed a tendency to ramble, offering more information than what he was asked. His testimony about Foley’s statement on the deal with Rowland also seemed to change, even during the short period he was answering questions about it before Mattei and Weingarten.

“The problem is, I don’t know what he’s going to say. Even though I’ve heard what he’s going to say, it has many permutations,” Arterton told Weingarten.

“This is so unclear, so murky, so unpredictable. I don’t see why it should be permitted as i hear it evolve,” she said.

Rowland watched while the lawyers debated the issue with the judge. At times he shook his head as Mattei was speaking. Ultimately, Arterton said she would not allow the issue because it would mean having lawyers take the stand as witnesses to testify about when they first heard Bedard offer the testimony.

“He may be woefully inaccurate,” Arterton said, adding that she had no reason to doubt the lawyers on Rowland’s defense team.

“But there we are, it’s called a mess. And I’m not going to have it sort itself out with a witness whose statements, even in the proffer are, shall we say, in the alternative.”

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Election Regulators Call NU Solicitation ‘Egregious’

by Christine Stuart | Sep 16, 2014 1:55pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Election 2014, Ethics, State Capitol

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State Elections Enforcement Commission meets

The State Elections Enforcement Commission dismissed a complaint against Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May Tuesday, but not before offering some harsh criticism of the solicitation the state contractor sent last September to his employees.

“The next gubernatorial election is upon us, and I am asking each of you to join me in financially supporting Connecticut’s Governor Dannel P. Malloy,” May wrote in his Sept. 27, 2013 email to company managers. The email, which was sent from May’s private gmail account, suggested that donations be made to the Connecticut Democratic State Central’s federal account.

State election law prohibits state contractors from contributing to state party accounts or the campaigns of statewide candidates. Even though the email solicitation mentioned Malloy’s accomplishments at length, the commission was unable to find that May violated state election law because the money went to the party’s federal account.

“The Commission does conclude that the content of the solicitation by Mr. May is both offensive and disturbing and violates the spirit and intent of the Connecticut state contractor ban,” the 5-0 decision to dismiss the complaint reads.

Michael Brandi, executive director of the SEEC, stressed that the contributions to the federal account are simply not regulated by state law.

“However, the content of the solicitation was egregious and violated both the spirit and intent of the law,” Brandi said. “While we can not find a specific violation of the letter of the law in this case we certainly believe that the efforts through this solicitation were meant to circumvent the spirit, certainly meant to violate, the spirit and intent of the state contractor ban.”

Going forward, Brandi said state regulators will continue to monitor all contributions to the Democratic Party’s federal account and will bring it back to the commission, if they find a potential violation.

“Although I believe the solicitation and donations from NU to the DSCC’s federal account were a blatant diversion and total disregard of our strong campaign financing laws, the laws as currently written are the laws of our state,” SEEC Vice Chairman Sal Bramante, said.

SEEC Commissioner Stephen Penny said he thinks the decision will come as a surprise to most people, since it was a surprise to the commission.

“At first blush, the conduct of this respondent appeared to be an egregious violation of Connecticut campaign finance law,” Penny said. “But after careful review of state law we were unable to find any specific violations.”

He said to direct money that was on its face being raised to support a statewide candidate and deposit that money into the party’s federal account “is an abuse not only of what that federal account is intended for, but clearly seems to be an effort to bypass the workings of the Connecticut finance law.”

He suggested the state legislature needs to take a look at revising Connecticut’s law to prohibit this type of conduct.

“We appreciate the conclusion that this was not a violation of the law,” Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, said in response to the decision. “Northeast Utilities takes its legal obligations very seriously.”

In total, 28 of the 50 NU employees or officers who received May’s email contributed a total of about $50,750 to the Democratic Party’s federal account, according to SEEC Investigator William Smith.

Smith told the commission Tuesday that state contractors are prohibited from soliciting contributions for or making contributions to a gubernatorial candidate or state party committee. Smith said there was never a dispute that Northeast Utilities was a state contractor, but there’s no state law that prohibits a state contractor from contributing to a party’s federal account.

“It should be stressed that federal law does not create a loophole in Connecticut campaign finance laws that would allow federal committees to make expenditures that result in contributions to Connecticut candidates,” Smith said.

Smith explained to the commission that the idea for solicitation was developed by Margaret Morton, vice president of government affairs for NU.

“Ms. Morton claimed that the solicitation was an effort to further NU business strategy,” Smith said. “She also claimed that she was aware of Connecticut’s campaign finance laws and that her intent of the solicitation was for the federal account of the Democratic Central Committee and not the campaign of Gov. Malloy.”

Smith told the commission that Morton denied that the Democratic State Central Committee helped develop the solicitation. Ben Josephson, a fundraising contractor for the Democratic Party, told investigators that he asked Morton for a contribution to the federal account. He denied asking for contributions for the benefit of Malloy, who wasn’t even a declared candidate until months after the email was sent.

Click here to read the entire decision.

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Witness Calls Relationship Between Nursing Home & Campaign ‘Incestuous’

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 16, 2014 12:21pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

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Brian Bedard, at left, walks out of court with his attorney, Hugh Keefe, in New Haven

NEW HAVEN — A witness testified Tuesday that Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign had an “incestuous” relationship with the nursing home company that federal authorities say was illegally paying former governor John G. Rowland for political work.

The former governor is on trial facing charges that he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign, but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.

The testimony came from Brian Bedard, an executive at Apple Rehab. Bedard was the first witness called by Rowland’s lawyers after prosecutors rested their case Monday.

When Rowland’s consulting contract with Apple Rehab was exposed in news reports, Bedard said he was tasked with drafting a press release explaining it. He said he tried to keep it off email accounts associated with Apple Rehab.

“This was so incestuous. The campaign, Apple, trying to keep it out … I did it initially on my private email, then subsequently sent it to my Apple email,” he said.

The next day, Bedard said he delivered that statement to Foley at his wife’s crowded campaign headquarters.

“The windows were all covered in paper. I walked in and I was a little surprised to see that many people there,” he said.

But Bedard maintained that Apple’s relationship with Rowland was legitimate. Responding to questions from Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, Bedard said he never believed the former governor’s work at Apple to be a cover. “Not for a split second,” he said.

Rather, Bedard told the jury he was worried Foley had brought Rowland in as his possible replacement.

“I had some concerns. I thought, potentially, John was maybe there to take my job,” he said.

But before prosecutors rested their case Monday, they presented the jury with evidence suggesting Rowland spent far more time calling and emailing Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign staff than he had with Bedard and other Apple executives.

From October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls with Bedard compared to 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

Early in the trial, Foley told the court his relationship with Rowland was “primarily” designed to be a boon for his wife’s congressional ambitions.

“I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Election Commission,” Foley said. And “he would be supportive of the campaign. That was a way not to have to report him to the Federal Elections Commission.”

But Weingarten has painted Foley as desperate to avoid the repercussions of his own related charges and willing to sell out Rowland to avoid consequences for himself and his family.

During his testimony, Bedard discussed work he said Rowland did for Apple including a more than three-page analysis of a report on trends in the nursing home industry. Bedard said he was uncomfortable with the ties between Apple and the Wilson-Foley campaign and viewed Rowland as an ally in an effort to detangle the two entities. 

“I thought that I would now have assistance in keeping those kinds of activities outside of Apple,” Bedard said, describing his frame of mind after he’d had a lunch meeting with Rowland.

Last week, an Apple executive testified that during Wilson-Foley’s 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor, 58 staff members were asked to gather in a seminar room for a mock debate. Bedard played the role of Wilson-Foley’s opponent during the debate.

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Coalition Against Domestic Violence Reports Calls Have Increased Following Rice Video

by Kristi Allen | Sep 16, 2014 7:11am
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Posted to: Media Matters, Nonprofits, Public Safety, Hartford

http://www.ctcadv.org/

Since the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-fiance Janay Palmer Rice surfaced, the number of calls for domestic violence services in Connecticut has increased.

Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Monday that calls to the domestic violence hotline have increased by a third and the number of women requesting services has increased.

“All 237 of our beds in Connecticut were full last Friday night,” she said. “We’ve seen a significant increase in hotline calls.”

This is in addition to a 16 percent increase in the number of victims being sheltered in Connecticut in the past four years. Sixty-nine percent of them are spending longer periods of time in shelters as well, Jarmoc said.

Jarmoc also noted that CCADV operates at 95- to 98-percent capacity on average, but that they have multiple resources they can offer to victims even when their shelters are full.

At a Capitol press conference Monday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for increases in federal funding to domestic violence groups, stronger criminal laws on domestic violence, and a sustained financial commitment from the NFL to supporting domestic violence prevention groups.

At the press conference, Jarmoc applauded an increase in Family Violence Prevention and Services Act funding.

The act, known as FVPSA, is the largest source of funding for emergency services for domestic violence victims, although it’s currently not fully funded.

CCADV received $1.3 million this past year from that federal legislation.

Blumenthal said when he returns to Washington he will urge his congressional colleagues and the NFL to take up the issue of funding for domestic violence services.

“The NFL can provide a model as an institution. It can use some of the tens of millions of dollars that it takes from fans to help those fans who may be victims of domestic violence,” he said. “I’m going to hold the NFL accountable, as will many of my colleagues as they’ve indicated to me privately and publicly over the last few days.”

Blumenthal and Jarmoc were at odds over NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in the scandal. Jarmoc said that she supported him retaining his position because he had admitted his mistake and was willing to fix it.

“No one is more well positioned at this point to make a difference. He has a vested interested in getting it right now,” she said.

Jarmoc said that the NFL worked with the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to draft the league’s new rules for dealing with players accused of domestic violence.

Blumenthal said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Goodell should resign if he had seen the Ray Rice video prior to it being posted by TMZ last Monday. He did not comment on Goodell at Monday’s press conference.

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OP-ED | Taking Insurance Companies Out Of Health Care

by Wendell Potter | Sep 16, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

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Boeing’s factory in Seattle, Aug. 31, 2014.


Boeing Experiment Will Be Closely Watched By Business CEOs And Insurers Alike

There are many Americans who are beginning to question the contributions big insurance companies make to our health care system. And I’m not just talking about lefty advocates of a single-payer system. Corporate executives are also wondering why we need the big insurers and whether higher-quality and more cost-effective care could be provided to employees if they didn’t have to deal with health insurers at all.

I wrote a few months back that my former CEO at Cigna once said that what kept him up at night was the possibility that Americans — business leaders in particular — would ultimately conclude that insurers were an unnecessary expense. He used the term “disintermediation,” a fancy word that means “cutting out the middle man.”

News out of Seattle this summer undoubtedly has caused the big insurance CEOs to lose more than a bit of sleep. Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company and one of the Seattle area’s largest employers, announced that it has decided to forego the services of an insurance company and to contract directly with two of the Northwest’s largest hospital systems to provide care to its 27,000 employees and 3,000 retirees in the region.

Boeing is actually teaming up with a couple of recently formed accountable care organizations, which represent a new way of financing and paying for medical care. Encouraged by the Affordable Care Act, ACOs typically comprise a set of physicians — specialists and primary care doctors — and hospitals that work collaboratively and accept some of the financial risk of providing care to a particular population of patients. Some ACOs also include insurance companies. But many do not.

The idea behind the more than 600 ACOs that have been created nationwide is that when doctors and hospitals work together in such arrangements, they get rewarded financially for keeping and making patients healthy — rather than getting paid based solely on the number of tests and procedures they do.

What distinguishes the Boeing ACOs, aside from the fact that no insurers are involved, is that they are among the first ACOs that are employer-driven. You can be certain that big employers all over America will be paying close attention. If the Boeing ACO experiment demonstrates savings, expect to see many more in the near future.

“The advantage for Boeing will be that they can take the middle man out of the equation between the patients and the health system,” Dr. Elliott Fisher, director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, was quoted as telling The Seattle Times. “It may be able to reduce cost, in part because of the simplification of not having the insurance mechanism in the middle.”

While Boeing will continue to offer traditional insurance, the company believes many employees will be attracted to the ACOs because of what is expected to be an improved “patient experience.” The Times quoted officials as saying that the ACOs can coordinate appointments and treatment across their network of doctors, clinics and hospitals, relieving patients of that responsibility or the need to get prior approvals from an insurance company.

In anticipation that this will become a national trend, and as a result of Affordable Care Act provisions that are squeezing profit margins, the big for-profit health insurers are quickly diversifying.

Just two weeks ago, Modern Healthcare noted that because health insurers are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on actual patient care, they are looking for higher investment returns elsewhere. The magazine reported that insurers are increasingly putting money into technology ventures from which they expect to realize higher returns.

The magazine cited as an example UnitedHealth Group’s Optum division, which works in technology and population health management, among other specialties. In 2013, Optum reported 26 percent growth in revenue and 61 percent growth in operating earnings. Meanwhile, in its core insurance business, UnitedHealth saw its 2013 operating margin decline to 6.4 percent, down from 7.6 percent in 2012.

Mark Bertolini, the CEO of one of the other big insurers, Aetna, was quoted in the article as saying that his company has gotten “very active in the M&A (mergers and acquisitions) market,” particularly in the international and technology areas. Bertolini has been candid in saying that Aetna no longer sees itself as a traditional insurer.

I predict that the big for-profits will eventually cede the health insurance marketplace to nonprofit insurers and provider-led organizations like ACOs — and even to hospitals that are looking to operate their own health plans.

Health insurance in this country was initially provider-based and community-rated. The first plan, which was the forerunner of Blue Cross, was one developed by an executive of Baylor Hospital in Texas in the late 1920s. In the not too distant future, I believe we will be going back to the future, with today’s big health insurers being largely out of the picture. If the Boeing experiment flies.

Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Election Regulators Scheduled To Rule On Fundraising Email

by Christine Stuart | Sep 16, 2014 5:29am
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Posted to: Election 2014

Michael Lee-Murphy file photo

Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May

State election regulators are poised to make a decision today on whether Northeast Utilities CEO Thomas May violated state election law last year when he asked company managers to contribute money to the Democratic Party to help Gov. Dannel P. Malloy win re-election.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission has twice postponed making a decision on the complaint. This is the third time it will be on their agenda. The complaint was made by a Greenwich resident who read the Courant’s story last December about the Sept. 2013 solicitation email May sent to the utility company’s subordinates.

The email, according to a Dec. 4, 2013 Courant article, encouraged the managers to give to the Democratic Party’s federal account. According to Federal Election Commission reports, NU employees quickly contributed $45,000 to that account.

At the time, Malloy wasn’t even a candidate. He didn’t announce his re-election until March.

In January, the Democratic Party refunded $40,000 in donations from state contractors who gave money to the party’s state account. Some of those donations were later given to the party’s federal account.

NU is on the list of state contractors prohibited from contributing to state campaigns. Instead, the money sometimes finds its way to the federal account, which can indirectly be used to pay for state party administration and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The SEEC is wrestling with whether May’s email violated state election law intended to keep state contractor money out of campaigns. The legislature passed campaign finance reform in 2005 in response to the corruption scandal involving former Gov. John G. Rowland.

In late March, election regulators determined that Malloy himself didn’t violate any laws when he went on an October 2013 trip to California to raise money for the Connecticut Democratic Party.

The State Elections Enforcement Commission will meet at 9 a.m. today.

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Rowland’s Attorney Says Work for Nursing Home Was Legit, Feds Say He Worked More On Campaign

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 15, 2014 3:48pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland and his attorney Reid Weingarten

Minutes after prosecutors rested their corruption case against former governor John Rowland on Monday, Rowland’s legal team called a witness whose attorney immediately accused the government of intimidation.

The government concluded its case with evidence that Rowland communicated far more with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign than he did with the business paying him as a consultant.

The former governor is on trial facing charges he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley.

Rowland’s lawyers have argued that Rowland’s work with Apple was legitimate, while his work on the campaign was strictly a volunteer effort. On Monday, prosecutors presented the jury with stark numbers in an effort to debunk that argument.

According to emails and phone calls reviewed by Mark Borofsky, an investigative support analyst and former postal inspector, Rowland communicated far more with individuals associated with the campaign.

Jurors saw a graph indicating that 787 — or 89 percent — of the emails reviewed between October 2011 to April 2012 were between Rowland and campaign workers. Meanwhile, 63 — or 7 percent — of the emails were between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab, where during that period he was a paid consultant.

When prosecutors rested their case, lead defense attorney Reid Weingarten called one of those executives as his first witness. But an attorney for Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer of Apple Rehab, accused the government of trying to frighten Bedard by reading him his legal rights.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that the government wants to intimidate Mr. Bedard. They want to intimidate and threaten him by having you advise him of his rights,” attorney Hugh Keefe told Judge Janet Bond Arterton. “I resent the government.”

“I appreciate the show Mr. Keefe’s putting on,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei said. “I think we can move on.”

The exchange occurred as the jury was out on a lunch break. Bedard waived the reading of his rights and when court resumed in the afternoon, he took the stand as the first witness called by Rowland’s defense team.

The former governor’s lawyers sought to prove that Rowland did legitimate with Bedard as a contractor. He described several meetings in which Rowland was engaged with the business of Apple.

“We talked about the industry, the labor unions, nursing homes closing. We talked about reimbursements,” Bedard said.

Weingarten asked Bedard several times whether he believed the arrangement with Rowland was a sham or a pretext to cover for Rowland’s help on Wilson-Foley’s campaign.

“No, absolutely not,” Bedard answered.

However, prosecutors showed the jury graphs depicting the number of phone calls Rowland had with Apple Rehab executives. Between October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls to Bedard and six phone calls with Brian Foley. Meanwhile, he had 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

Before the jury entered the courtroom Monday morning, Rowland’s attorneys objected to prosecutors’ use of the charts and graphs.

“It doesn’t speak to Mr. Rowland’s belief about his job at Apple,” attorney William Drake told the judge. “Mr. Rowland is free to volunteer as much or to whatever extent he wants on a political campaign. The amount of work on the campaign is not probative of whether the job at Apple was real.”

Prosecutor Liam Brennan disagreed. He slammed a binder packed full of campaign emails onto a table in front of him.

“This binder is emails from the campaign. This is highly probative of where Mr. Rowland put his work,” he said.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed. The jury later saw both the graphs and the packed binder, which Borofsky compared to small packets of paper, which represented Rowland’s communications with Apple employees.

Prosecutors also attacked the defense’s argument that Rowland and Wilson-Foley were close and therefore his campaign work was a “labor of love.”

In 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, neither Rowland nor his wife Patricia Rowland made any contributions to the campaign, according to an affidavit from state elections regulators.

Meanwhile, Wilson-Foley and Rowland exchanged 10 emails that year. They began communicating more as the 2012 campaign geared up. Between January 2011 and August 2011, they emailed each other 22 times.

But during the period when Rowland was being paid to consult with her husband’s company, the two exchanged 321 emails.

The emails and phone records were collected by investigators through a series of subpoenas and search warrant seizures.

The trial will continue Tuesday. It is not clear whether Rowland will take the stand himself as part of his defense. After prosecutors rested their case Monday, Arterton advised the former governor of his right to testify.

“The pitfalls include cross-exam by government, in many areas not the least of which would be the 2004 conviction. Keep all those thing in mind. There’s an upside of what the jury will hear, and there’s a downside to what the jury will hear,” she told Rowland, who resigned in 2004 before serving 10 months in prison on corruption charges.

Rowland, who has said little so far throughout the trial, said he understood.

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Foley, Malloy Challenge Each Other Separately On Transportation

by Christine Stuart | Sep 15, 2014 1:44pm
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Posted to: Transportation

Christine Stuart photo

Republican Tom Foley addresses a group of transportation organizations

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he’s spending more on transportation than previous administrations, while Republican challenger Tom Foley said traffic congestion in Connecticut has gotten worse over the past few years.

Malloy and Foley spoke separately Monday at a forum sponsored by a broad-based group of state and regional transportation organizations. Foley addressed the group first and was followed by Malloy.

The two spoke separately about the balance between highways and public transit. Malloy wants to increase investment in both areas, but Foley would be focused mostly on highway expansion.

“Any purposeful strategy to push people out of their cars and onto mass transit, I really don’t think is going to work,” Foley told the group at the Best Western in North Haven.

He later clarified his statement for reporters exactly what he meant. “For some people mass transit doesn’t work for them and they need to be able to make that choice for themselves. I don’t think the government should be telling them what to do,” Foley said. “The traffic congestion isn’t getting people onto mass transit.”

Malloy chuckled when he was told by reporters what Foley said during the forum.

“What world is he in?” Malloy asked. “Does he understand how many people use buses? Does he know what a bus is? Has he ever used a bus? Or does he use the railroad? ... Can can you imagine Connecticut without the New Haven line?”

Malloy added, “I think he has this idea that all transit is for people other than his class and therefore it’s not important.”

Foley opined that he thinks traffic congestion has gotten worse during Malloy’s administration. As he drives around the state Foley said he sees highway projects, but “I don’t see them increasing the capacity of those roads.” He said he understands the need for the deferred maintenance, but “I don’t see a whole lot being done that increases capacity.”

Malloy said Foley needs to educate himself on the subject.

“The guy says traffic is worse than its ever been and then he says we spend too much money on transit,” Malloy said. “The reason we need to spend more money on transit is because traffic is bad. Traffic is bad because we underinvested in the system for the better part of 20 years before I became governor.” 

Malloy seemed excited to talk about his record on transportation and even asked the group for more time.

Christine Stuart photo “Quite frankly, I’m happy to let the last three-and-a-half years speak for itself,” Malloy told the audience of more than 100 people.

He said he had his staff compare the amount of money he’s spent on transportation with past administrations and adjusted for inflation he’s spent more money on transportation than the past two Republican administrations, which spanned nearly two decades.

“This administration is committed to building out the infrastructure of the state,” Malloy said. “Quite frankly, this administration is committed to building out the infrastructure that should have been built over the last 25 years.”

He said the state needs to be serious about “transportation and transit.”

“My opponent says he wants to cut funding to transit,” Malloy said. “I think that’s the wrong way to go. Nor do I think we should cut our roads and bridges and highways account to pay for transit.”

He said that means spending more money on both highways and transit. The state has already put $1 billion in transportation projects out to bid this year.

Neither, went into great detail about how exactly they would fund the projects, but Malloy emphasized the need to get federal funding for these large projects, such as the replacement of the 118-year-old walk bridge in Norwalk.

“One way or another the bridge has to be replaced,” Malloy said. “It is our highest priority.”

But he said his administration has also put highway funding aside in that corridor to fix the entrance and exit ramps onto Interstate 95.

“If I don’t get re-elected there still will be a lot of projects to do,” Malloy said. “There still will be work under way and I will never turn over an empty cabinet when it comes to transportation infrastructure projects that need to be engaged in by the state of Connecticut … We can never, never turn over a state in as bad a shape as we allowed this state to get in.”

Foley said he believes the federal government will help support the expansion of Connecticut’s roads, but if they don’t he’s ready to continue funding these projects with state dollars. However, it’s unclear where he would find to billions of dollars he needs in order to fund the projects already in the pipeline.

“We have the sources of financing and we have the credit worthiness to do this,” Foley told reporters. “. . . I’m not just going to enter into a long dialogue about this. We’re going to find solutions and we’re going to implement those solutions and solve these problems for the citizens.”

Asked about the New Britain-to-Hartford busway, which has been rebranded CTFastrak, Foley said since the money has already been spent it wouldn’t make sense to shut it down. The busway will open in 2015.

“Well keep it going and see if it pays for itself,” Foley said. “If after that it isn’t paying for itself. That’s a challenge, I don’t know if we should be subsidizing the operation of that route.”

It was pointed out to Foley that all public transportation is subsidized to some extent. Asked if the state should continue subsidizing any form of public transit, Foley said “well it depends. If it’s the only source of public transportation available for people then I think it’s worth while to subsidize it, but there are many alternatives for people between New Britain and Hartford.”

Walking and biking were two forms of transportation not raised at the forum Monday.

“This may be the heart of the matter — he does not understand people who take buses,” Malloy said. “He does not understand buses. He does not understand how widespread the use of buses is in the Greater Hartford area. He doesn’t understand that Hartford is one of the greatest users of buses in the nation.”

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Feds Say Emails Show Rowland Spent Far More Time On Campaign

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 15, 2014 12:04pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John Rowland

Through a series of charts depicting emails and phone calls, prosecutors argued Monday that former governor John Rowland communicated far more with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign than he did with the business paying him as a consultant.

Rowland is on trial facing charges he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley.

The former governor’s lawyers have argued that Rowland’s work with Apple was legitimate, while his work on the campaign was strictly a volunteer effort. On Monday, prosecutors presented the jury with stark numbers in an effort to debunk that argument.

According to emails and phone calls reviewed by Mark Borofsky, an investigative support analyst and former postal inspector, Rowland communicated far more with individuals associated with the campaign.

Jurors saw a graph indicating that 787 — or 89 percent — of the emails reviewed between October 2011 to April 2012 were between Rowland and campaign workers. Meanwhile, 63 — or 7 percent — of the emails were between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab, where during that period he was a paid consultant.

Emails consisting of both campaign and Apple communications made up 3 percent of the emails and 2 percent were discussions of Rowland’s contract.

Graphs depicting phone calls showed a similar balance. Between October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls with Apple employee Brian Bedard and six phone calls with Brian Foley. Meanwhile, he had 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.

Before the jury entered the courtroom Monday morning, Rowland’s attorneys objected to prosecutors’ use of the charts and graphs.

“It doesn’t speak to Mr. Rowland’s belief about his job at Apple,” defense attorney William Drake told the judge. “Mr. Rowland is free to volunteer as much or to whatever extent he wants on a political campaign. The amount of work on the campaign is not probative of whether the job at Apple was real.”

Prosecutor Liam Brennan disagreed. He slammed a binder packed full of campaign emails onto a table in front of him.

“This binder is emails from the campaign. This is highly probative of where Mr. Rowland put his work,” he said.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed. The jury later saw both the graphs and the packed binder, which Borofsky compared to small packets of paper, which represented Rowland’s communications with Apple employees.

Prosecutors also attacked the defense’s argument that Rowland and Wilson-Foley were close and therefore his campaign work was a “labor of love.”

In 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, neither Rowland nor his wife, Patricia Rowland, made any contributions to the campaign, according to an affidavit from state elections regulators.

Meanwhile, Wilson-Foley and Rowland exchanged 10 emails that year. They began communicating more as the 2012 campaign geared up. Between January 2011 and August 2011, they emailed each other 22 times.

But during the period when Rowland was being paid to consult with her husband’s company, the two exchanged 321 emails.

The emails and phone records were collected by investigators through a series of subpoenas and search warrant seizures.

When it was Drake’s turn to cross-examine Borofsky, he stressed that Borofsky and others spent more than 50 hours reviewing emails and that emails from other members of the campaign staff were analyzed.

“And none of those numbers are included in any of the charts you provided to us,” he said.

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OP-ED | Shining a Light on Tom Foley

by Ron McClellan | Sep 15, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Economics, Election 2014, Labor, Opinion

In a July 2013, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley said that he was waiting for Connecticut to have its “Wisconsin moment.” This type of careless and offensive comment should be a red flag for every union member, every worker, and every taxpayer in Connecticut.

Over the past few months, Mr. Foley has tried to explain the comment away by saying he wants to have a balanced government or two-party rule in Connecticut. But if he had taken the time to check his facts, he would have seen that Wisconsin still has one-party rule. In fact, the moment that Republican one-party rule was in place, all the campaign issues took a back seat and the assault on workers commenced.

In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law the anti-worker bill known as Act 10, despite hundreds of thousands of protesters at the Capitol telling him that this was the wrong direction for their state.

Act 10 prohibits collective bargaining on pensions, health insurance, safety, vacation, sick leave, and hours of work for public-sector workers. It also limited collective bargaining on wages so that employees could only negotiate base pay and receive an increase that is at or below inflation. Bargaining rights that had been in place for more than 50 years for Wisconsin’s public sector workers were eliminated. This is much different from saying that we have to limit pay raises or restructure benefits in difficult times. Walker’s message, that Mr. Foley echoed, is that you, working families of Wisconsin will never, ever be able to have a voice on the issues most important to the security of your family.

Act 10 hasn’t just affected public-sector workers. It continues the race to the bottom for all workers in the public sector, private sector, union and non-union.  This bill has had negative effects on Wisconsin’s economy, hurting every taxpayer in the state. Gov. Walker’s “Wisconsin moment,” which Mr. Foley wants for Connecticut, caused more than 15,000 public-sector jobs to be lost, which meant that there were more than 15,000 people out of work and not spending money in their local economy.

Additionally, the pay cuts that the remaining employees took resulted in nearly $1 billion being taken out of Wisconsin’s economy. These employees weren’t the people investing in Wall Street, but instead they were spending their money on Main Street. A “Wisconsin moment” is one that takes spending money out of the local economy and hurts small businesses at a time they need every dollar possible.

This whole narrative may seem like a dream to Mr. Foley and the rest of the predatory corporate raider crowd; however for workers and their families in Wisconsin, Connecticut, or any other state, it is a nightmare.

Is this the direction that Mr. Foley keeps talking about? It is a direction for Connecticut that will be devastating for hard-working men and women who teach, build, repair, protect, respond, service, manufacture, and care for the elderly, sick, and injured in our communities.

Our economy and the quality of life in our state are not measured by how many billionaires we produce. It is measured by how many families have health insurance, can buy a home, send their kids to college, have disposable income to spend in their communities, and can retire with dignity. For the average family that needs two or more full-time incomes to survive, Tom Foley is a bad choice.

Ron McLellan is President of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent. Founded in 1967, Connecticut Employees Union Independent is a member-run organization of over 7,000 active and retired blue-collar state and municipal maintenance and service workers.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Poll: Connecticut Investors Not As Bullish As Investors Nationwide

by Cara Rosner | Sep 15, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Business, Economics, Pension

dreamstime

Most high net worth investors nationwide are optimistic that the economy will hold steady or improve in the coming year, but those in Connecticut don’t appear as confident as their peers elsewhere, according to a new poll.

Just 18 percent of high net worth investors in Connecticut expect the state’s economy to improve over the next 12 months, according to the Morgan Stanley Investor Pulse Poll released last week.

Affluent investors outside of Connecticut are much more bullish.

Throughout the Tri-State area — which includes Connecticut, the New York City metro area, and New Jersey — 78 percent of investors believe their respective local economies will be the same or stronger in a year, the poll found.

Similarly, 87 percent of investors nationwide expect their local economies to be the same or better in a year.

One distinction when it comes to the Connecticut figure is that the 18 percent only takes into account those who feel the state economy will improve, not those who expect it to stay the same. That broader figure was not available.

Despite Connecticut’s relatively low figure, widespread optimism nationwide and in many large metro areas is encouraging, according to Morgan Stanley officials.

High net worth individuals’ comfort level gives a meaningful insight into the economy, said Joe Matthews, branch manager and first vice president at Morgan Stanley.

“High net worth investors are an important component of our economy,” he said, adding they drive the purchases of cars and other durable goods “in a meaningful way” that bolsters the economy. “That trickles down.”

The poll surveyed 1,008 U.S. investors between the ages of 25 and 75 who have $100,000 or more in investable assets. Among those polled were 300 people from the Tri-State area. The poll took place in May, June, and July and was done for Morgan Stanley by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

Most were not only confident about their local economy but they said they believed the national economy is rebounding as well. Seventy-one percent nationwide and 77 percent of Tri-State investors feel the U.S. economy will be the same or better in a year.

They are being buoyed in large part by “general improvement in the overall economy, which is being reflected in the stock market,” Matthews said.

The stock market is strengthening for the second straight year and investments in bonds are performing particularly well, he added. The Dow Jones Industrial average was around 12,400 in early 2012 and Thursday topped 17,000.

That’s leading investors to feel good about their portfolios as well. In the Tri-State area, 89 percent expect their investments to perform the same or better in the next year, while 90 percent of those polled nationwide share that sentiment.

Most individuals rely on professional guidance when dealing with their investments, said Matthews, which likely makes them more confident in their decisions.

Some investors wonder how long the bull market will last, and worry about the timing and impact of higher interest rates in the future, Gregory Fleming, president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and Morgan Stanley Investment Management, said in a statement.

“It’s no surprise then that two-thirds of high net worth investors say they rely on a financial professional for advice and guidance,” he said.

In the Tri-State area, 76 percent of those polled expect the overall investment climate to “stay the course” or strengthen in the next year.

When asked about retirement, 82 percent of Tri-State investors who haven’t retired yet said they are confident in their planning efforts. Among those who already are retired, 31 percent said their portfolio is exceeding their expectations; another 41 percent said theirs are performing as they planned.

Investors in Connecticut expect to need $2.7 million to have “their desired retirement lifestyle,” the poll found. Neighboring New Yorkers said they would need $4.1 million in retirement.

Just more than half, 54 percent, of Connecticut investors polled said they are at least halfway to their retirement goal. By comparison, 70 percent of New Yorkers are halfway to their goal.

The poll also found investors largely plan to stay put. Though Connecticut and the surrounding area have relatively high taxes on income and property, the poll found 89 percent of Tri-State area investors plan to stay where they are, rather than move to a state with a lower tax burden.

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Nursing Home Executives Testify They Never Met Rowland

by Christine Stuart | Sep 14, 2014 10:21pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Christine Stuart file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland and his wife Patty walk out of court last week

Two nursing home executives testified Friday that former Gov. John G. Rowland did little work for a nursing home chain, even though he was being paid $5,000 per month for his services.

Rowland has been charged with trying to use the contract with the nursing home owned by congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley’s husband to hide his involvement with her campaign. Rowland’s defense team has tried to prove that the contract with Apple Rehab was legitimate.

Jack Boynton, vice president of human resources for Apple Rehab, was in charge of negotiating contracts with the unions at Apple Rehab’s facilities. Boynton said he never met with Rowland in 2011. That’s when Boynton was in negotiations with the Service Employees International Union at its Rocky Hill facility. Only two of the 26 nursing homes owned by Brian Foley are unionized.

“How high on your priority list does dealing with unions rank?” prosecutors asked Boynton. “It’s number one, two, three, four, five, and six,” he replied.

Boynton worked closely on negotiations with Brian Bedard, the COO of Apple Rehab, who once told him Rowland had said to “stay the course” when it came to the union negotiations. But that’s the only time Boynton heard the former governor mentioned.

Ann Collette, the vice president of business development and marketing, testified that she became aware of Rowland’s contract with Apple Rehab when she received a 9 p.m. phone call at her home from Bedard. She said Bedard instructed her to read a draft press release he had sent to her personal email account.

The press release was a response to the news stories that had begun to trickle out about Rowland’s involvement with the Wilson-Foley campaign and his contract for work with Apple Rehab. But what was surprising to Collette was that the press release said Rowland was involved in areas of the company she oversaw.

She said she never worked with Rowland during the six-month period he worked for the company, and she had to cancel the one nursing home tour she planned to give him because of an unexpected medical procedure.

Collette, who breezed through her testimony and job description for the jury Friday, became tearful when she was asked by prosecutors to explain the strain the incident put on her relationship with Bedard, who is her boss.

“It’s been horrible,” Collette said as she broke down in tears.

Collette testified that she also was asked by Bedard and Brian Foley to dub Lisa Wilson-Foley into a television commercial for Apple Rehab.

Those ads aired, but at some point she was asked to take them down.

She said Bedard and Foley “tag teamed me and asked they be taken down.” It was later relayed to her that “Rowland advised they be pulled.”

Collette also testified that in 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, about 58 employees were asked, during work hours, to watch a mock debate between her and Bedard. That same year she was encouraged to put a Wilson-Foley sign in her front yard. She said nothing like that happened during the congressional campaign.

Federal prosecutors plan to rest their case on Monday, at which point Rowland’s defense team will have an opportunity to call their own witnesses. It’s unclear whether they will call Wilson-Foley or Rowland to testify.

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Campaigns Quarrel Over Debate Schedule

by Staff Report | Sep 14, 2014 8:34pm
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Posted to: Election 2014

CTNJ file photos

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s campaign is criticizing Republican challenger Tom Foley for not agreeing to more debates even though there will be at least one more debate than there was in 2010.

The day after the Republican primary, when Foley was asked about how many debates he would like, he said “the more the merrier.”

Foley added that “the last time around I was climbing two points a week once the debates started.”

Mark Bergman, Malloy’s spokesman said, Foley has declined to participate in three events, including a debate sponsored by the CT Mirror, another sponsored by the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and News 12, and a forum sponsored by the CT Tourism Action Committee.

“So much for the more debates the merrier,” Bergman said.

Foley and Malloy debated each other six times in 2010.

“I think the Malloy folks are desperate to create an issue out of anything,” Chris Cooper, Foley’s campaign spokesman, said Sunday.

He said the campaign has agreed to seven debates, five of which will be televised. There are also a number of forums scheduled like the one on transportation Monday.

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Roraback Testifies That WTIC Listeners Said Rowland Told Them To Call

by Christine Stuart | Sep 12, 2014 4:29pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Josalee Thrift file photo

Andrew Roraback when he was in the state Senate

When Andrew Roraback’s brother called to tell him former Gov. John G. Rowland had given his cellphone number out over the radio, “he seemed alarmed,” Roraback testified Friday.

Roraback, a former state Senator who is now a sitting state judge in Waterbury, recounted his telephone conversation with his brother, Chip Roraback, who testified before him Friday.

“He asked me what I ever did to John Rowland,” Roraback said.

Roraback was the last candidate to enter the 5th Congressional District race in 2012. He was viewed as a threat by the other three candidates already in the race that year because of his popularity and name recognition in the district.

Roraback testified that when he started receiving calls from WTIC AM 1080’s listeners, he was told to vote against repealing the death penalty. They also told him “John Rowland had said to call me,” Roraback said.

Rowland is facing federal charges that he conspired with Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley to hide his work on Wilson-Foley’s campaign from election regulators.

Roraback testified that he was unaware of Rowland’s contract with Chris Shelton, the compliance attorney for Brian Foley’s nursing home chain. He also said he was unaware of the involvement Rowland had with Wilson-Foley’s campaign, including Rowland’s role in the production of a radio advertisement calling on him to oppose legislation to repeal the death penalty.

The radio ad was played for the jury on Friday.

“What was remarkable to me was it was coming awfully early, coming almost a year before the election,” Roraback said.

The ad painted Roraback as a liberal and asked people to call his legislative office to get him to vote against legislation to repeal the death penalty.

Asked for his position on the death penalty in court, Roraback said, “philosophically I have difficulty with the death penalty.”

But that year his goal was to help victims by repealing a 2011 law that allowed inmates to shave up to five days a month off their prison sentences by participating in programs. He said the amendment he proposed was defeated, so he voted against the legislation.

Roraback ended up winning the Republican primary for the Congressional seat in 2012, but he went on to lose the election to U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

Roraback said he never complained to WTIC, the radio station where Rowland was working as an afternoon host.

On Thursday, Chris Syrek, one of Wilson-Foley’s campaign managers, testified that on Feb. 23, 2012, Rowland emailed him during the show. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

“Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

“Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

Roraback told the court he was not a regular listener of the WTIC radio show and didn’t know if Rowland gave out the cellphone numbers of any of the other state Senators who were on the fence about the death penalty that year.

The trial will continue on Monday.

Prosecutors don’t plan on calling Wilson-Foley to testify, but Rowland’s defense attorneys have not ruled out putting the former Congressional candidate on the stand.

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Newtown First Selectwoman: Charity Distribution Caused ‘Permanent Fractures’

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 12, 2014 12:31pm
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Posted to: Newtown

Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra

The distribution of donations after the Newtown shooting may have caused “permanent fractures” in the town, First Selectwoman Pat Llodra told the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission on Friday.

Llodra was Newtown’s top executive on Dec. 12, 2012, when a 20-year-old gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 school children and six educators. During a Friday meeting of a panel created by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, she described how her town struggled to deal with the flood of inquiries and generosity after the incident.

Well-wishers sent millions of dollars in donations. A United Way fund set up immediately after the shooting had around $12 million and distributed about $8 million last year. Llodra said there were many other funds and the dispersal of the money has caused problems in Newtown.

“The distribution decisions for those funds has been problematic, has created significant conflict, which I believe endures and may in fact be a permanent fracture among some in our community. People so badly hurt in such horrific events need to be protected from that kind of conflict,” she said.

Llodra said there should be clear processes for determining how donated money is spent.

“Town government should not be put in the position to try to arbitrate those differences or be the conduit for funds, as happened in Newtown,” she said.

Llodra said the town was fortunate to receive help from some partners. She praised General Electric several times during her remarks to the commission. She said the corporation paid four executives to aid her office with handling the various logistical hurdles faced by the small town in the aftermath of the shooting. Llodra said about 150 GE employees live in Newtown.

Logistical hurdles included challenges created by other types of generosity like documenting and distributing all the gifts sent to Newtown. She said the town would have “collapsed under the weight of the generosity” if not for the efforts of the Adventist Community Services Disaster Response group.

“At one point we logged 65,000 stuffed teddy bears. Not to mention all other types of stuffed animals, hundreds of backpacks, bicycles, skateboards, school supplies, candles, gift wrap, crayons, thousands of books, sneakers, and more,” she said.

Llodra said the volume of mail sent to Newtown prompted U.S. Postal Service employees to set up shop in the town hall’s basement. Volunteers helped sort more than 200,000 pieces of mail, she said.

Llodra told the group she wanted to stress how important logistical coordinators are in the aftermath of disasters. She said it was difficult to maintain the town’s day-to-day operations as town staff was tied up in disaster response.

“At one point we had four department heads and their staffs almost fully engaged in managing products, activities, mail, and volunteers. None of us regret the time we spent helping in these small ways, but the business of running the town was severely impacted,” she said.

Llodra described difficulties trying to coordinate providers offering mental health support. She called for one state agency to be designated as the lead agency for mental health response.

“There was a lot of noise and confusion in the early days when it comes to mental health support. Many, many therapists and clinicians came to our town, all well meaning and anxious to serve. We had no way to vet the credentials of these providers,” she said.

Commission member Dr. Harold Schwartz, head psychiatrist at Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living, praised Llodra’s handling of the tragedy as First Selectwoman.

“You have set a new standard. To those of us observing from a distance your personal performance as a human being, set into a crisis that no one could ever have prepared for, has been remarkable,” he said.

Llodra’s testimony comes as the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission is wrapping up its work. The group discussed some of its draft recommendations during the Friday meeting. The panel will meet again on Sept. 23.

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OP-ED | Connecticut’s Inversion and the Treasurer’s Race

by Suzanne Bates | Sep 12, 2014 11:00am
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Posted to: Economics, Opinion

All of this talk about people leaving Connecticut to move to cheaper places to live has me thinking about the national conversation on corporate inversions.

When Burger King announced it was moving to Canada (a wonderful country which also happens to be my birthplace), to take advantage of a lower tax rate, there should have been a collective pause so we could all say, ‘Really, Canada has a lower corporate tax rate than America?”

Yes, as it turns out, Canada has a lower corporate tax rate than America, as does most of the rest of the world. The United States is also one of the only countries that forces its companies to pay taxes on profits earned abroad.

Our national leaders have responded to corporate relocations with accusations that the people who run them are unpatriotic tax-dodgers. Bills have been introduced to try to force corporations to keep their headquarters here by “closing tax loopholes.”

But, as John Samuels, General Electric’s vice president of tax policy and planning, said earlier this week, “I don’t think any anti-inversion activity can be effective in a global economy where capital is mobile.”

Yes, capital is mobile. That is true for the global economy, and it is true at the state level as well. Corporations — or individuals — can gather their capital and move it across state lines, whether to New Hampshire or North Carolina or Florida.

And while there are probably state officials who’d love to tax people or companies that leave Connecticut to set up shop where taxes are lower, that (thankfully) isn’t possible either.

The discouragement is real, which we saw at the Yankee Institute earlier this year after we sent out a mailing to our supporters with information about some recent public policy work, outlining ways we think Connecticut can prosper again. We received several unsolicited responses from people who told us they’d given up on the state.

“I left! Good luck, but I think it’s a lost battle!” said one. “Connecticut is lost! I do not plan on going down with the Titanic!” said another.

While I’m sympathetic to those who feel discouraged, I don’t think Connecticut is lost. Not yet, anyway. We don’t have to be Detroit 2.0.

But the people who respond to the collective malaise by saying, ‘If you don’t like it, get out,’ aren’t being helpful. I heard that same sentiment expressed in red states, but in those states it was said to environmentalists and liberal activists. It wasn’t nice there, and it isn’t nice here.

That response also ignores the real pain many state residents feel because of our sluggish economy. Like the pain felt by those dealing with long-term unemployment, or the stress felt by retirees who are forced out of their homes because of rising property taxes, or the disappointment of young families who struggle to afford to even buy a house.

There are some people who get it — who want to make changes so Connecticut can be a more affordable place to live.

At a press conference earlier this week, Tim Herbst, the Republican candidate for state treasurer, who is facing long-time incumbent Denise Nappier, spoke about how he would act as a “firewall” in state government to protect residents from more debt and runaway spending that is often put on the state credit card.

He also said he would refuse to take part in the state’s defined benefit pension plan, and would instead elect to take a defined contribution, 401(k)-style, plan.

Nappier, who was first elected as state treasurer in 1998, oversees the state’s pension funds, which are not in good shape.

Connecticut has the second highest pension debt in the nation, as ranked by Moody’s Investors Services. The Yankee Institute calculates that the debt is $76 billion, with another $24 billion in debt for the healthcare and life insurance plans owed to state employees. The state pegs its pension debt at around $24.5 billion, and doesn’t assess money owed for other benefits in its accounting.

Yankee’s numbers are based on a lower discount rate than the state’s — basically, the economists who did the study calculated the debt assuming a 5 percent return on investments, while the state assumes a robust 8.5 percent. It’s great to be optimistic, but when dealing with tax dollars, and with the money saved for benefits that were promised to state employees, it is better to be safe.

One bad downturn can wipe out years of good earnings, as we’ve seen in the years since the 2008 recession. We don’t want the state to be in a position where we won’t be able to pay for promised benefits if another crisis hits.

Other states — like Rhode Island and Kentucky — have made some tough choices to fight pension debt, but the political will seems to be lacking in Connecticut.

Any way you look at it, our pension fund is in trouble, and the small changes made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2011 didn’t make much of a difference. And, getting back to our inversion problem, businesses notice — a state’s long-term fiscal health is part of the assessment businesses make when looking at whether or not to invest more capital, and create more jobs, in a state.

It seems cold to people, these calculations businesses and individuals make about when to stay and when to go. But, in all likelihood, Burger King did not want to move to Canada — as lovely as it may be.

And in all likelihood, many of the people who have left Connecticut in recent years didn’t want to go either. Those of us still here shouldn’t be encouraging the discouraged to get out, instead we should ask ourselves how to make Connecticut a vibrant, prosperous state again so our friends and neighbors can stay put.

Suzanne Bates is the policy director for the Yankee Institute for Public Policy. She lives in South Windsor with her family. Follow her on Twitter @suzebates.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Reporter’s Questions Confirm Campaign Manager’s Suspicion About Rowland Contract

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 12, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Courtesy of LinkedIn Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager told a jury Thursday that a call from a reporter confirmed his suspicions about the existence an arrangement to pay former governor John Rowland off the campaign’s books.

Former campaign manager Chris Syrek said it was not until that call from a journalist that Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign began crafting an explanation for the total of $35,000 Rowland had been paid through Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by the candidate’s husband Brian Foley.

The call came from New Haven Register reporter Jordan Fenster in April 2012. He was asking about Rowland, whose involvement the campaign had tried to keep quiet. Fenster was also asking whether Rowland had been paid by any company owned by the candidate or her husband.

Syrek said he told Fenster he didn’t know, then hung up and called Wilson-Foley.

“You’ll have to talk to Brian,” Syrek said Wilson-Foley twice told him. So he called Brian Foley, who acknowledged there was a “professional relationship” between Apple Rehab and Rowland.

Hugh McQuaid photo “I was incredibly distressed. The suspicions I had were essentially confirmed for the first time. I was seriously concerned what our response would be as a campaign,” Syrek said.

Foley has testified that he hired Rowland as a consultant to his nursing home company “primarily” as a benefit to his wife’s campaign. The hope was to avoid publicly disclosing the involvement of the former governor, who spent 10 months in federal prison on corruption charges after resigning office in 2004. Rowland’s past was seen as a “negative” for the campaign.

“I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Elections Commission” and “he would be supportive of the campaign,” Foley, who has pleaded guilty to related charges, told the court Monday.

The arrangement now has Rowland again facing corruption charges.

Rowland’s attorney contends that the former governor did legitimate work for Foley’s rehab company and volunteered his services to Wilson-Foley’s campaign as a “labor of love.” The argument is similar to the explanation Syrek said the campaign devised after Fenster began asking questions about Rowland.

The campaign’s talking points downplayed Rowland’s involvement and said “he volunteered freely on his own time.” Syrek said it was an effort to avoid damage to the campaign. But the issue continued to dog them.

“We started to receive questions from delegates, local officials, and supporters. There were subsequent follow up stories,” Syrek said. “A few days later a candidate in the race came out and took a pretty good shot at us.”

That candidate was Mike Clark, a Farmington Republican and retired FBI agent who helped with the investigation that sent Rowland to prison in 2004. Clark eventually filed a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission based on Rowland’s payments from Apple. Clark is expected to take the stand before the end of the trial.

Lauren Casper, another staffer, testified that her phone began lighting up with news alerts.

“I was receiving tons of Google alerts about John Rowland’s involvement on our campaign and that there was an investigation—that Mike Clark had an investigation,” Casper said. The mood at campaign headquarters became “stressful and uncomfortable.”

The press coverage also prompted an admission by another candidate, Mark Greenberg, who said Rowland had unsuccessfully pitched a similar arrangement to him during his 2010 congressional campaign. Greenberg was the government’s first witness when the trial began last week.

Prosecutors asked Syrek if he considered leaving the campaign after the Rowland arrangement came to light.

“I thought about it,” he said. “I stayed for a lot of different reasons. I’m by no means independently wealthy person. I need to work for a living and can’t afford to be unemployed. I don’t consider myself person who runs away at the first sign of trouble, I think I’m a little tougher than that.”

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OP-ED | Foley & Malloy: ‘Pessimistic’ Beats ‘Desperate’ Every Time

by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 12, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

At this point, it’s almost become a cliche to label your political opponent “desperate.” It evokes images of a boxer on the ropes lashing out lamely at a superior fighter who is destined to roll over the injured warrior. But it’s hard to find another word to describe the tactics of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who personally and through surrogates, has unleashed a torrent of ugly attacks on Republican nominee Tom Foley.

And just think: these attacks came before Wednesday’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Foley leading Malloy by six points. Now we can only guess what kind of offensive awaits Foley in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 election.

It really was surpising to see Malloy once again raise the issue of Foley’s actions 20 years ago during his stewardship of the Bibb Company. Granted, Foley does not come up smelling like roses in any reasonable examination of his company’s ownership of the troubled Georgia textile company.

But you would think that Malloy, in one of his most frequently aired TV ads, could do better during his rematch with Foley than to resurrect an issue that was litigated four years ago. I’m sure Malloy’s people thought they were clever to mix the Bibb attacks of some of Foley’s former GOP rivals with clips from his disastrous appearance at a dying mill in Sprague.

Still, if it’s true that comedians need fresh material, it’s doubly true in the political arena, where bored voters suffering from Bibb fatigue will change the channel faster than you can say Kenny Bania’s Ovaltine bit.

Then there was the matter last week of state Sen. Beth Bye and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, two openly gay politicians who held a press conference calling on Foley to reject an endorsement he received from the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee.

Lembo and Bye were in high dudgeon over Foley receiving the nod from an “anti-gay” organization. In a fit of hyperbole, Lembo called the endorsement a “kiss of death.” This despite the fact that Foley is pro-choice on abortion and, while he’s opposed to gay marriage, has vowed to do absolutely nothing to change Connecticut’s law permitting it if he’s elected governor.

As evidenced by the backdrop of the Malloy-Wyman campaign signs, the event was obviously coordinated with the governor’s re-election machine. It gave the impression that two respectable gay public servants were being used as props to attack Malloy’s opponent, not for a public policy position, but because a group they object to thinks he would make a better chief executive than the current governor.

I used to have a man crush on Lembo. He’s an independent voice and one of the only elected officials telling the whole truth about the state’s fiscal health. Now he’s resorted to performing as a political hack.

In an attempt to capitalize on Bill Clinton’s enduring popularity in Connecticut, the Malloy campaign had the former president come to New Haven last week to give a shot of adrenaline to Malloy’s moribund gubernatorial campaign. Clinton spoke to a half-empty ballroom at the Omni and was followed by Malloy, who trotted out the argument that Foley is — get this — a pessimist.

That’s as tired as the assertion that your opponent is desperate. Are we expected to believe that any political candidate is rooting for his opponent to succeed? Yes, Malloy is desperate all right. And he is probably dumbfounded that he could lose to a cranky guy who’s never even run for dogcatcher and who has yet to offer much at all in the way of specific solutions to the many problems facing the state.

But that’s what happens when you’re guiding the ship of state through a painfully slow economic recovery. You can lose to a pessimist because a lot of voters are also pessimistic. And you can lose to someone who’s just as unappealing as you are because — he’s not you.

Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | Pendulum Swings Back On Standardized Tests, History Repeats Itself

by Barth Keck | Sep 11, 2014 9:00pm
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Posted to: Education, Opinion


It’s easy to dismiss Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s recent plea to “reduce the time Connecticut students spend taking standardized tests” as an election-year ploy, given the most recent public polls on the topic.

But Malloy’s seeming shift in educational policy is as much a lesson in history as it is a political gambit.

Take Texas, for example.

Widely considered the trailblazer of the current standardized-testing movement in America, Texas initiated test-based accountability in 1993. One year after former Texas Governor George W. Bush was elected President, “the Texas model went nationwide when Bush signed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into law, in January 2002.”

Standardized testing quickly became a cornerstone of education reform: NCLB morphed into Race to the Top under President Barack Obama, requiring states to use “cutting-edge data systems to track a child’s progress throughout their academic career, and to link that child’s progress to their teachers so we know what’s working and what’s not working in the classroom.”

Standardized testing, it seemed, was here to stay.

In 2013, however, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus underscored a shift in emphasis: “The goal of education is not to teach children how to pass a test but to prepare them for life. To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you.”

Subsequently, “a resolution opposing high-stakes testing has now been signed by more than 80 percent of the school boards in the state. Longtime observers of education policy are openly speculating that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the accountability movement [in the very state] where it was born.”

Standardized testing proponents in Texas were not the first reformers to do an about-face.

Diane Ravitch served as George H.W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Education from 1991 to 1993. At the time, she was “a passionate advocate for injecting greater competition and accountability into the U.S. education system.” Nowadays, not so much.

“Test scores became an obsession,” Ravitch said in 2010, explaining the change of heart that inspired her book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. “Many school districts invested heavily in test-preparation materials and activities. Test-taking skills and strategies took precedence over knowledge.”

Ravitch has continued her campaign against reform based on standardized testing with another book — Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools — as well as a widely read blog.

Critics could question the collective backbone of people like Ravitch and Texas lawmakers, but standardized testing and its ensuing pushback have a long history in this country.

“The testing groundwork was laid in 1837, when a lawyer and legislator in Massachusetts named Horace Mann became secretary of the newly created State Board of Education, part of the Whig Party’s effort to centralize authority and make schools modern and accountable,” writes University of Wisconsin professor William J. Reese. “After a fact-finding trip abroad, Mann claimed in 1844 in a nationally publicized report that Prussia’s schools were more child-friendly and superior to America’s.”

Consequently, more than 30,000 written tests were administered in Boston-area schools as a way to “identify the many teachers who emphasized rote instruction, not understanding. They named the worst ones and called for their removal.”

Long story short, the 19th century tests became highly controversial, sounding “eerily familiar: cheating scandals, poor performance by minority groups, the narrowing of the curriculum, the public shaming of teachers, the appeal of more sophisticated measures of assessment, the superior scores in other nations, all amounting to a constant drumbeat about school failure.”

Fast-forward to 21st-century Connecticut where the governor wants to scale back testing in schools. Is it a political maneuver? Certainly. At the same time, it’s neither bold nor original, considering the historical pendulum of standardized testing in America.

Apparently, that pendulum is now headed back in the other direction.

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Data Shows Minorities Are Stopped At Higher Rates in Connecticut

by Christine Stuart | Sep 11, 2014 4:46pm
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Posted to: Law Enforcement, State Capitol, Transportation

Statewide data on 366,060 traffic stops shows that if you are a black or Hispanic driver in Connecticut, you are twice as likely to get stopped by police and more than twice as likely to have your vehicle searched.

The data compiled by researchers at Central Connecticut State University was mandated by a state law that requires traffic stop data to be collected and analyzed.

Connecticut’s driving population is 84 percent white, 8 percent black, and 10 percent Hispanic.

According to the eight months of data provided in a 500-page report, the driving population of blacks in Connecticut — about 8 percent — accounted for about 14 percent of all the stops. The Hispanic driving population — about 10 percent — accounted for 11.84 percent.

The data from 91 municipal police departments, state police, and seven university police departments showed officers were twice as likely to search the vehicle of the black or Hispanic driver even though police found contraband more often in the vehicles driven by white drivers than they did in the vehicles driven by black and Hispanic drivers.

“The data shows police in general treating drivers of color with more suspicion for less cause,” Sandra Staub, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said Thursday.

She believes there’s more than enough evidence of a “systematic bias” in the report for police departments to begin to take action.

Christine Stuart photo

Bill Dyson

But researchers and lawmakers who championed the collection of this data cautioned the news media against drawing any conclusions about the information until January when there will be a full year of data to analyze.

“This report is a presentation of data,” Ken Barone, policy and research specialist at the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy, said. “The analysis will come in January. One of the purposes of doing it, besides the fact that we were legislatively required to get this report out, the data is there for the public to consume and for folks to draw their own conclusions.”

Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, who was instrumental in passing the 2012 law requiring the collection of the data, said he’s content to wait six months for more information.

“I recognize the importance in many people’s minds of having a conclusion, but as someone who has experienced racial profiling both prior to being elected and after being elected, in my car, in my suit, I think what is most important is that we actually move the ball,” Holder-Winfield said.

He said if the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board was perceived to be operating with an agenda as opposed to analyzing data and thinking about what it means for the future, “I think that would be a problem.”

It would run counter to what the group is trying to do by having an open dialogue about these issues in order to get participation from all the various stakeholders, including law enforcement, Holder-Winfield said.

The data collected by the group is also complicated because it tries to account for the estimated driving population. The estimated driving population calculation takes into account how many people of a specific race or ethnicity are over the age of 16 and have access to a vehicle. The estimated driving population is much lower than the population of residents living in any of the cities and towns.

In New Haven, black drivers account for about 20 percent of the driving population, but they are stopped 46.4 percent of the time, according to the report. The white driving population in New Haven is 66.51 percent, but they are stopped only 51.12 percent of the time. The Hispanic driving population is around 16.47 percent, and they are stopped 21.59 percent of the time.

In Hartford, where 18.54 percent of the estimated driving population is black, they are pulled over at a rate of 35.33 percent. The number of Hispanic drivers getting pulled over is similar. The group estimated 18.80 percent of the Hispanic population in Hartford drives, and they are pulled over at a rate of 32.92 percent.

“I think the data shows what it shows,” Bill Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Advisory Board, said. “That’s not intended to be double-talk in any way. We didn’t create the numbers. They are the numbers we’ve gotten.”

He said the information has to be there so that law enforcement and the community can have a discussion.

Redding Police Chief Douglas S. Fuchs, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said the dialogue about this started after the U.S. Department of Justice found that the East Haven Police Department engaged in racially profiling Latino motorists.

The past two years have been “a wonderful collaboration,” Fuchs said.

However, that’s not to say he agrees with the decision to use “estimated driving population” as the benchmark. The number, according to Fuchs, has a 10 percent error rate.

The Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission also was unhappy with the decision to use the “estimated driving population.”

“For the record, LPRAC is highly concerned that such high margins of error may result in an EDP value that could mask racial profiling, which would be counterproductive to the overall goals of our legislative mandate,” Werner Oyanadel, executive director of LPRAC, wrote in a letter to Dyson.

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Internet Poll Shows Connecticut Governor’s Race Is A Dead Heat

by Staff Report | Sep 11, 2014 3:36pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Poll

An Internet poll of 1,808 likely voters shows Connecticut’s gubernatorial race in a dead heat.

The poll released Thursday shows Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Republican Tom Foley tied with 37 percent of the vote.

On Wednesday, Quinnipiac University released a telephone survey of 1,304 likely voters that showed Foley six points ahead of Malloy.

In July, Foley had a 42 to 33 percent advantage over Malloy, according to a CBS News and New York Times poll conducted by YouGov.

The latest poll shows that 14 percent of the voters are undecided and 3 percent plan to vote for “other.” Joe Visconti, the third candidate on the ballot, was not mentioned in the poll.

The poll shows Malloy winning younger voters under the age of 44 and women. Foley does well with male voters and voters over the age of 45.

The polls was conducted between Aug. 18 and Sept. 2.

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Evidence Shows Rowland Pushed Campaign to Attack Roraback On Death Penalty

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 11, 2014 12:00pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

ctnewsjunkie file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland frowns through the glass at a crowd of reporters Tuesday

From his host chair at WTIC, John Rowland emailed Lisa Wislon-Foley’s campaign manager asking for the personal phone number of a political opponent — he told the campaign he would give the number out on the air.

That testimony came during Thursday proceedings of the former governor’s campaign corruption trial. Rowland is accused of working for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign while taking payments from her husband Brian Foley’s nursing home company.

Prosecutors contend those payments also bought the campaign an on-air attack dog in Rowland, who was the host of an afternoon political talk show on WTIC. In emails, Rowland coached the campaign on attacking candidate Andrew Roraback, then a state senator, for his opposition to the death penalty. The legislature was considering repealing the law that year.

Late in Rowland’s radio show on Feb. 23, 2012, the host emailed Chris Syrek, Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

“Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

“Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

DOUGLAS HEALEY / CTNEWSJUNKIE Syrek was the third campaign manager for Wilson-Foley to testify during the trial. All told the court they were uncomfortable with her arrangement with the former governor. One, Chris Covucci, said he began looking for a new job on his first day, when he learned of the nature of Rowland’s involvement.

On Thursday, Syrek said the campaign tried to hide Rowland’s involvement.

“It was important to keep Mr. Rowland’s role with the campaign quiet and keep him off the radar, if you will, to avoid any types of criticism, backlash, or distractions it might cause,” Syrek told the jury.

But behind the scenes, Rowland played a key role in crafting the campaign’s message. In early February 2012, Rowland emailed Syrek and former state Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy. He sent them a CTNewsJunkie article on lawmakers weighing a vote on the death penalty. “This is the whole primary,” he wrote in the email admitted as evidence.

Hugh McQuaid photo The campaign decided that Roraback’s support of repealing the death penalty should be central to Wislon-Foley’s message. Rowland, Healy and other staffers began corresponding as they crafted a radio ad. At one point Healy wrote that a script he had written was “as solid a kick in the nuts as I have put together in a long while.”

In emails, Rowland kept pushing for Roraback’s office phone number to be given out during the commercial. When the radio spot ran later that month, a female narrator urged listeners to call Roraback and “urge him to keep families safe by supporting the death penalty.” Prosecutors played the ad for the jury in court Thursday.

The ad drew criticisms from Rowland’s WTIC colleague, Jim Vicevich, who has voiced opposition to the death penalty. Wilson-Foley emailed Rowland saying Vicevich was upset the ad implied death penalty opponents were “liberal.” Rowland said Vicevich was wrong on the death penalty issue.

“We knew there would be some moaners. There is a reason Republicans can’t win in this state . . . hang tough,” he wrote.

In court documents supporting Roraback’s eventual testimony before the court, prosecutors contend that Rowland also used his role as host of the WTIC radio show to “ambush” the former candidate during an on-air interview in December 2011.

“These circumstances strongly suggest and the jury could infer that the defendant’s conduct on [Dec.] 6, 2011 and during the subsequent on-air attack relating to the death penalty was not legitimate opinion broadcasting, but a political ambush paid for by Brian Foley,” prosecutors wrote.

In emails to Wilson-Foley, Rowland reminds the candidate that the attacks on Roraback’s death penalty position were his idea.

“I know, but we can’t give you credit,” she wrote back.

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OP-ED | Tea Party Stress Test

by Joshua H. Sandman | Sep 11, 2014 10:00am
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Posted to: Opinion

Tip O’Neill, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said “all politics is local.” In the locally oriented upcoming mid-term Senate and Congressional district elections, the Democratic Party is in danger of losing their majority in the Senate and continuing to be the minority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, after losing their majority in 2010.

Republican Party candidates, to survive Tea Party-inspired primary challenges, in many states and districts, are moving further to the right. And, overall our national politics has become broken and dysfunctional.

The political blame for much of this situation can be laid at the doorstep of Timothy Geithner, treasury secretary during President Obama’s first term in office, and others in the Obama administration, like Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council.

Geithner was the most important advocate for a bailout of Wall Street and the financial service industry and not Main Street and American families. He maintained his position despite many citizens facing mortgage debt they could no longer carry, the prospect of home foreclosure and bankruptcy — this resulting from job loss or having work hours or wages reduced.

From the exclusive rescue of Wall Street and the failure to address the distress of Main Street emerged a popular dissent in and contributed to the rise the Tea Party and created an antipathy to central government. It is puzzling and difficult to understand how a supposed liberal Democratic Party and president could so ignore the plight of middle and working classes American families.

Geithner, in a recent book, Stress Test, has argued that helping home owners would not have changed the course of the recession. He maintains in self-justification, and incorrectly, that a more substantial program focused directly on those in distress in the housing sector would not have had a significant impact on the overall economy. 

A number of economists have convincingly argued that the Great Recession would not have been so great had the federal government acted assertively to assist homeowners in reducing their mortgage debt. They are especially critical of Geithner and others in the Obama administration who seriously misunderstood the depth of the recession and who had a focus on saving the financial system without dealing with the pervasive problem of family debt.

The unfortunate result of this focus is an economic recovery that has been and continues to be weak and slow. This is evidenced by the large numbers of Americans who are still unemployed, underemployed, employed part-time, struggling in a low-wage economy and having dropped out of the labor market.

Geithner and many in the Obama administration reflected a post-material Democratic Party. This party is liberal from a social and cultural perspective and more comfortable with the well educated and affluent who populate Wall Street and the hedge fund industry. They were willing to bail them out (even though Wall Street excesses precipitated the recession crisis).

The neglect of Main Street has had negative consequences for the economy and both political parties. This is illustrated by the recent loss of Republican House of Representatives Majority leader Eric Cantor, in a primary contest, to a Tea Party- oriented candidate. One major criticism against Cantor was his close attachment and support for Wall Street and corporate interests. Further, the mainstream Republican Party candidates, to stay afloat, have become more conservative to reflect Tea party opposition on issues such as immigration reform and government spending.

Nations that cannot adequately respond to economic and political crisis face the emergence of radical political movements. The Tea Party, mildly radical by historical standards, emerged just as Geithner and others in the Obama administration ignored Main Street mortgage distress, debt, and unemployment difficulties.

The economic recovery will remain weak and the disruptive Tea Party strong unless we address, from the bottom up and not the top down, issues that impact many average citizens — still troublesome mortgage and foreclosure situations, family debt, inequality, a low-wage job market, dropouts from the work force, and job displacement through technology and globalization.

Joshua H. Sandman, PhD, is a professor of political science at the University of New Haven

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | In Bridgeport, Green Energy Park is a Win for Our Kids and Families

by Bill Finch | Sep 11, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Opinion, Bridgeport

We face an amazing opportunity in Bridgeport.

Working in partnership with my administration, United Illuminating plans to install 9,000 solar panels atop a closed and unused landfill, as well as a 2.8 megawatt fuel cell. The site of this project is in the midst of a formerly rundown section of the city that has been transformed into Eco-Technology Park.

This project simply makes sense –  for our future, for our environment, for our economy, for our taxpayers and, most importantly, for our children.

Here are the facts: Once complete, Green Energy Park will provide enough electricity to power more than 5,000 homes using clean and green solar panels situated on top of the old city dump. The project would reclaim unused land and transform it into one of the largest solar arrays in New England.

But it is much more than that. It is smart public policy and good for our community.

This project will reduce our carbon footprint and make the air cleaner to breathe in the state’s largest city. In Hartford, in New Haven and in Bridgeport, the asthma for our kids is three times the state average. This is a chance to do something meaningful that will help future generations breathe easier.

Beyond that, this project will create up to 92 green jobs, further building on a foundation that has made Bridgeport a community where people want to raise their families.

Bass Pro will open creating hundreds of additional jobs, which will be a catalyst for the Steelpointe Harbor development that will transform the city’s waterfront with a mix of commercial, residential and retail development.

Further, Green Energy Park will generate up to $7 million in revenue for the city over the next 20 years.

This helps us beat back climate change, but projects like this also will help our cities experience population growth. To accomplish that, we need to create jobs, a goal which this project also accomplishes.

By turning an old and unused landfill into a hub for clean energy production, we’ll create 21st century jobs while powering thousands of homes with cleaner energy. And, by investing in cleaner energy our kids will breathe cleaner air.

Collectively, my administration has championed creating green jobs in Bridgeport and already helped create hundreds of jobs at businesses in the Eco-Technology Park, which serves as a hub for clean energy production. North America’s largest fuel cell is housed within the Park, and generates enough virtually emission-free energy to power up to 15,000 homes.

I view this as just the beginning.

The benefits of Green Energy Park are undeniable. Municipalities across the country are launching efforts to revitalize old and unused land in order to make properties more economically viable.

It creates jobs. It produces clean energy. It provides cleaner air for our kids to breathe. It helps reduce asthma rates. It grows our tax base. And, it’s proof that our city can heal from the sins of our past and move toward a cleaner and more prosperous future.

Bill Finch is the mayor of Bridgeport.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Republicans Say Recent Murder Highlights Deficiencies In Risk Reduction Program

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 11, 2014 5:30am
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Posted to: Law Enforcement, Public Safety, State Capitol, Bristol

Hugh McQuaid photo

Sen. Len Fasano

The August murder of an infant in Bristol highlights deficiencies in a state program aimed at rehabilitating prisoners, a group of Republican senators said at a Wednesday press conference.

Arthur Hapgood, the man accused of stabbing a young girl to death on Aug. 19, was permitted to participate in the Correction Department’s Risk Reduction Credit program despite repeated offenses during his time as an inmate, Sens. Len Fasano and John McKinney said.

The program was adopted under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and passed by Democrats in the legislature. It allows inmates to earn credits for participating in recidivism reduction programs. The credits can be used to reduce an inmate’s prison sentence by up to five days a month.

According to records obtained by Fasano, Hapgood earned credits for participating in rehabilitation programing, despite failing several drug tests in prison and committing other violations. Fasano said drugs appeared to be factor in the murder Hapgood is accused of committing and Hapgood tested positive for the drug PCP following the August murder.

“This is a system that’s fundamentally wrong,” he said. “With a lack of oversight and a lack or responsibility, this is a conveyer belt for releasing people without regard to their record.”

Following an unrelated event, Malloy said crime was down under his administration and Republicans were trying to win elections “by scaring people.”

“This is an individual who did 90 percent of his sentence as opposed to 85 percent, which is the minimum,” he said. Republicans “also didn’t point out to you that this crime that [Hapgood] committed was after 100 percent of his sentence would have been completed. They’re trying to grab information, distort facts around the information, and use it as a way to scare people.”

McKinney and Fasano said there were plenty of warning signs in Hapgood’s case and he should have served his entire sentence or been charged for additional crimes due to his conduct in prison.

“The guy’s doing drugs in prison and what? He isn’t charged with anything for that?” McKinney said. “. . . This incident has highlighted failures.”

Fasano said the administration “stonewalled” him and his staff while they were researching Hapgood’s case.

“There’s no transparency here and I understand why — because there’s Hapgoods all over this system and they don’t want us to know about them,” Fasano said.

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Wilson-Foley’s Campaign Chief Says He Tried to Dissaude Her From Hiring Rowland

by New Haven Register | Sep 10, 2014 10:32pm
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Douglas Healey file photo

Former Gov. John G. Rowland outside federal court in New Haven

Lisa Wilson-Foley’s former 5th District congressional campaign manager Chris Syrek testified in federal court Wednesday that he repeatedly tried to dissuade the candidate from hiring former Gov. John Rowland for the campaign, in part because his name would show up on public campaign spending reports.

Rowland’s defense, during cross-examination of another witness, tried to show there were other people not on the campaign’s payroll who also were doing senior campaign work similar to Rowland’s, including Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, and state Sen. Kevin Witkos, who was co-chairman of her campaign.

During Rowland’s corruption trial in U.S. District Court, Syrek recalled a car ride with Wilson-Foley on Sept. 14, 2011, during which he tried to dissuade her from hiring Rowland, which was not the first time he had done so.

Click here to continue reading the New Haven Register’s report.

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Malloy Would Remove Guns Early In Restraining Order Cases

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 10, 2014 3:09pm
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Posted to: Election 2014, Public Safety

Hugh McQuaid Photo If he wins a second term, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy plans to advance a bill to remove firearms from recipients of temporary restraining orders. Malloy announced the bill during a West Hartford roundtable talk Wednesday.

Malloy is locked in a close re-election race against his 2010 Republican rival Tom Foley. Throughout the week he has been announcing proposals he will seek to pass if elected for a second term.

During a discussion on domestic violence at the West Hartford town offices, Malloy said he would seek to bar access to firearms from anyone who is the subject of a temporary restraining order.

The law currently leaves access to firearms in temporary restraining order cases up to a judge. A judge typically makes the decision at a hearing, which may be held two weeks after the initial order is issued.

“What we’re saying is, if it’s bad enough to justify a restraining order being issued, it’s bad enough to take the additional precaution of making sure that the weapons . . . can no longer be accessed,” Malloy said. “There is no longer a wait for a hearing. Let’s get it done.”

Karen Jarmoc, CEO of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, praised the proposal during Wednesday’s discussion. Jarmoc said women who have applied for restraining orders are at significant risk during the period when their former partner retains access to guns.

“This is the type of legislation that is going to save lives,” she said. “Different things get proposed along the way, but this is the real deal.”

Connecticut’s U.S. senators have pushed unsuccessfully to pass similar law at the federal level. They named their legislation for Lori Jackson, an Oxford resident who was shot to death by her estranged husband in May. Jackson had a temporary restraining order against her husband at the time.

Malloy said his proposal was also designed to remove barriers to women leaving violent relationships.

“The mere presence of a gun is a control that one person can use against another. It’s that kind of outstanding threat. So at this very dangerous time when somebody comes forward and says ‘Enough is enough,’ that control item — that button to be pushed needs to be removed,” he said. “. . .It’s relatively easy to return [a gun], un-firing a shot is a lot harder.”

Foley’s campaign was not immediately available to comment on the proposal, which was not among the recommendations Foley outlined in his nine-page plan.

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CAGV Gets Organized, Launches New PAC

by Christine Stuart | Sep 10, 2014 2:27pm
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Posted to: Civil Liberties, Election 2014, Public Safety, West Hartford

Christine Stuart photo

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of CAGV

The executive director of Connecticut Against Gun Violence told supporters Tuesday that their pro-gun opposition wants to send a message to lawmakers who voted in favor of stricter gun laws.

“Put them on the unemployment line is what they say,” Ron Pinciaro, executive director of CAGV, said Tuesday. “We will not let that happen.”

He told the 85 people who attended a lunch at the Pond House in West Hartford that they are the “silent majority” awakened by the tragedy in Newtown, but they can’t be silent anymore.

Pinciaro said the group has 50,000 members across the state and they all need to bring a friend and get out and vote on Nov. 4.

“Our opposition says that they’re approaching 15,000 members,” Pinciaro said referring to the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. “ We have triple that. But you know what? The one thing they know how to do is show up.”

Pinciaro warned the group that “if the perception is people have lost their seat because their vote on the gun safety bill you can bet it will probably be another decade before we can again pass significant gun safety legislation.”

Gun control is an issue that has divided Connecticut voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 law with 38 percent opposed.

Officials and members of “CT Voters for Gun Safety,” a political action committee formed to help candidates who supported the legislation, will meet in Middletown Saturday to learn more about how to organize and get out the vote. At that meeting they will also endorse a gubernatorial candidate and it’s more than likely to be Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who signed the 2013 bill into law.

The Connecticut Citizens Defense League, which opposed the 2013 legislation, has endorsed Republican Tom Foley.

The CCDL used video of Sen. Donald Williams from Tuesday’s Connecticut Against Gun Violence event as a way to motivate their own members.

“Watch the video, and listen to what the anti’s really think and say about your constitutional rights, and what their plans for the future are,” a CCDL official wrote in a blog post.

The post goes onto say, “If Malloy and his anti-Constitution cronies get re-elected after passing one of the worst gun laws in the country, they will know they have free reign to go as far as they want with no repercussions.”

During his speech Tuesday, Williams, who voted against an assault weapons ban in 1993 but in favor of the 2013 bill, opined that when gun owners know facts they support gun safety and gun violence prevention legislation. But he also acknowledged the challenge groups like Connecticut Against Gun Violence face.

“You’ve heard them on radio talk shows and elsewhere [say] ‘that gun legislation that the state of Connecticut passed would not have done a single thing to have prevented the tragedy at Sandy Hook’,” Williams said. “Has everybody heard that said by folks? They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

He said he worked with Democrats and Republicans to craft that legislation.

“I know what’s in that bill and I know they have not read it,” William said. “If this legislation had been in effect there’s a chance, not a guarantee, there’s a chance there would have been a deeper understanding of this young man’s issues and intervention at that time and a possible different path.”

Williams was referring to the 20-year-old gunman who took his own life after killing 20 children and six educators. Williams said the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines may also have prevented the extent of the tragedy because would not have been allowed to be purchased by the gunman’s mother.

“The truth of the matter is virtually everything in that bill could have changed the outcome of that tragic day,” Williams said. “So when you hear someone say there was nothing there that makes a difference they haven’t read the bill. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Christine Stuart photo

Sen. Beth Bye of West Hartford

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said the group needs to organize to “keep this issue in the limelight.”

She said the fight doesn’t get easier. She said there was the raw “emotion and openness to change” following the tragedy in Newtown and then “people get on with their lives.”

She said people may have gotten complacent and the “other side has very powerful corporate interests” backing them.

One of the other “motivating factors” for the pro-gun rights advocates is that they “they use fear so effectively,” Bye said.

“After you sit through a 17 hour public hearing, when person-after-person tells you they’re convinced that they need a submachine gun to protect their home, you leave with great sympathy for people who walk around with that much fear,” Bye said.

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Malloy Calls Rowland ‘Massive Disappointment’

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 10, 2014 1:14pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012, Election 2014

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Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

Regardless of whether a jury finds former governor John Rowland guilty of campaign corruption, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his predecessor’s behavior has been a “massive disappointment” for Connecticut.

Malloy told reporters Wednesday that he has been following Rowland’s criminal trial, which is in its second week at a federal courthouse in New Haven.

“It’s, I think to everyone in the state, a massive disappointment that these behaviors were engaged in by the former governor. Whether he’s convicted of a crime or not, the discussions he had over a period of years with candidates—and quite frankly, at least in one of those cases, that candidate, Mr. [Mark] Greenberg’s failure to bring that to the attention of the authorities immediately—is pretty disappointing,” Malloy said.

Rowland resigned from office in 2004 before serving 10 months in federal prison on corruption charges. He is now facing new charges stemming from allegations he conspired to do campaign work for two congressional campaigns while keeping his involvement hidden from election regulators.

One of those candidates, Greenberg, ultimately declined Rowland’s proposal to work for his campaign in 2010. However, Greenberg acknowledged in court that he did not notify authorities of Rowland’s plan to be paid by an entity outside the campaign.

Greenberg is running for Congress again this year as the Republican challenger to Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

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OP-ED | Voter Frustration Drags Malloy Down in Latest Poll

by Susan Bigelow | Sep 10, 2014 12:03pm
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Posted to: Analysis, Election 2014, Opinion, Poll

The good news in a Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy? It’s still September, meaning there’s time to turn things around. The bad news? Everything else.

Let’s break down the numbers.

First, the big one — Foley is leading Malloy 46-40 percent while independent Joe Visconti brings up the rear at 7 percent. Interestingly, with Visconti removed from the equation both candidates gain 3 points, and Foley beats Malloy 49 -43 percent. Visconti is drawing from both candidates equally, meaning any spoiler effect is basically canceled out.

Foley also bests Malloy in several vital areas. Voters ranked jobs and the economy as their top priority and said that Foley would do a better job handling that by 54-37 percent. Voters also think Foley would do better handling taxes, 59-31 percent. Malloy slightly edges Foley on education, 46-40 percent, and on gun policy, 46-41 percent, but neither of those issues were ranked highly as priorities.

Tellingly, Foley voters said they were voting against Malloy instead of for Foley by a whopping 62-33 percent. The opposite was true of Malloy voters, who said they were voting for Malloy instead of against Foley by 58-33 percent. What this means is that the scare campaign to make voters afraid of Tom Foley really isn’t working, and that Malloy is doing a lousy job of selling his own policies.

This puts the governor in a very bad position heading into the fall campaign, and a lot of it is his own fault. Malloy has never been particularly good at defending his policies in ways that connect with people, and that’s shown in his campaign. He’s struggling to find a message that works; so far hitting Tom Foley for being too gloomy or painting him as a ruthless capitalist isn’t cutting it.

Foley has found his own very simple and effective message: the Malloy years have been a disaster. Voters are inclined to agree, which is why Foley can run an uninspired, gaffe-prone campaign and still get lots of votes based on how bad the other guy is.

To make matters worse, Democrats, usually the driving force in Connecticut politics, have been given very little to rally around. The party is divided over education and labor, and Malloy’s attempts to patch things up have seemed like tokens at best. The visit from Bill Clinton could have been a game-changer, or at least it might have stopped the bleeding a little bit by getting Democrats excited about the race again. Instead, Clinton’s speech, delivered before a less-than-capacity crowd in a hotel ballroom instead of outdoors in front of a cheering throng, turned into an optical disaster. Democrats, instead of getting pumped up for the campaign, have been left grumbling.

Because of that Malloy hasn’t had much luck countering Foley’s economic accusations. Part of the reason is that he’s rowing against a strong current; Foley and the Republicans have been beating this drum basically the entire time Malloy has been in office, while Malloy didn’t even deign to get into the race until just before the convention in May.

How did we get to this point? The economy of the state is actually not doing that badly, all things considered. Unemployment is lower than it was four years ago, there are more jobs, the state’s finances are in somewhat better shape, and the economy is stronger. But after four years of economic hardship, bitter fights over education, higher taxes, and natural disasters, people aren’t really inclined to think positively. They’re frustrated, and — justified or not — they’re about to take it out on the governor.

It’s hard to fight that longstanding feeling that Connecticut is headed in the wrong direction. People might be better off than they were four years ago — marginally — but nobody wants to sign on for another four years like the ones we just lived through.

This doesn’t mean that Malloy can’t turn it around. Foley’s support is soft — people seem to like him mainly because he isn’t Dan Malloy. He still hasn’t really defined himself beyond the basics, which does give the Malloy campaign an opening. Some 30 percent of voters say that they might change their minds before Election Day, and Democrats have a long pattern of flirting with other candidates only to return to the party fold when the time comes.

But if nothing else, this poll could either give Democrats the kick in the rear they need to get moving, or it could send them into an even deeper funk. Given how bad Malloy’s luck has been lately, though, I’d bet on the latter.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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OP-ED | Maybe Ray Rice Will Change, But Will the Rest of Us?

by Karen Jarmoc | Sep 10, 2014 9:22am
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Posted to: Opinion

There have been a number of disturbing videos related to Ray Rice’s assault of his then-fiancé, now wife, that have been released to the public. Each one worse than the last. First was the video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious partner out of an elevator and dropping her on the floor.

The second horrific video was the press conference Ray Rice held in May with a Baltimore Ravens backdrop and his victim by his side. He apologized to a number of people that day, none of whom were his wife. As a domestic violence advocate, I saw a woman terrified to say anything wrong. Terrified to have her true voice heard, instead talking about her supposed role in the assault.

The third horrific video was the second press conference Ray Rice held in July following the announcement of a lenient two-game suspension by the NFL. Mr. Rice stood before the cameras and repeatedly referred to an “incident.” He never once said that he punched his wife and needed to get help for committing domestic violence.

The fourth horrific video? I don’t think anyone needed to see the interior elevator footage to know what happened. And it’s irrelevant if anyone with the NFL or the Baltimore Ravens saw it before this week. The unconscious body being dragged out of the elevator is truly all the proof that was needed.

So what’s next? How do we move forward from an extremely negative situation and create positive change? There is the obvious need for the stricter penalties instituted by the NFL at the end of August following public outcry that domestic violence results in a shorter suspension than drug use. This is something that all professional sports teams should ensure, strong anti-domestic violence policies. Of course the key to stricter penalties is follow-through, and not just when TMZ leaks a video.

But change isn’t just needed at the corporate level. Mr. Rice has plenty of supporters. He was cheered when he walked out onto the practice field after the initial video had been released. You remember, the video where he drags his unconscious partner out of the elevator. Maybe the fans were giving him the benefit of the doubt since few seem to be cheering this week. It’s not to say that you can’t support a known abuser in getting help to change his or her behavior, but publicly lauding a sports figure or celebrity who clearly assaulted someone is questionable at best.

The NFL is well-positioned to raise awareness about domestic violence. It can partner with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and statewide domestic violence coalitions across the country. It can help raise awareness among its fan base about what domestic violence is because it’s not just a violent punch to the head. It’s a pattern of control and coercion that can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and financial. And it escalates over time. It’s unlikely that this highly publicized elevator assault was the first time Mr. Rice abused his wife.

And whatever we do, let’s not give credence to Mr. Rice’s opinion that he was provoked. The thing about change is that you have to accept responsibility for what you did wrong. This can be a difficult step for many domestic abusers, but it’s certainly not impossible. Although you won’t get there by saying that you were provoked, because nothing anyone says should ever be responded to with a fist. And you won’t get there by referring to the physical assault you committed against your partner as an “incident.”

This horrible situation for one woman has shed a very public light on what so many others face every day, including the more than 20,000 domestic violence victims served annually in Connecticut alone. I’ve heard many well-intentioned people respond to this situation by saying that “real men don’t hit women.” Yes, real men and real women do not hit their partner. They also don’t try to control their partner, call their partner names, tell their partner they’re worthless, become extremely jealous when their partner wants to spend time with someone other than them, or any other number of controlling, coercive actions that are just as troubling as hitting them. Share that message with just one person and you’ll be well on your way to making a difference.

Karen Jarmoc is the chief executive officer of Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Please call the statewide domestic violence hotline at 888-774-2900 if you or someone you know needs help.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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Poll: Republican Challenger Leads In Governor’s Race Rematch

by Christine Stuart | Sep 10, 2014 6:32am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Poll

CTNJ file photo

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley at the Republican convention in May

(Updated 11:48 a.m.) If the election was held today Republican Tom Foley would beat Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy by six points, according to the first Quinnipiac University poll in four months.

The first poll of 1,304 likely voters found Foley has a six point lead over Malloy with eight weeks to go before Election Day. In 2010, Malloy beat Foley by 6,404 votes. That year, Malloy was up nine points over Foley in a September 15 Quinnipiac University poll.

Joe Visconti, the third gubernatorial candidate on the ballot, would receive 7 percent of the vote. Many conservatives have asked Visconti to get out of the race because they’re afraid he will pull votes away from Foley, but the poll shows that even without Visconti on the ballot, Foley leads Malloy by six points.

The poll also found that Malloy still does better with women voters than Foley, but that lead is offset by Foley’s strong lead among men. Foley also leads among unaffiliated voters, which is a key voting bloc in Connecticut. According to the poll, Foley leads Malloy 48-35 percent among the unaffiliated voters.

“In our first likely voter poll, Tom Foley has the edge but Gov. Dannel Malloy is certainly within striking distance,” Douglas Schwartz, director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said. “Foley has a double-digit lead among the key swing group, independent voters. With eight weeks until Election Day, there are 6 percent undecided and another 30 percent who say they could change their mind.”

Christine Stuart file photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy talks to students at CCSU

Malloy, who has never done well in polls, still has some high negatives.

“A difficult problem for Malloy to overcome is his high negative favorability rating, as 53 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of him, including 40 percent who say they have a strongly unfavorable opinion,” Schwartz said. “It is tough for a well-known incumbent to change voter opinion once formed. In contrast, only 33 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Foley.”

Schwartz said it’s going to be tough for Malloy to change voters opinions about him, but what he can do is influence the opinion of a quarter of voters who don’t know enough about Foley to form an opinion.

“That’s where you could see some movement,” Schwartz said.

Some of the tools Malloy may use to do that are negative advertisements. Already, outside groups like Connecticut Forward, which is associated with the Democratic Governors Association has run a couple of negative ads about Foley’s record as a businessman.

Schwartz pointed out then when the institute polled the race four years ago Malloy had a nine point lead and in the end he won by half a point.

“Things can certainly change over these two months. That’s what campaigns are for ... there’s certainly room for movement in this race.”


One of the poll questions was “would you say that Dan Malloy - cares about the needs and problems of people like you or not?” Forty-eight percent of the voters said yes, while 46 percent said no. Asked the same question about Foley, 46 percent of the voters said yes and 35 percent of them said no.

When it comes to the economy, regardless of which candidate they were supporting, 54 percent of voters felt Foley would do a better job at handling the economy and jobs. Only 37 percent felt Malloy would do a better job of handling the economy and jobs.

But when it comes to education and gun policy, voters felt Malloy would do a better job with those subject matters than Foley. Forty-six percent said Malloy would do a better job at education and 46 percent said he would do a better job handling gun policy.

“Foley leads Malloy in large part because he is viewed by most voters as better able to handle pocketbook issues,” Schwartz said. “Voters think Foley is better able than Malloy to handle their top issue - the economy and jobs. Foley also has big leads on taxes and government spending, while Malloy has small leads on gun policy and education.”

Meanwhile, Malloy tried his best Wednesday not to comment too much on the poll.

“I think it’s consistent,” he said at an unrelated event in West Hartford. “We’ve had to make some real tough choices, but Connecticut is producing jobs again. Budgets not in deficit are in surplus. The Rainy Day fund has been restored.”

The poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error and was conducted Sept. 3-8.

Schwartz declined to discuss the frequency of the public polls leading up to Election Day.

In 2010, the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute did two polls in September, two polls in October, and one poll in November on the governor’s race in Connecticut.

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Municipal Lobby Wants To Talk Taxes

by Christine Stuart | Sep 9, 2014 4:42pm
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Posted to: Taxes, State Capitol

Courtesy of CCM

The property tax is one of the least sexy topics in politics. But the state’s largest municipal lobby is hoping to use this election cycle to get the conversation started.

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents 155 cities and towns, issued a candidate bulletin Tuesday that shows that property taxes account for 37 percent of all state and local tax revenues.

“That’s more than the income tax, more than the sales tax, more than any corporate taxes,” Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for CCM, said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference.

Christine Stuart photo It’s a tax “you have to pay regardless of your income and regardless of whether your business is turning a profit,” Maloney added.

But fixing Connecticut’s tax structure is never easy.

Earlier this year, a debate on which properties should be exempt from paying local taxes fizzled when Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate couldn’t agree to pass each other’s pet legislative initiatives. The year before that municipal officials were upset about a proposal to phase out the property tax on motor vehicles.

Maloney said it would be great if the state, which is facing a more than $1.278 billion budget deficit, was able to find additional money to boost PILOT payments. PILOT is an acronym for Payment In Lieu Of Taxes, a grant the state uses to reimburse towns housing non-taxable property or institutions. The payments represent a fraction of what towns would otherwise levy for taxes on the properties, which puts some municipalities in a bind.

Maloney said it would also be great if the state could advance its Education Cost Sharing formula, which is the largest grant to many cities and towns. However, that may be a matter for the courts to decide. In January, the state’s ECS formula will be scrutinized in a lawsuit regarding education adequacy and the state’s constitutional duty to fund it.

Courtesy of CCM Maloney also is hoping the state has enough money to restore the “municipal revenue sharing” grant, which was squashed when the state found out it needed the money to balance the budget.

“We constantly have to make our case,” Maloney said. “Often, legislators will take the last thing they heard, or the easiest way for them to proceed and we have to make sure they see the importance of this issue.”

The candidate bulletin pointed out that Connecticut is more property tax dependent than almost any other state.

“The per capita property tax burden in Connecticut is $2,522, an amount that is almost twice the national average of $1,434 — and 3rd highest in the nation,” the pamphlet states.

The property tax, according to CCM, also accounts for 71 percent of all municipal revenue statewide and 19 towns depend on property taxes for at least 90 percent of all their revenue. Another 51 municipalities rely on property taxes for at least 80 percent of their revenue.

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Tom Foley’s Campaign Manager Recommended Rowland To Wilson-Foley

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 9, 2014 3:20pm
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012, Election 2014

Courtesy of LinkedIn Former Gov. John G. Rowland came recommended by Tom Foley’s campaign manager in a 2011 email to congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley.

The email between Justin Clark and Wilson-Foley was used as evidence Tuesday during Rowland’s campaign corruption trial. Rowland’s facing charges he conspired to do campaign work for two congressional campaigns while keeping his involvement hidden from election regulators.

Foley, the current and 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee, was mentioned several times during the trial Tuesday. In an email presented as evidence, Clark recommended Rowland to Wilson-Foley as the first among several people who could be helpful to her campaign.

“I’m sure you have talked to him about running before but this is his neck of the woods [sic] might provide good insight,” Clark wrote.

In another email, Rowland claims to have spoken to Foley in 2010. The former governor had emailed the husband of then-lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, are not related to Tom Foley.

“I had a long chat with Tom Foley he’s going to throw everything they can behind Lisa, support, volunteers etc. Let me know how they are doing. They need her to win in Nov,” Rowland wrote.

Foley’s mention during the corruption trial prompted a press release from Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election campaign.

“This matches previous reports that Governor Rowland was an advisor to Tom Foley’s campaign in 2010,” Malloy spokesman Mark Bergman wrote. “If Tom Foley thought Rowland’s advice was an asset in 2010 and then recommended Rowland to Wilson-Foley, did Tom Foley ever pay Rowland or have anyone else on his behalf pay Rowland for his “expert” political advice?”

Tom Foley’s campaign spokesman said Rowland was never paid by the Foley campaign for his advice.

“It wouldn’t take a genius to know, and you wouldn’t expect to be paid to tell someone that John Rowland knew something about politics in his former house district,” Mark McNulty, Foley’s campaign spokesman, said Tuesday. “Neither Tom Foley nor Justin Clark ever paid for advice from John Rowland nor were they paid to provide advice to Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign.”

Chris Covucci, Tom Foley’s state field director in 2010, also came recommended by Clark. Covucci also worked for the Connecticut Policy Institute, a think tank founded by Foley after the 2010 election. Covucci said the group started out as a PAC, but grew into a think tank.

Courtesy of LinkedIn Wilson-Foley eventually hired Covucci as her campaign manager. However, he testified that he quickly left the campaign after he was informed of the arrangement with Rowland.

“I was troubled by it. These rules are not something to mess around with. The FEC takes them very seriously and the federal government takes them very seriously,” he said. “I was very uncomfortable with what she had told me. That week I started looking for a new position.”

Covucci testified that as campaign manager, he felt as if he was working under Rowland in the hierarchy of the campaign.

Rowland “was functioning more in the role you would see a general consultant in. A general consultant would be managing a campaign manager,” he said. “John Rowland and [former state Republican Chairman] Chris Healy had the majority of the authority.”

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Malloy Would Offer Tax Credits For Student Loan Payments

by Christine Stuart | Sep 9, 2014 2:09pm
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Posted to: Education, Election 2014, New Britain

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gets a sweatshirt from Rep. Peter Tercyak

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was back on the campaign trail Tuesday pitching a proposal to make college in Connecticut more affordable.

“The reality is students are graduating with a very high amount of loans and some of those loans are much higher priced than when I was going to school,” Malloy, who has three college-age sons, said Tuesday.

This year, the legislature created a program that gives any child born or adopted in the state after January 2015 a sum of $250 toward a CHET college savings plan.

But Malloy, who faces a tough re-election battle against his 2010 Republican opponent Tom Foley, wants another four years to help expand on some of these programs and create new ones, like a student loan tax credit.

Student loan interest is tax exempt up to $2,500 on federal returns, but states don’t have similar provisions. Malloy wants to forgo $20 million in annual revenue in order to offer parents and students in Connecticut the same deal.

“But as the economy improves we think there’s room to do that,” Malloy said Tuesday during a visit to Central Connecticut State University’s student center. “It’s a more targeted way to bring relief to middle-class families than other ways of doing it.”

Malloy also wants to boost the governor’s scholarship program by $10 million and change the rules to allow the Connecticut Higher Education Supplemental Loan Authority to refinance student loans using state-backed taxable bonds to provide capital.

Last week, the Board of Regents, which approves the budget for the four state universities and 12 community colleges, announced that will need a 9.9 percent increase or an additional $625 million in state funding to hold its tuition increase to 2 percent.

In October, the Office of Policy and Management will review the Board of Regents proposal and in January the governor will decide whether to include the increased funding in the state budget.

Asked about how he will proceed, Malloy said, “I suppose I’m not commenting. I want them to keep their costs within the range of inflation and I’ve asked them to do that.”

In the future, he said, “I think we’ll have discussions about what we do to drive more students to the institutions as a way of raising some portion of that money as well,” Malloy said. “It’s not just the tuition costs. It’s how [are] the tuition costs paid for? How is room and board paid for?”

He said over the last three years they’ve put more pressure on the Board of Regents to keep costs down, at the same time “as we’ve put more money in.”

The state block grant to the Board of Regents has decreased from $322 million in 2011 to $315 million for fiscal year 2015. Adjusted for inflation, the Board of Regents has seen a 68 percent decrease in funding since 2007.

Christine Stuart photo

Pritesh Kapadia, a business management major

Malloy also was confronted after the press conference by Pritesh Kapadia, a student.

Kapadia stopped Malloy to confront him about the continued tuition increases. Kapadia said he works part-time at Stop & Shop and his parents are paying out-of-pocket for his tuition.

“As a public university you would expect rates to be a little bit lower, wouldn’t you?” Kapadia asked Malloy. “When will they ever get lower?”

Malloy said he’s putting pressure on the Board of Regents to contain their tuition increases. He said this past year it was a 2 percent tuition increase, but if he was making minimum wage at Stop & Shop then he saw a 45-cent increase in his pay in January.

While he may have received a bump in pay, Kapadia said his employer eliminated his health insurance coverage, forcing him to find coverage elsewhere and increasing his costs even more.

Malloy suggested the 19-year-old shop for coverage on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange and a Democratic Party staffer took down his information so they could follow up.

There’s no mention of higher education in Foley’s nine-page policy paper released last month prior to the first debate. However, campaign spokesman Chris Cooper released a statement Tuesday evening.

“Governor Malloy’s policies over the past four years have resulted in tuition increases at state colleges and universities all across Connecticut, so this is another example of the governor trying to give out “candy” to distract from his record,” Cooper wrote. “For weeks, the governor has been announcing bonding projects he knows will never be approved, taking credit for funding that was already approved by the legislature and standing in front of bridge and road projects that were begun long before he became governor. This is another attempt to fool voters into believing that tomorrow Governor Malloy will somehow be different from yesterday, the day before, and the months and years before that.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that this year the governor’s scholarship program was increased by $2 million. That proposal was not part of the final budget.

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Witness: Campaign Consulting Contract Was Unspoken

by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 9, 2014 11:07am
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Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

Christine Stuart photo

Brian Foley and his attorney Jessica Santos leave the federal courthouse in New Haven

(Updated 3:52 p.m.) NEW HAVEN — The campaign consulting agreement at the center of the government’s criminal case against former Gov. John G. Rowland was unspoken, the government’s primary witness acknowledged in court Tuesday.

The admission came from Brian Foley, husband of 2012 congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and the owner of a successful chain of nursing homes. Rowland is facing charges that he conspired with Foley to work on his wife’s campaign but hid the work from election regulators.

During questions from Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, Foley admitted the campaign consulting agreement was unspoken.

“There was no language, ever. I never told him to do anything for the campaign, I never told him to go on the radio. I thought [the arrangement] was really clean,” Foley said.

Prosecutors contend that Rowland did work for the Wilson-Foley campaign — including attacking her opponents on his afternoon talk radio show on WTIC — while illegally accepting payments from her husband’s company.

“My intent was to do exactly that,” Foley said. “To have him paid through another company and not have to report it.”

But Weingarten is trying to make the case that Rowland was working legitimately for Foley’s nursing home company during the 2012 campaign. Meanwhile, Rowland’s efforts to help the campaign were legitimate volunteer efforts, he argues.

In his opening remarks, Weingarten told the jury that Foley handed Rowland to the feds in a “staggeringly cynical” move when he was facing charges of his own. Both Foley and his wife have pleaded guilty to related charges.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Weingarten got Foley to admit that the charges against him were serious and had exposed him and close family members to prosecution. Weingarten asked whether Foley stopped defending his arrangement with Rowland after Foley’s children were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

“Following that event . . . you realized how massively exposed you were as a result of your own crimes. You went from defending your relationship with Mr. Rowland to incriminating him. Fair?” Weingarten asked.

Foley agreed that was about the time he began cooperating with the feds. Foley eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, but he was accused of making conduit donations to his wife’s campaign through friends and family members. The straw donors included his children and sister, who was interviewed by the FBI.

Foley said he was hoping that he and his wife would receive a light sentence in exchange for his cooperation.

“Isn’t it true you had conversations with your staff where you said the misdemeanor you pled to, it was like ‘pulling a lobster from a lobster pot or running through a stop sign?’” Weingarten asked.

Foley denied the comment about the stop sign, but defended the lobster trap remarks as an effort to minimize the impact of the federal investigation on his business. “This whole case has had a multi-million effect on our company,” he said.

Weingarten tried cast doubt on the integrity of Foley’s testimony. He questioned Foley on letters, which his lawyer wrote to prosecutors. The letters defended the relationship with Rowland.

Foley admitted he tried to mislead his lawyer and prosecutors in order to deter an investigation.

For a second day, Foley testified that Rowland’s overt help on the campaign was expected to have negative consequences. The former governor resigned in 2004 and served 10 months in prison on corruption charges. In emails admitted as evidence, Rowland told Foley, “I get it, let’s you and I meet.” Foley told the court he took that as an understanding of a covert arrangement.

“Are you a mind reader?” Weingarten asked him.

Foley said that based on the actions Rowland took after they began a business consulting agreement, he believed there was an understanding for campaign work. Weingarten offered a different interpretation.

“Could he ‘get’ that he’s too controversial to work on Lisa’s campaign and take your offer to work for Apple as a wonderful consolation prize and could he have wanted to do everything he could to help Lisa win her campaign?” Weingarten asked.

Later, Rowland’s attorney grilled Foley on a September 2011 meeting with Rowland to discuss a consulting contract.

“Did you ever say, ‘John you know this is all a sham. It’s a joke. It’s all a subterfuge for you to work on the campaign’,” Weingarten asked.

“I never said those words to anyone at anytime,” Foley answered.

Christine Stuart file photo

Patty and John G. Rowland leave federal court

Throughout his cross-examination, Foley maintained that he would never have hired Rowland as a consultant to his nursing home company, if he had not considered the former governor to be “primarily a benefit to the campaign.”

But Weingarten pointed to a series of emails in October 2011 in which Foley engaged Rowland for advice on the interests of both the nursing home business and the Wilson-Foley campaign.

At the time the campaign was planning a press release criticizing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration and Democrats. Foley asked the campaign to hold off on antagonizing the Malloy administration until he could touch base with Rowland.

“What you wanted is to talk to Mr. Rowland about protecting Apple?” Weingarten asked. Foley agreed.

Weingarten pointed to other exchanges in which Rowland appears to be working on behalf of Apple Rehab. He asked Foley whether the communications were real work by Rowland, or a cover for a secret campaign arrangement.

“Did you send this email to Mr. Rowland because you were paranoid the FBI was looking over your shoulder or because you wanted to communicate substantive information to him,” he asked. Foley said it was real work.

However, Foley admitted to being paranoid at times about federal investigators finding out about the arrangement. He recalled one phone conversation where Rowland floated the idea of Foley paying him a $10,000 bonus if Wilson-Foley won the Republican convention. Foley said he feigned phone interference.

Foley told the court it sounded like a “red flag” that could connect the Apple contract with the campaign. Weingarten asked if Foley had believed federal agents could have been monitoring his phone lines.

“I did actually. I thought my phone could be tapped,” he said.

“So you’re a little paranoid and you were shocked Mr. Rowland would be talking about this on the phone,” Weingarten said.

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Malloy Touts Progress, Makes Urban Jobs Pitch

by Staff Report | Sep 9, 2014 5:28am
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Posted to: Election 2014, Jobs, Hartford

DOUG HARDY / CTNEWSJUNKIE

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announces new jobs initiatives in Hartford on Monday.

Criticized in the past for not focusing enough on growing jobs in urban areas, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy visited Hartford’s north end Monday to unveil plans to boost employment in Connecticut’s cities during his second term.

Malloy, who took over as governor with a state budget deficit of $3.67 billion and an economy barely beginning to bounce back, was able to get a bipartisan group of lawmakers to approve a jobs package in October 2011 that included loans for small and large businesses and some job training programs.

But urban lawmakers, who saw higher unemployment numbers in their districts, said the legislation wasn’t enough.

On Monday, on the front steps of the Faith Congregational Church on Main Street, Malloy touted his administration’s accomplishments less than two months before he is up for re-election, and said he’s ready to go further.

Malloy said that when he and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman took office, Connecticut was experiencing one of the worst recessions in a generation and had seen no net job growth for 22 years.

“Forty-eight states shared in the creation of 23 million jobs. We didn’t get any,” Malloy said. “Instead of pursuing the same failed strategies that had been pursued for the last 20 years, Nancy Wyman and I, we did something different.”

Malloy cited a combination of efforts, including investing in large employers to keep them in Connecticut, building up small businesses through the Small Business Express program, bringing in new industries like Jackson Laboratories, competing for jobs with other states, and investing in infrastructure projects “for the first time in decades on a large scale basis.”

Malloy also touted his administration’s successful advocacy for paid sick days and increasing the minimum wage.

Based on those efforts, Malloy said the state has added more than 60,000 new private sector jobs and now is seeing the lowest unemployment rate in almost six years. Further, in his first term Malloy said Connecticut has experienced the fastest job growth since the 1990s and has had the fastest job growth since 2010 in all of New England.

Malloy also said that Connecticut, over the last quarter, ranked first in the region in economic growth at 2.8 percent.

Malloy outlined his plan for his second term, should he win one, including:

  • Establishing a “human development corporation,” with a focus on the “neediest regions” in our cities. “I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to get unemployed workers trained and into jobs, and that’s everyone in our communities,” Malloy said.
  • An expanded Small Business Express program with a special emphasis on urban areas, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses. “We’ve used this program to invest alongside over 1,200 companies, and that’s allowed us to create or retain a total of 14,000 jobs,” Malloy said. “We should expand this program to allow us to grow an additional 10,000 jobs.”
  • Lifting the cap on the Job Expansion Tax Credit program with a focus on small businesses, hiring unemployed veterans, the disabled, and others in urban areas.
  • Establishing a ConnectiCorps program, modeled after AmeriCorps, to partner in urban communities with not-for-profits to hire unemployed workers to improve their local communities.
  • Malloy suggested that the ConnectiCorps program should then be expanded to include the state’s largest employers, “so that they understand that if we get somebody through training, if we get somebody through a good job history of six months or 12 months, they need to step up and give that person a try. Give them a hand up. And that’s what we want to see accomplished.”

    The governor also pitched a plan to increase state contracting with minority-owned businesses.

    “There’s no better way to make sure urban people are employed,” Malloy said. “They’re going to hire people from the communities where they are based. We’re going to do that, including increasing substantially the amount of money that we did on a trial basis [for] bonding.”

    Malloy said his administration reshaped how companies get state work and increased the amount of state contracting that can be awarded through “less strenuous” approval processes.

    “But ultimately, we want to get some of these minority contractors to the next level, and the next level requires their ability to bond, something that is very difficult to do in the current environment unless you’ve had another big job before it and proven yourself,” Malloy said. “So we’re going to play a much larger role in making sure that minority contractors can in fact take the next step, can in fact get that bond for that big project to prove themselves and hire more people from urban environments.”

    Tom Foley’s campaign responded with a written statement from Foley spokesperson Mark McNulty:

    “This is just more of the same. Apparently 1 percent growth, one of the worst job recovery rates in the country, and higher taxes are good enough for Dan Malloy. It’s not good enough for Tom Foley, we can and will do better with a new direction for Connecticut.”

    According to the Labor Department, Connecticut has recovered 76,400 — or 64.1 percent — of the jobs lost during the recession.

    Pastor Steve Camp, who spoke briefly before introducing the governor, complimented Malloy for listening and responding with initiatives that “make sense” for Hartford, the city’s north end, and for Connecticut.

    “I want to commend him and his team for coming to Faith Church today to outline some new initiatives that will be helpful in our community and will help this community to come alive in some ways that it has been dormant for years and years and years,” Camp said.

    “We sat in his office and he listened to us about the problem of re-entry, of people coming out of our prisons into communities like this one with no jobs and no chance to get forward in their lives. He heard us when we talked about . . . minority contractors and the hiring of people who just need a chance in our community,” Camp said. “So we are very pleased that he has come up with these initiatives. We’re going to hold his feet to the fire, I will say, but we want you to know that he is trying and we applaud that today.”

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    Candidate’s Husband Outlines Scheme To Hide Rowland’s Work For Campaign

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 8, 2014 1:01pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012

    Douglas Healey photo NEW HAVEN — (Updated 4:21 p.m.) The government’s key witness told the federal jury Monday that he tried his hardest to hide the true intent of former Gov. John G. Rowland’s involvement with his wife’s congressional campaign.

    Brian Foley, who pleaded guilty in March to campaign finance violations, testified that after a meeting with the former governor in Sept. 2011, he brainstormed ways to get around reporting his involvement with the campaign to the Federal Elections Commission.

    “We came to conclusion he could be very helpful with the campaign, but we were concerned about the negatives,” Foley testified in U.S. District Court on Monday.

    After that first meeting, “I came up with the idea that if I was to hire Mr. Rowland for Apple he would then be supportive of the campaign and it would solve that problem,” Foley testified.

    Apple Rehab is the name of the nursing home chain Foley owns. He testified that he tried to find a plausible reason to hire Rowland as a consultant.

    Foley testified that his wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, a first-time Republican candidate in the 5th Congressional District, went along with the idea. Foley said that after the first meeting, he recalled that he was on the couch in their home when he first mentioned to his wife to have Rowland call him to discuss the consulting contract further. He didn’t have Rowland’s phone number at the time, so he asked Wilson-Foley to have Rowland contact him.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan then presented another piece of evidence, an email from Rowland to Foley: “Had a brief chat with Lisa, I get it, let’s you and I meet.”

    Asked by Brennan why they would not have wanted to disclose Rowland’s role with the campaign, Foley explained there were too many negatives associated with the former governor who was convicted in 2004 on corruption charges.

    Foley said for two years he didn’t utter a word about the contract because, “I understood that to be a smoking gun.”

    Instead, Foley devised a cover story.

    “I figured if I hired him as a consultant for Apple it wouldn’t have to be disclosed with the Federal Elections Commission,” Foley said. And “he would be supportive of the campaign. That was a way not to have to report him to the Federal Elections Commission.”

    When Foley and Rowland met for a second time at the Farmington Marriott in Sept. 2011 to discuss the contract, that’s when Foley pitched the consulting gig for his nursing home chain. It was at that meeting that Foley admitted he tried to “legitimize” the relationship by proposing the consulting gig.

    “I was very careful never to use those words to acknowledge this was really for the campaign,” Foley said.

    In order to further the legitimacy of that relationship, Foley said he ran it past two lawyers. It was decided the contract would need to be between his lawyer, Chris Shelton’s law firm, instead of the nursing home chain to put some distance between Rowland and the campaign.

    “I was concerned that it might get it discovered that there was another motive here,” Foley said.

    In order to make sure the contract wasn’t discovered Foley suggested it be done through Ridgeview Realty, which is a company that manages an apartment building in Cromwell.

    Foley explained that since he did not take a tax deduction for owning the business “it was essentially my personal money I was paying Mr. Rowland.”

    Rowland did do some work for the nursing home chain, including convening a meeting with former House Speaker Tom Ritter, who is now a lobbyist. Foley explained that he was looking for a new lobbyist with ties to the Democratic Party. The meeting lasted for an hour.

    Rowland’s other duties for the nursing home chain involved quarterly reports. The amount of information in the January quarterly report was much shorter than the outline Rowland gave the Foley’s at his first meeting detailing the political consulting he would be willing to do for them.

    Brennan asked if this upset Foley.

    “No,” Foley replied. “Because Mr. Rowland was doing a lot of work for the campaign. The purpose of my intent was to pay him through the company, but have him work on the campaign.”

    Christine Stuart photo

    Brian Foley and his attorney Jessica Santos leaving court Monday

    Foley said he valued Rowland’s political advice to his wife more than the advice of former Republican Chairman Chris Healy, who was hired as a political consultant by the Wilson-Foley campaign.

    In April 2012 Foley feared his relationship with Rowland would be discovered when Kevin Rennie wrote an article about Rowland being a volunteer on the campaign.

    “I got concerned of course, that if people were starting to snoop around that people could find out Mr. Rowland was being paid by Apple, but was working for the campaign,” Foley testified.

    Healy, an unindicted co-conspirator, messaged Rowland after reading the article.

    “Gov. we have to disclose the legal relationship between you and Apple as a subcontract, Brian, Syrek, LWF and I have talked and we need to chat but call Brian ASAP,” Healy told Rowland.

    After that message, Wilson-Foley, Rowland, Chris Syrek, a campaign staff, Healy and Brian Bedard, the CEO of Apple Rehab, met at the campaign office in Avon.

    Foley described the meeting as a “crisis” meeting to come up with a press release Apple could send out to continue to cover up the relationship..

    “We were very concerned about the effects it would have on the campaign,” Foley said.

    Foley, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance misdemeanors and faces up to one year in prison, was very involved in his wife’s campaign.

    During Monday’s testimony, Foley admitted that he asked family members, including his sister, niece, and children to donate large sums of money to the campaign with the understanding he would reimburse them for their contributions.

    Foley said he knew what he was doing was illegal.

    Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s attorney got a brief half-hour to begin his cross-examination of Foley, and started with the straw donations.

    “Did you know you were engaging in federal criminal wrongdoing when you did this?” Weingarten asked. “Yes,” Foley said.

    “Did you knowingly put your sister and her daughter at risk?” Weingarten continued. ‘Yes,” Foley said.

    Foley estimates he gave about $500,000 to his wife’s campaign and she contributed about the same amount to the campaign. A candidate can contribute unlimited amounts of money to their campaign so he funneled additional money to her. The two keep their assets independent of each other.

    “I thought the risk was very little because there was never a quid pro quo,” Foley said.

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    Esty Still Not Interested In People’s Pledge

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 8, 2014 12:00pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Elizabeth Esty and Mark Greenberg

    A week after Republican Mark Greenberg called on U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty to limit the amount of outside spending on their race, a good government group called on her to do the same.

    But Esty still isn’t interested.

    About a week ago, she rejected Greenberg’s offer to limit the role of outside spending and on Friday, Common Cause of Connecticut encouraged Esty rethink her decision and negotiate a pledge with her Republican opponent to reduce outside spending in the race.

    “Common Cause Connecticut appreciates Mark Greenberg calling for a People’s Pledge in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District race,” Cheri Quickmire, executive director of Common Cause in Connecticut, said. “We encourage Congresswoman Esty to negotiate a pledge with Mr. Greenberg to reduce the role of outside spending in the race.”

    On Sunday, Esty told an NBC reporter that she supports public financing, but it doesn’t exist at the federal level. She also supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the Supreme Court lawsuit that opened up the flood gates to third-party campaign spending.

    “In this case, my opponent Mark Greenberg is sadly an example of what we’ve seen all too often in recent years, which is immensely wealthy people — people worth 50, 100, 200 million dollars,” Esty said, “who can self-finance whatever they want to do and that drowns out the voice of the American people.”

    In 2012, when Esty first ran for the seat, she loaned her campaign $500,000 before the primary and $100,000 after the primary. Her campaign points out that Greenberg has spent $3 million on two failed campaigns for the seat. In 2012, Esty outspent her Republican opponent, Andrew Roraback, by about $1.6 million.

    “I don’t take a pledge from someone who has pledged himself to spend millions of his own money,” Esty said Sunday on Decision 2014. “I can’t take very seriously his commitment to this.”

    But Greenberg isn’t willing to give up on trying to convince the freshman Congresswoman.

    “Elizabeth Esty is plain and simple a bald-faced hypocrite on campaign finance reform,” Bill Evans, Greenberg’s campaign manager, said. “She claims to be for campaign finance reform while rejecting every reform proposal . . . Esty has an opportunity to put her money where her mouth is on campaign finance reform.”

    Greenberg offered that they wouldn’t have to go cold turkey on the outside funding, but they could at least negotiate a limit.

    “If Elizabeth is sincere, she will agree to a spending cap of $1.28 million, more than enough to communicate our respective messages,” Greenberg has said.

    On Sunday, Greenberg was also on WFSB’s Face the State and he talked about how the system of funding politics is broken.

    “The second a person gets elected they’re making calls for fundraising,” Greenberg said. “They don’t have time to read the bills . . . the system has become out of control in terms of the money.”

    He said that’s why he called on Esty to advocate for the removal of “dark money” or some “cap of the money that’s spent.” He said he just wants “an equal playing field.”

    The pledge Greenberg is encouraging Esty to take would be similar to one negotiated in 2012 in the Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate between Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to discourage attack ads funded by outside groups.

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    Input Sought On Children’s Mental Health Report

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 8, 2014 11:30am
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    Posted to: Health Care, State Budget, State Capitol

    CTNJ file photo A draft plan released Friday afternoon by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families outlines how the state wants to move forward with improving children’s access to mental health services regardless of their insurance status.

    The report, mandated by lawmakers in 2013 following the Newtown shooting, seeks to tackle the children’s mental health crisis and barriers to treatment. The report will be open for public comment until 5 p.m. on Sept. 12 and a final report will be submitted to the legislature in October.

    Kristina Stevens, a DCF administrator, said the draft report was formed largely on the feedback the agency and its nonprofit partner, the Child Health and Development Institute, received during a series of forums held around the state in the spring.

    The report says that as many as 20 percent of Connecticut’s children have mental health needs and would benefit from treatment, “yet many of these children are not able to access services.”

    The report states that “a core finding from all input sources is that the children’s mental health services are fragmented, inefficient, and difficult to access for children and families.”

    One of the boldest suggestions made by the draft report was the concept of pooling all the money for children’s mental health services from the public and private sectors in order to break down what amount to “silos” of funding for specific children. On the public funding side, a variety of agencies have funding for children’s mental health services, but they don’t necessarily work together to ensure a more even level of services.

    Timothy Marshall, a clinical manager with DCF, estimated that there’s $300 to $400 million in the public sector alone. It’s unclear how much money may be available in commercial health insurance or in the employer-sponsored insurance market. The report doesn’t detail exactly how the funding sources would be pooled, but Jeff Vanderploeg, vice president for mental health initiatives at the Child Health and Development Institute, said it would happen over time.

    “We acknowledge the fact that the system in and of itself has a rich array of services and funding streams, but they are in various places,” Stevens said.

    She said they heard from families that what their child has priority access to depended on what particular group, organization, or insurance carrier they had. One of the goals of the report is to try to break down those barriers even if it doesn’t go into too much detail about how that will happen.

    Number of insured children in the state

    “I think the heavy lift is going to be around data and workforce development training,” Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz said. “Then finally sharing — breaking down some of the rules around confidentiality so that providers can speak to one another” so that schools and pediatricians can talk about children and their care.

    She said the whole point of the report is to make it easier for families to get care for their children before situations become emergencies.

    “That means families feel they can get the care they need regardless of what door they walk through,” Katz said.

    At the moment, families are showing up at emergency rooms because they have nowhere else to go. At the same time, DCF has closed hundreds of group homes and congregate care beds. The agency said the spike in emergency room visits is part of a national trend, but hospital officials believe there’s a correlation.

    Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, who has been frustrated the agency’s refusal to accept responsibility for the lengthy emergency room stays children with mental health issues are currently experiencing, commended the agency for the amount of public input they sought.

    While she didn’t have a chance to read the full report Friday she said she doesn’t believe there is enough money currently in the system to support the needs of the children who need help.

    “It’s hard to make reimbursement rates match the cost of providing the services,” said Bye, who is the chairman of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

    She said lawmakers tried to begin to address the problem this year when they funded two positions in the state Healthcare Advocate’s office that focused solely on the issue of mental health. But for all the talk about solving this crisis “there isn’t mental health parity,” Bye said, referring to the idea of insuring mental health services on the same level as physical ailments.

    State officials say they are doing their best to deal with the situation. The draft report calls for enhanced screening by pediatricians and schools, improved data collection, early intervention, and an expansion of community-based services. However, the report does not mandate early-childhood screenings.

    The report also acknowledges that more screening would lead to better identification of problems for a system that’s already at capacity.

    “Unless services are enhanced, the screening for behavioral problems is likely to lead to an increase in demand for services from an already overburdened system, resulting in children being referred to longer wait lists rather than effective services,” the report concludes.

    However, the report adds that it’s an investment “that will ultimately prove to be cost effective and the right thing to do for Connecticut’s children.”

    To comment on the report, visit www.plan4children.org.

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    OP-ED | Medicaid Spending Myth is Driving Unhealthy Policies

    by Ellen Andrews | Sep 8, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Opinion, Health Care Opinion

    Despite mounting evidence, the myth persists that Connecticut’s Medicaid spending is out of control. And unfortunately policymakers are responding to the myth with flawed policies that could cause more harm.

    In fact, for the fiscal year that just closed state spending on Medicaid was $88 million less than originally budgeted. Thanks to ObamaCare, the state’s spending on Medicaid will decline even further this year — it will be three years until we are back up to the levels we spent last year. Thanks to the decision two years ago to drop insurers in the program, per person costs in our program actually fell 2 percent the next year — a remarkable achievement. Also thanks to that decision, we escaped paying a massive annual federal tax on our program. In an interesting twist, other states that did not expand their Medicaid programs will be paying millions to help support our expanded program.

    But the myth of unsustainable Medicaid state spending persists and is prompting harmful policies, putting people at risk, to respond to a problem that doesn’t exist. The administration, through the State’s Innovation Model (SIM) planning process, has proposed rushing Medicaid into an ill-advised shared savings payment model.

    The rush was prompted by hopes for a federal grant to hire more state employees and consultants. Under the new model, providers would share in any savings they are able to generate on the costs of care for their patients, contingent upon meeting quality standards. The idea is that the lure of shared savings will encourage providers to stop ordering extra tests and treatments we don’t need to reduce costs — an important goal. But advocates and others are concerned that those incentives could also lead to reductions in appropriate, necessary care as happened in the 1990s under managed care.

    Shared savings incentives are fairly weak. The model expects a provider to forgo getting 100 percent of the cost of providing a treatment today in lieu of possibly getting back half the cost at some point in the future. Shared savings models are very new and more mature systems are struggling to make them work.

    Even if the goal is to save money for the state’s budget, this policy is a poor choice. In shared savings plans, generally half the savings go back to the providers that did the hard work. Of the rest, more than half will go back to the federal government, as they are now paying the majority of Medicaid costs. The state will only see a fraction of any future savings, if there are any.

    There are good reasons to implement a thoughtful, well-designed shared savings program in support of proven reforms such as care coordination, team-based care, quality improvement, enhanced access to care, and giving patients the tools they need to protect their own health. Connecticut’s Medicaid program has already begun those reforms and is making impressive progress improving quality, engaging more providers in the program, and controlling costs. But a rush into shared savings without a plan is dangerous and could reverse our hard won progress.

    The law of unintended consequences is very strong. Our HUSKY managed care plan didn’t fail for a lack of good intentions; it failed because of poor planning, weak oversight, and a lack of political will to face or fix problems.

    While Medicaid’s finances are stable and sustainable, we have an opportunity for thoughtful reform planning. We can address the underlying causes of poor health, fragmented care, and rising costs with a thoughtful reform plan that draws upon collective wisdom, best practices from other states, and engages all stakeholders in Connecticut. The state should regroup, reach out, and build a better reform plan that will build on what is working in Medicaid.

    Ellen Andrews is the executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    The Money Race Continues In Campaign 2014

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 8, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    The two Super PACs that have spent the most money on Connecticut’s hotly contested governor’s race dumped even more money into the contest last week.

    The group affiliated with the Republican Governors Association contributed $800,000 and two public employee unions used $1.15 million to help boost the group affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association.

    Grow Connecticut, the group backed by the RGA which is supporting Tom Foley, released an ad last week focused on one of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s past statements on taxes. Connecticut Forward, the group associated with the DGA, received $900,000 from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and $250,000 from AFT Solidarity.

    That brings the total spending for Connecticut Forward up to $2.4 million. In 2010, the DGA spent about $1.78 million in order to help get Malloy elected. Their ads that year were similar to the ads they’ve been running this year.

    The ads the group bought recently focus on Foley’s management of a textile mill in Georgia that went bankrupt in 1996. In 2010, the DGA ran a spot at saturation levels focused on Foley’s history with the Bibb Co. Two weeks ago, Connecticut Forward, the group affiliated with the DGA, ran an ad reminding voters of what happened at the Bibb Co. and more recently in Sprague, Conn. where Foley held a press conference about a shuttered paper mill at the end of July.

    AFSCME and AFT Connecticut, two of the largest public employee unions in the state, have both endorsed Malloy’s re-election campaign despite some tough negotiations in 2011 that ended up with the unions agreeing to about $1.6 billion in concessions.

    Previous animosity between Malloy and the labor unions, which was triggered by the budget deficit and calls for shared sacrifice in 2011, has disappeared, according to the unions.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie helped raise money for the Republican Party in July at the request of Foley. Christie, as head of the RGA, declined to say exactly how much money the RGA was willing to spend on the race in Connecticut.

    The New Jersey governor said at a diner in Greenwich that he didn’t know how much money the RGA would dedicate to the race, “but we don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” He said he would dedicate the resources necessary to get Foley’s campaign over the finish line.

    In addition to the outside groups, the two state parties are able to contribute unlimited amounts of money to the two publicly financed candidates. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been busy raising money to support their candidates.

    Through the end of July, the Democratic Party has raised about $4.2 million and the Republican Party has raised about $1.2 million in both their federal and state accounts. However, the parties can only use the money raised in its state account on the governor’s race. The federal account can only be used for Congressional candidates.

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    Got Jokes? Malloy Did Today at the Crocodile Club

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 5, 2014 4:37pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Hugh McQuaid Photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy

    BRISTOL — During an election year meeting of the Crocodile Club, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joked that he would be repeating the name of third party candidate Joe Visconti often until Election Day.

    —Click here to view more photos—

    Visconti is a conservative gubernatorial candidate who petitioned his way onto the November ballot and could draw Republican votes away from Malloy’s rival Tom Foley.

    “I’m going to spend the next 60 days repeating the name ‘Visconti’ as often as I can. Whenever I give a speech, I’m going to say ‘Visconti.’ Whenever I’m walking down the street I’m going to say ‘Visconti.’ Whenever I enter a room I’m going to say ‘I think people need to get to know you better and all that you stand for,” he said to Visconti who sat nearby.

    Jokes are a departure for the governor who, early in his first term, told reporters “I don’t do humor well.” Malloy has delivered serious speeches at the traditionally lighthearted holiday meeting of Middlesex Chamber of Commerce three years in a row.

    But he put his usual seriousness aside Friday for the Crocodile Club, an annual political gathering at Bristol’s Lake Compounce amusement park. The event celebrates legislation that moved the town line between Bristol and Southington more than a century ago. The entertainment is billed as three-minute, nonpartisan speeches from elected officials and candidates.

    Malloy warned the audience he was out of practice.

    “If my jokes make you feel a little sick, there’s a bathroom on that side of the hall,” he said. “Just work your way back. Unless [U.S. Sen. Richard] Blumenthal’s in your way and going for a camera. Then you’re on your own.”

    During his short remarks, Malloy made light of his historically close victory over Foley in 2010 and his consistently low polling numbers.

    “I have an important announcement today: As of today, in the Malloy household, my numbers are over 50 percent,” he said. “So, you’ve gotta give me credit for that, you know?”

    He said his 6,404-vote victory over Foley has made his personal life a bit difficult.

    “Winning a close race really sucks. My wife holds it over my head. She says ‘Dan, take out the trash or I’m going to change my vote. Cook dinner tonight, Dan, or I’m going to vote for the other guy,’” Malloy said. “It’s not been a pleasant thing in the Malloy household the last three and a half years.”

    Malloy said things have been tough for Foley as well. He joked that Foley, a wealthy Greenwich businessman, has also had to make difficult choices, like whether to take the BMW or the Maserati.

    Foley did not attend the Crocodile Club, according to his running mate Heather Bond Somers, because he couldn’t think of anything negative to say about Malloy. Somers didn’t have that problem.

    “It’s great to be here at Lake Compounce. When they told me today’s event was going to be held in a fantasy land setting, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be here or the governor’s office,” she said.

    Somers said she did want to credit Malloy for helping to create so many small businesses during his tenure.

    “Unfortunately, they used to be big businesses,” she added.

    Somers said she was ready to get to work as lieutenant governor on “Day One. Those ceremonial ribbons are not going to cut themselves.”

    Visconti also addressed the crowd but some of his jokes were out of the political arena. Like the one about the turtle mugged by two snails. The turtle said, “Officer, I don’t know it all happened so fast,” he said.

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    Business Survey Reveals ‘Cautious Optimism’

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 5, 2014 1:27pm
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    Posted to: Economics, Jobs, Labor

    Christine Stuart photo

    Joseph Kask, managing partner at BlumShapiro

    An annual survey of Connecticut businesses revealed “cautious optimism” among the respondents. At least 35 percent of companies said they were growing, while 54 percent reported they were “holding steady.”

    The Connecticut Business and Industry Association and BlumShapiro’s survey of 460 businesses was released Friday morning at the Connecticut Economy Conference in Rocky Hill.

    “I think overall what the survey is showing is that Connecticut is continuing and recovering,” Peter Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said. “We’ve had some pretty good job figures so far this year and the companies are also making some investments.”

    The survey found that “we have a 3-to-1 ratio of companies in the state of Connecticut which are growing to the companies that are contracting,” Joseph Kask, a managing partner at BlumShapiro, said.

    But the good news is even better when you consider that over the past year, 46 percent of Connecticut businesses surveyed added a new product or service, and 47 percent expect to do so in the next year.

    However, that’s not to say there aren’t still challenges. The single biggest challenge cited by Connecticut businesses remains the Connecticut economy. Thirty-four percent of respondents cited the state’s economy as their biggest challenge. It’s a number that hasn’t changed since last year’s survey.

    Another 18 percent of businesses cited the national economy as the biggest challenge while 16 percent cited healthcare costs.

    Courtesy of the Connecticut Economy survey

    But what can government do to improve economic competitiveness?

    The survey found 52 percent of businesses say it should reduce taxes, 24 percent want to see regulatory reform, 11 percent said the government should cut spending, 7 percent said government should increase tax incentives, and 6 percent said it should improve infrastructure.

    Gioia said the survey didn’t drill down into detail about which taxes businesses would like to see cut. He said different businesses are going to have different “hot points.”

    He said one of the things they have seen over the last several years is that the increase in the income tax “really hammered S-Corps, LLCs, and LLPs.”

    “That’s one area we still hear complaints about,” Gioia said.

    Kask said they also hear complaints about tax credit issues. He said small- and medium-sized businesses are having trouble using the tax credits they’ve earned.

    “We want to make sure companies that have earned tax credits can actually use them,” Gioia said.

    The state legislature approved a package for United Technologies Corporation earlier this year that allows the company to use up to $400 million in stranded tax credits. The goal of the legislation was to keep the state’s largest aerospace company in Connecticut as well as the jobs that come with it. It commits Pratt & Whitney to staying in Connecticut for at least 15 years and keeps Sikorsky’s corporate headquarters in Stratford for at least five.

    The company has declined to say how many unused tax credits it has earned over the years.

    As far as regulations go, the survey didn’t ask for details, but Gioia said one of the biggest hurdles businesses face is the high cost of healthcare from all the “healthcare mandates” in this state.

    As far as other regulations are concerned, such as permitting, “it’s not just the state of Connecticut,” Gioia said. “It’s the state of Connecticut, municipalities, and some of it’s federal.” And it’s often “where federal and state regulations cross purposes.”

    Gioia said Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has taken a “good first step” in addressing the issue, but “that’s not it. It’s not done.”

    CBIA President and CEO John Rathgeber, said the Connecticut economy is challenging, but that’s the reason they launched the CT20x17 campaign earlier this year, aimed at making Connecticut a top 20 state for business by 2017.

    “Economic competitiveness is not just a business issue but one that touches every community, every neighborhood, and every family in Connecticut,” Rathgeber said. “A competitive economic climate means more jobs, more opportunity, and a brighter future for everyone in the state.”

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    Malloy Floats Bold Idea In Speech To Early Childhood Advocates

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 5, 2014 11:00am
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    Posted to: Education, Nonprofits, Poetry, Hartford

    Christine Stuart photo

    Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy addresses the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance at the Lyceum in Hartford Thursday

    Should we pay at-risk parents a minimum wage to attend school with their preschool age children? That’s an idea that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy floated Thursday during a speech to the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.

    He said the idea would be to help these parents through their own maladies or mental illnesses or even intergenerational unemployment and turn them into productive employees. He opined it would probably cost far less than having their children repeat a cycle of poverty.

    “There are things we should be thinking about outside the box,” he told the group of early childhood providers Thursday.

    He admitted that the idea hasn’t been fully fleshed out and wasn’t necessarily a proposal.

    “You just asked me about a thought,” Malloy said. “. . . It was a theoretical presentation of an idea.”

    Malloy suggested that it would be easy to identify 1,000, 2,000, or even 3,000 at-risk parents per year. And if the state concentrated on those parents “imagine what a difference that would make,” he added.

    “Now, it’s not cheap, but neither is the alternative,” Malloy said.

    He said if the system can start identifying these parents and children most at-risk then “we can start thinking further and further outside the box.”

    Earlier in his speech to the group Malloy explained that maternity nurses already know which parents are most at-risk and someone needs to build a system to support those parents with services when they leave the hospital. Malloy said he can’t build that system, but he can fund it.

    “If we had somebody at every hospital, at every birth, we could probably figure out which babies we need to concentrate on the most,” Malloy said. “I think we need to build a system that identifies the babies we need to support.”

    The comment received a round of applause.

    Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance, said he’s encouraged by Malloy’s depth of understanding of these issues.

    “It’s really refreshing to have someone in a position of power who gets it,” Gay said.

    However, Gay noted his organization is nonpartisan and doesn’t make endorsements of political candidates.

    As far as Malloy’s proposal to pay at-risk parents to attend school with their children, “that was probably not a very well thought through proposal yet, but it’s thinking outside-of-the-box about what it will take to address those most at-risk families,” Gay said. “It’s an interesting idea. I’m glad to see he’s thinking outside-of-the-box.”

    Gay said it made him think of a statistic regarding mothers who don’t finish high school — their children are 11 times more likely to drop out of high school than those whose mothers attended college.

    He said there are a lot of statistics about education, but “nothing is 11 times.” And since a person’s educationl level is listed on their child’s birth certificate, it’s known from birth which children are the most likely to succeed.

    “We know at birth who those people are who are most at-risk,” Gay said. What has to happen next is someone has to design a system “that intentionally tries to reach families who are at-risk with services that are appropriately designed.”

    Gay pointed out that “it’s the wealthy kids who go to college and don’t come back. The poor kids coming out of our cities are the ones most likely to be in the workforce down the road. We need to make sure we’re closing that gap. To simply say this is the schools’ problem — that’s not what the research tells us.”

    Malloy’s opponent, the former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley, was invited to speak to the group but was unable to attend Thursday. Gay said they hoped to find a time for Foley to address the group in the future.

    In a phone interview Thursday, Foley wondered “who would be paying” these parents minimum wage?

    He said if the proposal is to have the state pay the parents, then he thinks the idea is “ridiculous.”

    That’s not to say that Foley, who has two preschool age children, doesn’t believe in state funding for preschool.

    Foley said preschool is “one of the things shown to be effective,” and it’s the “one thing Gov. Malloy and I agree on.”

    But Foley said the money to help fund preschool education should be “based on need.”

    He said he pays for his children to have an educational experience because he can afford it. He said the state should be helping fund slots for children based on their parents’ income.

    Earlier this year the legislature and Malloy created an Office of Early Childhood and funded an additional 1,020 slots for preschool students. The legislation also asked the Office of Early Childhood to come up with a plan for universal access for 3- and 4-year-olds. The funding for the program will come from a combination of bonding and will also use Tobacco Settlement Funds.

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    OP-ED | Sick of the Nattering - and Expensive -  Nabobs of Negativity

    by Sarah Darer Littman | Sep 5, 2014 10:00am
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

    As of this past Tuesday I’m officially an empty nester, but should I miss the dialogue of squabbling adolescents I need only turn to my inbox and peruse communications from Connecticut’s two political parties.

    A recent example from the Connecticut Democrats:

    HIS RUNNING MATE SUPPORTS THE TEA PARTY, DOES JOHN MCKINNEY TOO?

    Hartford — With Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary loss yesterday, the Tea Party has been given a big shot in the arm. Written off as dead as recently as a few weeks ago, they’re very much alive, and not just in Virginia. Last night on Twitter, David Walker — also known as “@DeficitRanger” — recognized the forces that propelled Dave Brat to a primary victory over Cantor:

    The question now is, where does Mr. Walker’s running mate, John McKinney, stand on the Tea Party? Previously, even as Republican leaders in Washington have disavowed the Tea Party, GOP gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut have not. John McKinney, specifically, has told the Quiet Corner Tea Party Patriots that he would repeal Connecticut’s smart, tough, common sense gun law.

    Does Mr. McKinney support those who ousted Eric Cantor? After barely reaching 15 percent of delegate support at the Republican convention, is he vying for the Tea Party’s backing? Does he align himself with the far-right and seek their support?

    I saw that tweet, too. To a non-flack it doesn’t read as “support” of the Tea Party, but rather an “observation” of an election result that surprised many — particularly Beltway flacks. Making such a pathetic stretch is an insult to the intelligence of voters. Seriously, do you think we’re that stupid?

    But before Connecticut Republicans start getting smug, I give you this:

    “We understand that Governor Malloy needs to raise money because he is behind in his race for re-election, but bringing former President Clinton here is a risky move. President Clinton insulted his wife and the American people by having an extramarital affair with a very young intern. This affair was conducted at least partly in the Oval Office when the president was supposed to be on the job serving the American people. We’d like to know if by bringing president Clinton here, Governor Malloy is condoning the president’s behavior in office.”

    Hello, Connecticut GOP, this is the 1990’s calling. If this is the best you can do in terms of issues, you’ve got serious problems in November. Also, here are a few names for you: Gov. Mark Sanford, Republican presidential candidates Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, Rep. Mark Foley, Sen. Larry Craig, Sen. Dave Vitter. . .

    Pots, meet the Kettle.

    Yesterday, Politico’s James Hohmann wrote about the battle for control of the Senate after interviewing two dozen top political operatives and campaign aides from both parties.

    These operatives worry that “both parties’ turnout operations could be critical because the avalanche of TV ads is fueling concern that voters will simply tune them out. One recent GOP focus group in North Carolina showed voters are disgusted by incessant negativity on the airwaves.”

    The North Carolina focus group picked up on what most flacks don’t seem to get. Here’s Democratic strategist Paul Begala writing in 2012 on “Why we need more negative political ads”:

    “Truth is, negative advertising is not some evil or nefarious practice. In fact, when I contributed to the Obama campaign in 2008, I wrote on the check: ‘For Negative Ads Only.’ I love negative ads. When I see a positive ad, even one from a candidate I support, my reaction often ranges from bored to annoyed. But show me a negative ad — even one against a candidate I support — and my blood starts to race. What can I say? I’d much rather eat picante sauce than chocolate.”

    Personally, I prefer chocolate. Maybe that explains why I write books for young people rather than work in politics. Or perhaps, like the folks who write press releases for Connecticut Republicans, Paul Begala is stuck in the 1990’s. Because, as focus groups conducted in North Carolina and Iowa earlier this year made clear, they want the negative attack ads to stop. Voters are sick of being treated “like an idiot.”

    But outside groups wouldn’t be spending such outrageous sums of money on negative ads unless they work, right?

    The impact of negative ads has been the subject of great debate among academic researchers. Past studies have suggested that negative advertising has little affect on voter participation. According to Erika Franklin Fowler, Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, the research also shows that “there is a higher net persuasive effect when the negative ad is run by an outside group because it shields the candidate from negative backlash.”

    More recent studies, like the research of Assistant Professor of Political Science Yanna Krupnikov at Northwestern University, suggest that the timing of negative advertising matters. Krupnikov’s study was titled, When Does Negativity Demobilize? Tracing the Conditional Effect of Negative Campaigning on Voter Turnout.

    While negative ads viewed by undecided citizens help to persuade, Krupnikov’s research suggests “the voters who may initially seem immovable — may be just as malleable as the undecided. Simply making a decision does not mean an individual will act on this selection.” For decided voters, “exposure to negativity after selection can derail action by convincing individuals that their selection is no better than the alternative they already know they do not like.”

    In other words, too much negative advertising and you risk ending up with the “a plague on both your houses” effect.

    The Krupnikov studies were dated 2011 and 2012 — in other words, we’d only just begun to feel the impact of the Citizens United decision. This year it’s a different story.

    There are two things going on, explains Wesleyan Media Project’s Fowler. “One, ads are empirically more negative, everywhere. Since this project has been tracking . . . over the last decade we have seen ads get more negative. Secondly, it’s the volume. We talked about 2012 as being a pulverizing election and we’re still seeing an increase over that so far this cycle. The increase in volume and in proportion of negativity makes it feel a whole lot more negative.”

    “The irony is that the more political ads air on TV, the more voters tune them out,” Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist and ad maker told the New York Times. “It just becomes a white noise. The return on investment is absurd.”

    Thanks, SCOTUS.

    Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | The Politics of Malaise

    by Susan Bigelow | Sep 5, 2014 7:59am
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

    Nothing about the campaign for governor has been more emblematic than this: the popular and effusive Bill Clinton shows up to boost Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s sinking campaign, and ends up speaking to a less-than-capacity crowd in a badly-lit hotel ballroom. Far from firing up the base, this visit just made the governor, and the Democratic Party, look worn out.

    It was in this dim and depressing setting that Gov. Malloy decided to trot out one of the pitches he hopes will be a winner on the campaign trail this fall: that Tom Foley, the monster, is a pessimist.

    Paul Bass/New Haven Independent “This is a guy who prays for rain on a sunny day,” Malloy said of Foley, whose campaign has largely been about how lousy Connecticut is with Malloy at the helm. Malloy, of course, is well-known for his sunny disposition and optimism — Courant columnist and radio host Colin McEnroe dubbed him the “Grouch-in-Chief” for a reason. Then Malloy added, “Connecticut is a great state. We’re going to prove that on election day.”

    But does anybody believe that this is a great state, right now? When a debate over whether we actually like it here and are planning on leaving soon can hit the pages of the state’s largest newspaper, prompting New York magazine to publish a piece called, “What’s the Matter With Connecticut?” — that may give us a clue.

    We’re in a funk. To be fair, it’s been a rotten couple of decades for us — our cities have lost people, prestige, and just about everything else; our economy has taken hits again and again; we lost our hockey team to a state where water doesn’t even bother freezing very often; our governor went to jail, got out, and landed himself promptly back in trouble; and we’ve been slammed by hurricanes, snow, ice, and even tornadoes. Bad times all around.

    No amount of suddenly-sunny talk from our governor will change these facts. We’re in a bad mood. We believe Connecticut’s stuck in the mud, and we’re all sinking down with it.

    Politically, this is going to play out in a couple of ways. First, this is not a good time to be an incumbent — especially one who has never gotten by on political charm. By and large, incumbents in this state and the country in general have the advantage, unless their opponents can convince voters there is a crisis large enough to warrant a change. Tom Foley doesn’t even have to try very hard in this case — voters are already at that point.

    This is why we’re seeing Malloy trying the Mr. Sunshine routine, which has two main thrusts: one, that we’re not in a crisis after all, and two, that Tom Foley is just a grumpy old sourpuss for believing that we are. The danger here is that Malloy is coming perilously close to dismissing how an awful lot of people in this state feel as mere pessimism.

    The second way that this is going to play out is all about apathy. Voter turnout in 2012 was pretty decent: turnout this year is going to be an awful lot lower. We may even see turnout that’s lower than it was during the Republican wave of 2010. Low turnout usually favors Republicans, whose voters tend to be die-hards, but the GOP doesn’t seem particularly energized by their choices this year, either.

    What this really means is an election that will be hard to predict. It could end up turning around on a few minor issues, or it could just sputter to the end, exhausted, and spit out a new governor.

    That’s the final way this plays out politically: voters may slouch to the polls to boot Malloy out, but what sort of mandate will Tom Foley really have?

    Our self-esteem as a state has been low for a long time, and it’s tempting to think that there’s nothing ahead but decay and stagnation. When we stop believing that it’s even worth changing things in this state we lose any hope of making a better future for ourselves, and we risk sinking deeper into the swamp of cynicism and infighting. 

    A Governor Foley may not be able to accomplish much when facing both a hostile legislature and a demoralized populace. After all, he’s not exactly inspirational, and unlike another governor to take over after a big crisis, M. Jodi Rell, he’s not particularly comforting or reassuring either. His honeymoon, if he’s not careful, could wind up being perilously short.

    And if that happens, will he have anyone but himself to blame?

    Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    OP-ED | Rowland Trial A Gift From Heaven For Political Junkies

    by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 5, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Courts, Election 2014, Opinion

    DOUGLAS HEALEY / CTNEWSJUNKIE
    The opening round started on Wednesday but the case will likely drag on for weeks if not months. Whatever the length, the trial will have hundreds of Connecticut political junkies on the edges of their seats watching a former governor squirm as the criminal justice system ponders his fate a second time. And so far, it’s been a surprise a minute.

    Rowland’s story is sad one. A gifted politician, he was the first Connecticut governor in more than 100 years to be elected three times. But he eventually got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and plea bargained to a single federal corruption charge — even amid evidence that the scope of his corruption was far greater. Rowland spent about a year in a Pennsylvania prison, after which he professed his reformation.

    But even as a private citizen and WTIC radio host, he simply couldn’t stay out of trouble. After being indicted in April on seven counts of scheming to hide his involvement in the congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, Rowland faced the music again as another trial got under way this week in New Haven.

    For those looking to keep score, Rowland’s hometown newspaper, The Waterbury Republican American, last Sunday published a very handy two-page World Series style preview (“A Readers Guide To the Trial”) that includes a list of all seven counts, important court officials, key witnesses and some nostalgic photos of the disgraced ex-governor. And in case you want to see it in person, the paper tells you how to get to the Richard C. Lee Federal Courthouse, though we are helpfully reminded that “no weapons are permitted.”

    Curiously, I could find no mention of what at the time of publication was the latest development in the case, which is that federal prosecutors, in violation of attorney-client privilege, had mistakenly shared emails with Rowland’s defense team. Those emails included messages between Wilson-Foley’s husband Brian Foley and his attorney. The Foleys have already pleaded guilty to related charges and the feds objected to Rowland’s legal team using the emails as part of their client’s defense.

    Shockingly, presiding U.S. District Judge Janet B. Arterton ruled on Wednesday that all seven emails were admissible, so not only were federal prosecutors unmasked as incompetent, but they were dealt a setback.

    Still, when the feds bring charges against a prominent person, it’s a safe bet that they’ve got a very solid case. Just look at their conviction rates. As of 2010 (the last year for which I could find statistics), it was 93 percent, with 81 percent going to prison. And even when they merely threaten public officials, as U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is doing to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, you know they’re on to something.

    So while Rowland’s high-powered lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, isn’t exactly high-fiving it in his Washington office, he’s got to be breathing a sigh of relief that the feds screwed up so royally even before the trial began.

    To the surprise of no one, Weingarten’s opening statement painted Rowland as a victim of the machinations of the Foleys, but that’s a laughable assertion, given wiley Rowland’s experience at cutting deals for his own personal and political benefit.

    The star witness the first week was 5th-district congressional candidate Mark Greenberg. It’s common knowledge that Rowland approached Greenberg with the same unsavory scheme he eventually offered the Foleys — that is, I will use my influence to get you elected if you hide my involvement by paying me through some other conduit than your campaign.

    But according to Greenberg, Rowland had the testicular fortitude to demand $720,000 for his services — a king’s ransom by congressional campaign standards and an amount that witness Greenberg characterized yesterday as “delusional.” After Greenberg told Rowland to get lost, the ex-governor went down-market, asking the Foleys for what amounted to a mere $35,000.

    It’s been a thrill a minute so far. My only regret is that Rowland hasn’t been charged directly with misusing his WTIC show to toot Wilson-Foley’s horn. For it’s plain to anyone with half a brain that he did just that when he ambushed Wilson-Foley’s primary rival, then-state Sen. Andrew Roraback.

    But Roraback, who is now a state Superior Court judge in Danbury, is expected to be called as a witness to corroborate the federal election law violation charges anyway. I’d pay a thousand bucks to sit in that courtroom to watch a sitting judge — and my former state senator — testify against an ex-governor and maybe help send him to jail. But alas, I have a day job and must stay at the salt mines.

    Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at ctdevilsadvocate.com and is news editor of The Berkshire Record in Great Barrington, Mass. He has appeared on Rowland’s show several times. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Rowland’s Attorney to Witness: You Weren’t Suggesting Mr. Rowland Was on Drugs?

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 4, 2014 6:26pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2010, Election 2012, Legal, New Haven

    Scott Benjamin file photo for CTNewsjunkie

    L to R: Marc Katz, then a campaign staffer, and Mark Greenberg

    NEW HAVEN — Former Gov. John G. Rowland responded with a strange outburst during a meeting in 2009 when staffers for Mark Greenberg’s congressional campaign rejected his consulting proposal, the staffers testified Thursday.

    Greenberg’s former campaign manager, Marc Katz, and consultant, Sam Fischer, detailed the meeting during the second day of Rowland’s campaign corruption trial in a federal courthouse in New Haven.

    “I just remember shaking his hand and thinking that was the weirdest meeting I had ever been to,” Fischer said told the court.

    During his testimony, Fischer brought up a detail about the meeting that prompted sharp questions by Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten. Fischer said Rowland kept “sniffing” in a way that stuck him as odd.

    “He must of had a chronic nasal condition . . . When he went to make a point he sniffed constantly. I don’t know how else to describe it,” he said.

    Weingarten did not like the implication.

    “You weren’t suggesting Mr. Rowland was on drugs?” Weingarten asked during a cross examination. “Is that what you were intending to imply? That we have a cokehead here? Is that what you’re saying?”

    Fischer looked at Weingarten but did not answer the question. Prosecutors quickly objected to the question and Weingarten moved on.

    The meeting had been prompted by Greenberg, who told the court that Rowland had aggressively pursued a lucrative consulting contract with his first unsuccessful campaign. Katz and Fischer said Thursday on the stand that they had wanted nothing to do with Rowland’s proposal.

    Their reasons were twofold: Rowland was insisting his campaign work be compensated by another entity, a maneuver that would hide his pay from election regulators. And Rowland had already served prison time in 2004 for corruption.

    Greenberg agreed, but found it difficult to reject the former governor in person. “I was effectively gutless,” he told the court Thursday.

    So it fell to Katz to put the idea to rest during a face-to-face meeting with Rowland in December 2009. Fischer attended the meeting as well.

    Katz said he was nervous. Like Greenberg, he had been successful in the real estate business but he was a political novice. Greenberg “was really setting me up as the bad guy, the guy to say ‘no, it’s not going to happen” to Rowland, Katz said.

    DOUGLAS HEALEY / CTNEWSJUNKIE Both Katz and Fischer said the former governor arrived with an air of confidence that suggested he thought the consulting job was his. The three men made some small talk in a conference room inside Greenberg’s campaign headquarters.

    “It was a dance,” Katz said. “Nice, nice, nice, nice, but clearly I was there, knowing I didn’t want his involvement in the campaign.”

    Eventually Katz “took a deep breath” and brought up the “800 pound elephant” in the room — he told Rowland he had too much baggage to work on their campaign.

    “It was as if I’d lit a match,” Katz said. “He got up, his arms got much more demonstrative.”

    “His demeanor became defensive — extremely defensive,” Fischer said in separate testimony. “The tenor of the meeting went from pleasant to not-so-pleasant.”

    Both men said Rowland got up from the table and demanded a piece of paper and a pen. He drew a map of Connecticut and marked Hartford and the 5th Congressional District. The former governor pointed to where he said the readers of the Hartford Courant were located.

    “The media, they’re out to get him but everyone else in this district loves me,” Fischer recounted Rowland saying. “The voters don’t feel the way the media in Hartford does.”

    Katz said Rowland told him his enemies were in Hartford, but he was still well-loved around the rest of the state.

    “My head was spinning at that point,” Katz said. “I’d clearly lit something.”

    When the meeting concluded, the three men shook hands and Rowland left the campaign headquarters.

    Prosecutors asked Katz whether he felt he had played “the bad guy” for Greenberg.

    “Yup,” he answered. He said the meeting “was more than strange to me. It didn’t help my nerves, but it certainly cemented my feelings” on a contract with Rowland.

    Fischer did not take questions from reporters outside court.

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    Lembo: FIC Endorsement Is The ‘Kiss of Death’

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 4, 2014 4:14pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Hartford

    Christine Stuart photo

    State Comptroller Kevin Lembo

    Sen. Beth Bye and state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who are both openly gay elected officials, stood outside the state Capitol on Thursday to call upon Republican Tom Foley to reject the endorsement of a “pro-family” group they described as an “anti-gay” organization.

    “The endorsement of the Family Institute is, or should be, the kiss of political death in this state,” Lembo said. “It’s outside of who we are as a people and the values of this community.”

    The Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee announced its endorsement of Foley on Wednesday in an email to its members.

    In that email, the Family Institute reminded its members why it’s supporting Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s opponent, who is also pro-choice, the opposite of the group’s anti-abortion position.

    “It was Gov. Malloy who flew the Rainbow Flag over the Governor’s mansion to show his support for same-sex “marriage.” (Indeed, it is the Malloy Administration that describes itself as the “gayest administration ever.”),” the group said in its email endorsing Foley’s gubernatorial bid.

    The endorsement is the group’s first for a gubernatorial candidate.

    Bye said she can still remember sitting in the balcony of the state Senate during the civil union debate and hearing members of the Family Institute say “these people won’t stop until they have marriage.”

    “Do you know what it’s like to be referred to as ‘these people’?” Bye said Thursday. “It’s not so good, but that’s the endorsement that he sought.”

    Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, said Wednesday that they continue to have discussions with Foley about the issue of abortion and “it matters,” but it’s not an issue that’s likely to come up during the next four years. Wolfgang’s group also wants to repeal marriage equality.

    However, the issue the group is most concerned about at the moment is assisted suicide or aid-in-dying. The legislation that would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for terminally ill patients was defeated this year in committee.

    “Assisted suicide is THE life issue at the Capitol right now,” Wolfgang wrote in an email Wednesday. “FIC Action Committee won’t sit on the sidelines when the safety of Connecticut’s most vulnerable people is at stake.”

    Foley met with the group in June for an hour and a half and spoke to them again in August by phone, according to the Family Institute’s endorsement.

    Christine Stuart photo “They didn’t just give him the endorsement, he sought it and I just have to say as a gay resident of Connecticut I find that offensive,” Bye said Thursday.

    But Foley said in a phone interview that he did not seek the endorsement of the group. He said he met with the group and is happy to have its endorsement, “but I didn’t seek it.”

    The Rev. Josh Pawelek said Foley’s acceptance of the endorsement is “offensive” and he should explain to the people of Connecticut why he has accepted it.

    When asked for further comment on the endorsement, Foley’s campaign would only say “our campaign is happy to receive the endorsement of any group that recognizes the need to change direction toward a more proud and prosperous Connecticut.”

    But Bye and Lembo, along with other LBGT, labor, and women’s rights advocates, questioned what the endorsement says about the company Foley keeps and the direction he would take the state.

    The Family Institute, according to Lembo, continues to focus on this “little laundry list of issues that is so far outside the mainstream it’s stunning.”

    He said from a purely political perspective “this is the kiss of death” for Foley’s campaign.

    A court granted gay couples the right to marry in Connecticut in 2008.

    Bye talked Thursday about Malloy’s support of the LGBT community and his active support in 2011 of legislation that extended workplace protections to transgendered people.

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    Access Health CT Employee Fined And Fired

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 4, 2014 2:40pm
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    Posted to: Health Care, Labor, Legal

    A former Access Health CT employee was fined $600 by the State Ethics Office for trying to solicit additional money from a state contractor for information he was supposed to share.

    Eldon G. Porter was in charge of creating the “savings calculator” for the Access Health CT website. As such he was supposed to share the “proprietary source code” for the calculator with a state contractor in charge of marketing the health insurance exchange.

    “While Porter initially shared information and data with the state contractor, in March 2013 Porter demanded that the state contractor provide personal financial compensation directly to him in order for the state contractor to receive further information and data. The state contractor did not pay Porter,” the State Ethics Office stated in a press release about the stipulated agreement.

    Porter’s solicitation of compensation for information and data he obtained through his state employment represented an attempt to use his position for personal financial gain.

    The Cincinnati, Ohio man is no longer employed by the state because of a separate but related personnel issue.

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    Attorney Tries To Undermine Congressional Candidate’s Testimony

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 4, 2014 2:06pm
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    Posted to: Courts

    CTNJ file photo

    Mark Greenberg at the 2012 Republican convention

    NEW HAVEN — Former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland’s defense attorney questioned and tried to undermine Thursday the testimony of current Republican congressional candidate Mark Greenberg.

    Greenberg, this year’s Republican 5th Congressional District nominee, was the government’s first witness in their campaign corruption case against the former governor. Greenberg told the court that Rowland had aggressively sought a consulting position with his campaign during his first unsuccessful campaign for the seat in 2010.

    Douglas Healey / CTNewsJunkie Rowland, who resigned in 2004 before serving a 10-month bid in federal prison on corruption charges, is now facing new charges that he conspired to hide his campaign work from election regulators.

    Greenberg ultimately rejected Rowland’s offer. But prosecutors are using the proposal and Rowland’s apparent insistence on being paid off the campaign’s books, to illustrate a pattern they say led to an illegal arrangement between Rowland and 2012 congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband Brian Foley. Both have pleaded guilty to related charges.

    During court hearings Thursday, Greenberg dismissed Rowland’s contract offer, which totaled more than $700,000, as “delusional.” But Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, questioned how opposed Greenberg was to the former governor’s help.

    The candidate acknowledged he gave the idea some thought.

    “When you’re a first-time candidate and you’ve never done this thing and you have a person as powerful as Governor Rowland giving you political advice, you think about it — I thought about it,” Greenberg said, but he insisted he did not think “seriously” about it.

    Weingarten pointed out that Greenberg and Rowland remained friendly, even when it became clear that the candidate would not be paying the former governor. In an email presented as evidence, Greenberg told Rowland he believed Connecticut residents “yearned” for the Rowland years.

    Greenberg defended the statement in court.

    “Frankly, I think that the Rowland years were a lot better than the Malloy years and I’ve always gotten along with John. I stand by that,” Greenberg said, commenting on current governor, Democrat Dannel P. Malloy.

    U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei tried to clarify Greenberg’s testimony later in the morning. He stressed that the Greenberg campaign did not believe there was a benefit in overt support from the convicted former governor.

    “What was the word you and your staff used for the affect Mr. Rowland may have had on your campaign?” Mattei asked Greenberg.

    “The word was ‘toxic’,” Greenberg answered. “Because of his prior conviction.”

    But in response to Weingarten’s questioning, Greenberg also acknowledged it would have been difficult to keep hidden the type of political work Rowland was proposing to do for the campaign.

    “So unless he was the Wizard of Oz, directing the campaign from behind the curtain, all of the things he talked about doing, would have been obvious,” Weingarten said.

    The defense team also tried to poke holes in Greenberg’s testimony regarding Rowland’s proposed payment scheme. On Wednesday, Greenberg said it was “strange” that the former governor demanded to be paid by his business or his nonprofit Simon Foundation, for work on a campaign.

    “That was completely unacceptable. I wouldn’t have paid him from anything but the campaign,” Greenberg said Wednesday.

    But prior to the start of Thursday’s hearing, Rowland’s lawyers convinced Judge Janet Bond Arterton to allow questions regarding Ron Wilcox, a tea party activist who was paid $86,000 as a marketing worker for Greenberg’s Simon Foundation. Arterton allowed the testimony “on the credibility front” over the objections of prosecutors.

    “Who’s Ron Wilcox?” Weingarten asked Greenberg after questioning whether any of his employees also did work on his campaign.

    Greenberg said he employed Wilcox at some point during 2012, but terminated his employment because he failed to bring in contributions to the Simon Foundation.

    “What happened with Ron Wilcox is that I fired him because he didn’t do a good job with marketing,” Greenberg said. “In the end, I fired my supporter.”

    Weingarten pointed to an 2012 event in which Wilcox publicly supported Greenberg’s candidacy.

    “Did he call out the tea party faithful to support you in the coming election?” he asked. “He did this at the time you were paying him through the foundation, is that correct?”

    Greenberg said that Wilcox did call on voters to support his candidacy, but he was not sure during what periods in 2012 he employed Wilcox.

    “There’s no doubt you paid Wilcox 86 [thousand] for marketing in 2012?” Weingarten asked. Greenberg said that was accurate.

    Later in Wednesday’s proceedings, Weingarten objected heavily to testimony by Sam Fischer, a consultant to Greenberg’s 2010 campaign.

    At the questioning of U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan, Fischer told the court he urged Greenberg to reject Rowland’s proposal.

    “I expressed my adamant opposition to the proposal for a couple reasons. One, from a political standpoint, it didn’t make any sense to me, and two, it was illegal,” Fischer said.

    Weingarten objected and called for a sidebar discussion with the judge. Arterton eventually agreed to strike the comments from the record. Fischer had offered an opinion on the legality of Rowland’s proposal. The judge said that was a question for the jury to decide.

    Fischer went on to describe a meeting between campaign staff and Rowland. He said the meeting was strange.

    “I just remember shaking his hand and thinking that was the weirdest meeting I had ever been to,” he said.

    Fischer said the meeting went downhill after Greenberg’s campaign manager pointed out that Rowland carried political baggage. Fischer said Rowland’s demeanor became “extremely defensive.” He said Rowland pointed to a map of the 5th Congressional District.

    “The media, they’re out to get him but everyone else in this district loves me. The voters don’t feel the way the media in Hartford does,” Fischer said Rowland told them.

    He said the former governor also affected a kind of nasal tick.

    “He must of had a chronic nasal condition . . . When he went to make a point he sniffed. I don’t know how else to describe it,” Fischer said.

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    Senators Object to Delay in Replacing Danbury Federal Women’s Prison

    by Mary E. O'Leary | Sep 4, 2014 12:00pm
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    The U.S. senators from the Northeast are pushing the federal Bureau of Prisons to get back on schedule building a replacement prison for women in Danbury so they can be closer to their children and participate in drug rehabilitation and job training programs.

    In November 2013, the new facility was scheduled to be completed in 18 months, but 10 months later there is still no ground breaking.

    U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the delay is “unacceptable and inexplicable,” pointing to the dozens of inmates who are now housed in what are essentially holding cells in Brooklyn and Philadelphia .

    The bureau projects it could take another 21 months to convert the current minimum security camp for women in Danbury to a low-level security facility and construct a new minimum security prison.

    The bureau originally had announced in summer 2013 that it was closing the women’s facility and converting it to a low-security prison for men and moving the female inmates 1,100 miles away to Aliceville, Alabama.

    Click here to read more from the New Haven Register.

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    Family Institute Endorses Pro-Choice Candidate

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 4, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Civil Liberties, Election 2014, Health Care, Religion

    Christine Stuart file photo

    Tom Foley wins the Republican Primary in August

    Republican Tom Foley is pro-choice, but he still received the first-ever gubernatorial endorsement from the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee.

    The group, which describes itself as “pro-family” and declined to endorse Foley in 2010 because of his “unwillingness to express support for the most basic of pro-family legislative goals,” decided to endorse the former Ambassador to Ireland this year.

    So what changed?

    Through a spokesman, Foley confirmed Wednesday that he has not changed his stance on a woman’s right to choose.

    Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the group, said they continue to have discussions with Foley about the issue of abortion and “it matters,” but it’s not an issue that’s likely to come up during the next four years.

    The issue the group is most concerned about at the moment is assisted suicide or aid-in-dying. The legislation that would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for terminally ill patients was defeated this year in committee.

    “Assisted suicide is THE life issue at the Capitol right now,” Wolfgang wrote in an email Wednesday. “FIC Action Committee won’t sit on the sidelines when the safety of Connecticut’s most vulnerable people is at stake.”

    Hugh McQuaid file photo In an email to supporters, the FIC Action Committee wrote about why they endorsed Foley, who spoke to the group in June and again on Aug. 26.

    “Tom Foley has clarified to us that he opposes assisted suicide and would veto the assisted suicide bill,” the group wrote in an email. “Governor Malloy’s position on assisted suicide is ambiguous.”

    Malloy didn’t take a position on the legislation this year and told reporters back in March that his support would depend upon the specific language lawmakers send him.

    The Connecticut Democratic Party was giddy about the Family Institute of Connecticut Action Committee’s endorsement of Foley Wednesday.

    Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said Foley should repudiate the endorsement.

    “What state does Mr. Foley think he’s running in?” Lesser said in an email. “The Family Institute’s agenda is so extreme that this endorsement will no doubt raise eyebrows across the spectrum.”

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    Rowland’s Attorney Says He Was Looking For Redemption; Feds Say He Wanted Lucrative Contract

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 3, 2014 4:46pm
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    Posted to: Courts, Election 2012, New Haven

    Douglas Healey file photo for CTNJ

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland

    NEW HAVEN — During the first day of former Gov. John G. Rowland’s criminal trial, his lawyer told jurors the case would contain plenty of distasteful politics, but no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by the man forced out of office a decade ago.

    Rowland, who resigned in 2004 before serving a 10-month bid in federal prison on corruption charges, appeared in court Wednesday. He’s now facing charges he arranged to do political work for two congressional campaigns while conspiring to keep his pay hidden from election regulators.

    Prosecutors laid out a snapshot of their case in their opening statement. They showed jurors emails from Rowland promising a political victory to Mark Greenberg, a longshot candidate in 2009. “I can get you elected if you are interested,” Rowland wrote.

    Greenberg, who took the stand later Wednesday afternoon, eventually rebuffed a contract to pay Rowland $35,000 a month — money he says Rowland insisted come from outside the campaign. During the next election cycle, feds say he took his proposal to candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her wealthy husband, Brian Foley.

    “I hope you ask yourself — what was John Rowland selling? What was he offering to do for Mark Greenberg and Lisa Wilson-Foley?” U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan said to the jury.

    Rowland’s attorney, Reid Weingarten, gave a folksy opening statement to the jury. “I’ve got no Power Point. I’m old school,” he told them. “I just want to talk to you a bit.” He presented the former governor as a man humbled by his prior conviction and looking to support his family. Rowland wanted to work in politics and “maybe redeem himself, just a little” by helping Republican candidates, his lawyer said.

    “You’re going to see some politics here. You’re going to see how the sausage is made, how politicians treat each other,” he said. “You may say, ‘Yuck.” But I know you won’t hold that against John.”

    Weingarten suggested it was Brian Foley, whom he referred to as “hubby,” who offered Rowland up to federal prosecutors when he was facing serious charges of his own. The Foleys have pleaded guilty to related charges and Brian Foley is expected to be the government’s key cooperating witness.

    Weingarten told the jury that Foley turned on Rowland in a “staggeringly cynical 180.”

    “What does he do? Maybe we can find a big fish, a Page One guy. How about a controversial ex-governor like John Rowland?” he said.

    By working to undermine Foley’s eventual testimony, Rowland’s lawyers are capitalizing on a last-minute ruling by Judge Janet Bond Arterton. The judge has permitted the defense team to use emails that prosecutors accidentally sent to Rowland’s attorneys. The emails include early communications between Foley and his lawyer. At that time, Foley was defending his contract with Rowland as legitimate.

    Weingarten contends that the contract was always legitimate. The document suggest that Rowland was working as a consultant for a nursing home company owned by Brian Foley. At the time, the company was engaged in a labor dispute with a health care workers union. Rowland clashed with the same union during his tenure as governor.

    “Who would know better than John Rowland?” he asked the jury. “He earned every penny of that money.”

    By contrast, Weingarten insisted the former governor’s work on behalf of Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign was a volunteer effort or a “labor of love.”

    Prosecutors objected to Weingarten’s opening statement to the jury. Arterton allowed the opening statements on the condition they not be argumentative.

    “Mr. Weingarten’s opening was, in our view, replete with arguments,” U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the judge. “I’ve never heard anything like it.”

    Christine Stuart file photo

    Mark Greenberg

    Much of Wednesday’s proceedings involved testimony from Greenberg, who was the government’s first witness. Rowland offered Greenberg a contract purporting to do work for one of his real estate businesses or for his non-profit animal rescue operation. But Greenberg told the court that it was always clear Rowland intended to do campaign work.

    “The purpose was political consultancy, plain and simple,” Greenberg said. “. . . That was completely unacceptable. I wouldn’t have paid him from anything but the campaign.”

    Greenberg, who is running for Congress again this year, said he ultimately passed on Rowland’s offer. Although he said he liked Rowland, it would have sent the wrong message to have a man convicted of felony corruption charges working on his staff.

    But Rowland was persistent. Throughout the 2010 election cycle, he emailed Greenberg and communicated with his campaign staff. Greenberg said he avoided rejecting Rowland’s offer in person.

    “It was difficult for me to tell him ‘No’ on my own,” he said. “I tried to have the other guys do it.”

    Eventually they did. Greenberg lost the Republican nomination that year, but quickly made it clear he intended to run again in 2012.

    Lisa Wilson-Foley made her unsuccessful run in 2012 as well. Greenberg said he followed news reports indicating Rowland was helping out with her campaign. Later, there were reports that Rowland had been paid for consulting work by a lawyer for the candidate’s husband.

    “My reaction was . . . ‘It’s like Deja Vu all over again,’” Greenberg told the court.

    The trial is expected to last several weeks.

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    Raise the Caliber Sculpture Unveiled in Bushnell Park

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 3, 2014 3:30pm
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    Posted to: Hartford

    Christine Stuart photo

    Four years ago, Michael Kalish envisioned creating a sculpture from illegal guns. But he didn’t necessarily want to melt them down until they were unrecognizable to accomplish that goal.

    But there was one problem. How does an internationally renowned artist get gun parts?

    That’s when he sought out Jessica Mindich, CEO of Jewelry for a Cause and founder of Raise the Caliber.

    Mindich and her organization run voluntary gun buyback programs in Newark, N.J., and are active in the movement to help end gun violence.

    Mindich was able to deliver 2,000 pounds of shredded illegal firearms to Kalish to help him create the sculpture. Kalish said they arrived by police escort at his studio.

    There are parts from Uzis, Glocks, sniper rifles, AK-47s, and pistols incorporated into the sculpture. Mindich said she worried that she would “scar him [Kalish] with the angry energy and the pain coming from this metal.”

    “Amazingly Michael absorbed all of it and churned it through his passion for this project to create the ‘Raise the Caliber’ tribute monument,” Mindich explained Wednesday during an unveiling ceremony in Bushnell Park.

    Christine Stuart photo

    The artist, Michael Kalish, talks about his sculpture

    Kalish said it took him two weeks to touch the first gun, but once he did he realized it was “about breathing new life into something that was part of something so tragic.”

    Kalish said he couldn’t comment on the policies or the politics related to guns. “All I can do is be creatively disruptive and bring people together,” Kalish said.

    That’s exactly what Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said they hope this sculpture does.

    “Illegal gun violence has taken way too many lives,” Segarra said Wednesday. “In Hartford, we have chosen not to accept it.”

    Malloy touted the drop in crime since the enactment of tougher gun laws following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators.

    In 2011, there were 129 murders in the state, with 81 of those occurring in three cities, Malloy said. Since passing the bill in 2013 and new initiatives like Project Longevity, “we’ve made real progress.”

    He said using 2011 as a base year, homicides have decreased by 32 percent in the state and by 31 percent in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport. Shootings have also decreased overall, he said.

    But there’s still work to be done.

    Malloy reminded those who attended the ceremony Wednesday that where Congress has failed, Connecticut has taken a bipartisan approach to reducing gun violence.

    U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who fought to get legislation passed in the Senate last year, said “Democracy is broken when 90 percent of Americans can’t get what they want.”

    He was referring to a 2013 poll that found that 90 percent of Americans supported universal background checks. But Congress has been unable to pass federal legislation that would require background checks on all gun purchases.

    Murphy said it was gatherings like the one in Bushnell Park for the unveiling of the sculpture that helps them “recommit themselves by any means possible” to the cause of eliminating illegal gun violence.

    The sculpture, which looks like a handshake, will remain in the park for about nine months before it moves to Detroit.

    Attendees of Wednesday’s unveiling said they could remember the last time a new piece of public art came to Bushnell Park.

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    Lembo Certifies Small Surplus, Promises to Monitor Medicaid Reimbursements

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 3, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: State Budget, Taxes, State Capitol

    State Comptroller Kevin Lembo certified a $300,000 surplus Tuesday and promised to remain vigilant about the $249.2 million the federal government has not reimbursed the state for some of its Medicaid population.

    Since Medicaid reimbursements have been moved outside of the regular budget process they no longer impact surplus and deficit projections, but a recent bond issuance by the state acknowledges it could have an impact on the state’s cash flow.

    Even though the state has not received the $249.2 million payment for services provided between January and March, the state has continued to make sure providers are paid for their services to this population so the money is leaving the treasury.

    The governor’s Office of Policy and Management believes it should be reimbursed at least 50 percent for each of these individuals and 100 percent for most, but the federal government deferred payment in July until the two sides reach an agreement.

    “Even though the State believes that such claims are fully allowable under the various Medicaid regulations, no assurances can be given that such matter will resolve favorably for the State and will not have an impact on the final results of the operations of the State or the State’s available cash position,” the bond issuance reads. “Currently, the State’s available cash remains adequate.”

    In his monthly letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lembo said he will join with Malloy’s budget office and the state treasurer “in carefully monitoring the federal reimbursement issue and will report on any change in the current situation and the potential budgetary impact.”

    In the same letter, Lembo reported that General Fund spending is expected to grow by an estimated 2 percent and revenue growth is projected to grow 2.6 percent in Fiscal Year 2015.

    “These budget targets will be influenced by changes in economic conditions as the fiscal year progresses,” Lembo said. He noted that the miscellaneous tax category contains $75 million related to enhanced collection activities by the Department of Revenue Services.

    In his latest monthly report, Lembo highlighted several economic indicators that will likely influence the state budget going forward, most of them positive — including a sixth consecutive month of job growth in July, growth in home sales, and a strong stock market entering the new fiscal year.

    “The jobs are coming back — and the state’s economy continues to post moderate monthly growth,” Lembo said. “Our next step is focusing on the quality and income tied to those jobs, and closing the widening income gap between the nation’s highest and lowest earners.”

    Lembo pointed to a recent report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Council on Metro Economies released this month, which noted that the United States has regained 8.7 million jobs lost during the Great Recession, and that employment has surpassed its pre-recession peak of 138.4 million jobs in 2008, according to the report.

    However, the report also finds that wages tied to these recovered jobs have declined — and that the highest earners are earning more and the lowest earners are earning less. Income for jobs tied to education and health fields have declined, while the financial services industry income has grown, the report shows.

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    OP-ED | Defeat Of California Initiative Would Protect Insurers’ Profits

    by Wendell Potter | Sep 3, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Health Care, Opinion, Health Care Opinion, Reprinted with permission from the Center for Public Integrity

    Proposition 45 Would Allow State To Reject Rate Hikes

    For the next two months, Californians will be subjected to a barrage of TV, radio, and online ads, which, ironically, they unknowingly will be paying for with their health insurance premiums.

    The ads are a part of a multi-pronged, multimillion dollar campaign — developed by public relations, advertising firms and political consultants for the state’s biggest insurers — to convince voters that an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot designed to protect them against unreasonable rate increases will actually cause their premiums to go up.

    As of last week, a small handful of health insurers had contributed tens of millions of dollars to an organization called Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs. If you think the companies’ CEOs opened their personal checkbooks to finance that group’s work, think again. It is their customers that are paying for the propaganda campaign.

    CAHHCC/screenshot Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs (CAHHCC) is not a grassroots, consumer-led organization as the name implies. If you check out its website, you’ll read that it’s a “coalition of doctors, nurses, hospitals, health plans, and California employers” who want the state’s residents to vote against Proposition 45, which would give the state’s insurance regulators the ability to reject health insurance rate increases they deem excessive.

    But while a number of business and health care provider groups presumably have joined the coalition, it doesn’t appear that any of them have put any money on the table.  According to state filings, the campaign is being financed almost exclusively by five insurers with the most customers in the state: Anthem/WellPoint; Blue Shield of California; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; Health Net; and UnitedHealthcare.

    Of $37.9 million donated to CAHHCC as of August 22, $37.3 million came from those insurers and their PR and lobbying group, the California Association of Health Plans. The rest came from a small group of insurance brokers and their PR and lobbying groups, the California Association of Health Underwriters and the National Association of Health Underwriters.

    The main argument cited by these groups’ opposition to Proposition 45 is that it might interfere with the efforts of Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, to provide individuals and small businesses with affordable coverage options in a timely fashion.

    California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who is up for re-election this year, rejects that argument. In a letter to state lawmakers this summer, Jones wrote that if voters pass Proposition 45, his department — which has long had the ability to reject proposed rate increases from auto and property and casualty insurers — will work cooperatively with other state agencies “to ensure that rates are reviewed and approved to meet Covered California…deadlines.”

    Jones also pointed out that insurance regulators in 35 other states already have the ability to disapprove unreasonable rate increases, and he offered a point-by-point rebuttal of a report commissioned by the insurance industry that suggested Proposition 45 could undermine provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

    Jones wrote that his department has had more than three years’ experience reviewing individual and small group health insurance rates under the federal reform law “including experience last year completing review of health insurance rates in time to meet Covered California’s deadlines to allow health insurers to offer health insurance in the California exchange.”

    As a former health insurance company executive, I’d be willing to bet that the state’s health insurers care far less about meeting Covered California’s deadlines than meeting their profit goals. Their real concern, in my opinion, is that regulators with more experience reviewing insurers’ business practices than Covered California staffers might be more likely to detect proposed rate increases designed more to pad their bottom lines than to cover expected increases in medical costs. 

    According to the Los Angeles Times, a recent poll showed that 69 percent of registered California voters support Proposition 45, which means that the health insurers have their work cut out for them. But $38 million deployed strategically can change a lot of minds. And insurers know from successful campaigns they’ve conducted in the past that carefully targeted negative ads — and the use of front groups and surrogates — can quickly turn public opinion..

    Having been a part of planning and implementing such campaigns in my previous career, I can tell that the industry is conducting a “bifurcated” campaign in California. The industry’s message for conservatives, communicated by its allies in publications like Breitbart.com, is that if a Proposition 45 passes, Democrat Jones would become a health care “czar” empowered to destroy the “free market.”

    Another message for conservatives is that it would enable “trial lawyers who fund Jones’s campaigns” to get rich by intervening in the rate-approval process by filing “frivolous lawsuits” against health insurers.

    The industry’s key message to scare liberals, communicated by its “coalition,” is showing up in media seldom seen by most conservatives. Some of that $38 million was spent last week on an ad in Salon.com featuring a large picture of President Barack Obama and this message: “Protect Obamacare from Legal Attacks. Prop 45’s Dirty Little Secret: More Attacks Against Obamacare. Vote No on 45!”

    I will continue to monitor the industry’s campaign and write more about it in the weeks ahead.

    Former CIGNA executive-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter is writing about the health care industry and the ongoing battle for health reform for the Center for Public Integrity.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Rowland’s Defense Could Get Emails Into Evidence

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 2, 2014 8:22pm
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    Posted to: Campaign Finance, Courts, Election 2012, Legal, New Haven

    New Haven Independent file photo The day before former Gov. John G. Rowland’s second corruption trial began, U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton handed his attorneys a victory when she waived attorney client privileged, possibly allowing seven accidentally-disclosed emails to become evidence.

    The emails were between Brian Foley, the husband of congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, and his lawyers, who were helping him to turn himself in to authorities.

    Foley and Wilson-Foley pleaded guilty at the end of March to campaign finance violations. The two haven’t been sentenced, but they pleaded guilty to attempting to conceal $35,000 in payments to the ex-governor in 2011 and 2012 through Foley’s nursing home chain. At the same time, Rowland started working on Wilson-Foley’s campaign, but was never paid by the campaign.

    Rowland’s charges in the case stem from allegations that he conducted work for a congressional campaign and conspired to illegally hide his compensation from elections regulators. Prosecutors say the former governor drafted up false contracts, designed to mask the reasons for his pay.

    According to court documents, the feds acquired the privileged emails when they executed a search warrant on Foley’s laptop. Prosecutors wrote in court documents that they did not read the privileged emails, but they turned them over to Rowland’s lawyers when they were sending the defense team other data during discovery.

    In court documents, Rowland’s lead attorney Reid Weingarten said they assumed that Foley had waived his attorney-client privilege when prosecutors sent them the emails. He told Arterton on Tuesday that “feeding false information to the government” qualifies as an exception to attorney-client privilege.

    Weingarten described Foley’s emails to his attorneys as “false.”

    “They were part of a cover up,” he said.

    Weingarten, a high-powered defense attorney, described Foley on Tuesday as a “tough witness” and the reason they wanted the emails entered into evidence.

    Foley’s “going to testify the whole thing is a cover,” Weingarten told Arterton.

    U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan argued that Weingarten hadn’t met the burden of proof that Foley — the government’s key witness — attempted to commit fraud when he sent the emails to his attorneys.

    “The defense wants it both ways,” Brennan argued. They want to maintain the agreement between Rowland and Foley was legitimate, but argue it was false in order to meet the fraud exception.

    “It can’t be both ways if there’s an objective standard,” Brennan said.

    But Arterton was persuaded by Weingarten.

    “At some point along the line Mr. Foley isn’t telling the truth,” Arterton said.

    She said the grand jury testimony provided counsel with “factual representations they made to the government.”

    “The defense has met the crime-fraud exception,” Arterton concluded.

    She added Tuesday that “misleading and false information ought to be the subject of cross-examination.”

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Mattei declined to comment on how Arterton’s decision will impact the trial, which starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

    The first witness on the stand will be Mark Greenberg, who is running for a third time in the 5th Congressional District. The government says Rowland approached Greenberg in 2012 with a similar proposal to conceal his consulting services.

    Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported that the emails were entered into evidence. While they still could be argued into evidence, only attorney-client privileged had been waived as of publication of this article.

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    Connecticut Voices for Children Report Suggests State Still Years Away From Recovery

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 2, 2014 5:10pm
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    Connecticut is still years away from a full recovery from the Great Recession, according to a new report from Connecticut Voices for Children, which found the state lagging behind on job growth and wages.

    The annual report from the left-leaning think tank is called “The State of Working Connecticut.” This year’s report pointed to areas where the state’s economy is still struggling to recover from the recession, which officially ended five years ago.

    “Connecticut’s workers continue to face an economy with fewer jobs, falling wages and rising inequality,” Wade Gibson, director of the group’s Fiscal Policy Center, said on a Tuesday conference call. “In very real sense, we have not yet recovered from the Great Recession. We are still about three years away, at our current pace, from recovering the jobs lost. Wages remain depressed.”

    Gibson said the state’s sluggish recovery is consistent with a larger trend. When the recession hit in late 2007, Connecticut had barely recovered all the jobs lost during a smaller economic downturn earlier in the decade, Gibson said.

    “What we’re really talking about is a decade and a half or more where the average family in Connecticut — in fact, most families in Connecticut — really haven’t seen their economic fortunes improve,” he said.

    The economic troubles have disproportionately impacted young people, minority groups, and people with less education, Gibson said.

    “Demographically, those are the groups of people who are raising Connecticut’s next generation of workers, leaders, and parents. Close to a third of Connecticut’s children are growing up in poverty or near poverty,” he said.

    The group made several recommendations to help curb the trends. In the short term, Gibson called for tax reform. He said the state should restore its Earned Income Tax Credit. The program was originally adopted during Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first year in office but it was reduced from 30 percent to 25 percent because of budget constraints. Gibson also called for a tax credit or exemption that favors families raising children.

    In the long term, Gibson said the state should continue to focus on expanding access to early child care and education.

    “Like the EITC, high quality pre-school — there’s bipartisan consensus that it improves educational and life outcomes for children. The return on investment is quite impressive,” he said.

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    Clinton Stumps for Malloy in New Haven, Highlights Gov’s Strengths

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 2, 2014 2:49pm
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    christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie

    Former Pres. Clinton shakes hands on his way in to give a speech for Gov. Malloy at the Omni in New Haven on Tuesday

    Former President Bill Clinton told a friendly crowd of party loyalists Tuesday that Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy should be elected by 10 points or more based on what he’s been able to accomplish.

    That’s the message Clinton told a half-full ballroom of supporters at the Omni Hotel in New Haven. He also said that they have to get their family and friends on board.

    Clinton also acknowledged that Malloy’s rematch against Republican Tom Foley will by all accounts be a tight race.

    “We all say we want somebody who is going to be a leader,” Clinton said. “To make the hard decisions when times are hard. We want somebody who won’t look at the polls, but look toward the future and think about what’s good for the children.”

    He said that by those tests, Malloy has more than earned another four years as governor.

    But Foley would have his supporters believe that the state is worse off than four years ago and the rate of economic recovery is part of the reason.

    “This is a guy who prays for rain on a sunny day,” Malloy said of his opponent. “Connecticut is a great state. We’re going to prove that on election day.”

    christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie Clinton said Malloy should not be faulted for laying out a strategy and taking action to implement it.

    He said Malloy told the truth about what he would need to do to close a historic $3.67 billion budget deficit in 2011. He said Malloy was honest about the budget and told the people of Connecticut in 2010 that “if you think I can fix this without any pain then you need to hire somebody else.”

    “By 6,400 votes the people of Connecticut said ‘thank you for telling us the truth, plus go do the hard thing’,” Clinton said, citing the margin in Malloy’s 2010 victory over Foley.

    Clinton also praised Malloy for his handling of natural disasters and the Sandy Hook School shooting, which prompted the Connecticut legislature to enact tougher gun regulations.

    “I gotta say one thing about this gun issue,” Clinton said. “You know I was the last president to have some success. We passed the Brady bill and we passed the assault weapons ban and we limited ammunition clips and the blood was on the floor.”

    He said he told a group of deer hunters in New Hampshire that if they lost an hour in the woods because of the legislation he passed then he didn’t want them to vote for him.

    “You gotta have universal background checks,” Clinton said.

    He said he has a friend in the mountains of north Arkansas, “which is about as gun crazy as you can get.” His friend has a friend who is a gun collector and the gun collector said “anybody who would sell a gun to someone else at a gun store, over the Internet, out of the back of a pickup, at a gun show without a background check, ought to be ashamed of themselves. If you can’t pass one you got no business owning a gun.”

    christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie As far as Republicans go, Clinton said, “they talk tough, but they govern soft.”

    “They tell voters you can eat all the candy you want and you will never have to go to the dentist,” Clinton said. “The consequences are not good.”

    Clinton said Malloy learned to be tough because of the obstacles he overcame as a child.

    “He knew you’d never get anywhere in life if you lived in denial,” Clinton said. “. . . it is a lousy strategy for life, for child rearing, and for political leadership. You have the opposite in Dan Malloy.”

    He told the crowd that their job was to go talk to people who weren’t in the room and tell them why they should support Malloy and why they’ve got to vote.

    John Olsen, former president of the AFL-CIO and former Democratic Party chairman, said the biggest hurdle both Malloy and Foley face is voter apathy. It’s a midterm election and the governor’s race is at the top.

    “It’s not so much about polls,” Olsen said. “It’s about turning out your base and being competitive with the unaffiliated voters in the state. That’s what wins elections.”

    He said at the end of the day the governor needs to close the deal by telling voters why they need to vote for him.

    Olsen pointed out that the negative ads coming mostly from outside Super PACs are known to suppress the vote, so this election is likely to be tight and will hinge largely on turnout efforts.

    “The lives of the children and the future of this state will be shaped dramatically by this election,” Clinton told supporters. “In some ways this election is even more important than the last election.”

    Malloy told the crowd he didn’t need to remind them of their collective successes, which he said included the creation of 60,000 private sector jobs since he was elected. He also cited increases in education funding and the deal he struck with United Technologies Corporation to maintain its presence in Connecticut.

    “It’s great to have a former President visit our state—and it’s good for Connecticut,” Chris Cooper, a spokesman for Foley’s campaign said. “It also shows how desperate Dan Malloy is to bring in people he thinks can help him save his campaign which has been plagued by his record-breaking tax increase in 2011 and his failed polices which have stalled economic growth, resulting in Connecticut having one of the worst job recovery rates in the nation.”

    Prior to his speech at the Omni Hotel, Malloy and Clinton visited Katalina’s Bakery on Whitney Avenue.

    Katalina’s Bakery received a $30,000 Small Business Express loan from the state. Click here to read about Malloy’s previous visit to the bakery.

    Clinton visited the state back in 2010 shortly before Malloy’s second run for governor. That rally at the University of Hartford drew hundreds and came at a time when Malloy was behind in the polls. He won the election a few days later by 6,404 votes.

    The event at the Omni Hotel was a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The party declined to say how much it raised, but tickets were $50 per person.

    “We understand that Governor Malloy needs to raise money because he is behind in his race for re-election, but bringing former President Clinton here is a risky move,” the Republican Party said in a statement last week. “President Clinton insulted his wife and the American people by having an extramarital affair with a very young intern.”

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    Super PAC Ad Focuses On Taxes

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 2, 2014 2:06pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Screengrab

    (Updated 3:13 p.m.)A super PAC bankrolled by the Republican Governors Association released a new ad Tuesday designed to remind Connecticut voters that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has raised taxes.

    The group, called Grow Connecticut, is backing Republican Tom Foley in his rematch against Malloy, a Democrat who won narrowly in 2010. The super PAC spent more than $218,000 last week on an ad that reminds voters that Malloy increased taxes in 2011.

    Facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, Malloy raised taxes by about $1.5 billion that year.

    The ad opens with a black and white video of Malloy speaking during an October 2010 debate against Foley.

    “I want to be very clear, we’re not raising taxes, that’s the last thing we will do,” Malloy says.

    The commercial then transitions to short color snippets of people identified only by their first names and towns.

    “He said one thing and then he did another,” John, of Enfield, said.

    Through a series other speakers, the ad suggests that Malloy raised taxes on income, gas, sales and pet grooming.

    “If I want to get my dog washed, I have to pay taxes on that,” Lois, East Windsor, says.

    Malloy’s first budget raised the income tax and eliminated many tax exemption that were previously on the books including a $50 sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear. Although the gas tax went up during his first term, the increase was approved before Malloy was elected.

    The ad was produced by Target Enterprises, a California firm.

    The 30-second commercial does not mention Foley. But his campaign was focused on the same topic Tuesday. It launched a “no new taxes” online petition later that morning.

    Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy’s campaign, said the governor has kept his promise to balance the state budget without cutting municipal aid or spending on education.

    “He’s avoided laying off teachers, firefighters, police. He’s avoided reducing aid to cities and towns. He’s balanced a budget without doing those things,” Bergman said. “It begs the question for Mr. Foley, which one of those would he cut? The answer is he’d cut all of them. He would have to sacrifice those things to keep the promises he’s making.”

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    Gun Rights Group Passes On Endorsements

    by Hugh McQuaid | Sep 2, 2014 11:49am
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Calling their options “downright horrible,” opportunistic, or “absolutely delusional,” the gun rights group Connecticut Carry said Tuesday it will not be endorsing a candidate in this year’s gubernatorial election.

    Gun control has played a significant role in this year’s campaign as a result of strict firearm regulations passed during the first term of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The bill was approved in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

    By not backing a candidate, Connecticut Carry is at odds with the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a similar group, which last week endorsed Republican Tom Foley. The group picked Foley, who narrowly lost to Malloy in 2010, over Joe Visconti, a petitioning conservative candidate who has made gun rights central to his campaign.

    Connecticut Carry has maintained that none of the candidates deserve an endorsement.

    “One of the primary reasons for this is that there is no one to endorse. The current crop of political candidates range from downright horrible to only wanting to use us for our votes to absolutely delusional,” the press release read.

    Without naming any, the Connecticut Carry statement implied that some Second Amendment groups were making partisan endorsements rather than focusing on gun rights.

    “We would require any candidate to meet our standards for the advocacy of individual rights no matter what party they did or didn’t belong to. Since we are the zero compromise, pro-rights organization in Connecticut, we refuse to make allegiances or alliances with politicians that can and will turn their backs on our organization and members once they get into office,” the statement read.

    Connecticut Carry President Richard Burgess did not immediately return calls for comment.

    Foley has been cautiously opposed to the 2013 gun control law. If elected, he has said he would not push to repeal the law, but would sign a repeal in the unlikely event the legislature passed one.

    Gun control is an issue that has divided Connecticut voters. A Quinnipiac University poll released in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 law with 38 percent opposed.

    Democrats have publicized Foley’s endorsement last week by the 15,000-member CCDL. In press releases, they have referred to the group as “extreme right-wing gun advocacy group.” During a Democrat-organized conference call last week, East Hartford Mayor Marcia Leclerc accused Foley of selling “his soul to the devil” for the group’s support.

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    Yankee Institute Says Unfunded Pension Liability Larger Than Reported

    by Christine Stuart | Sep 2, 2014 5:30am
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    Posted to: Economics, Labor, Pension, State Budget

    A new analysis of Connecticut’s unfunded pension liability by the conservative Yankee Institute claims that its unfunded liability is much higher than an actuary for the state has estimated.

    The analysis conducted by J. Scott Moody, CEO of State Budget Solutions, and Wendy Warcholik, of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, concluded that Connecticut’s unfunded pension liability is much greater than the $24.5 billion reported by the state. Moody and Warcholik found the “real unfunded pension liability is $76.8 billion, or 213 percent higher than current forecasts.”

    The state estimated in 2012 that pension obligations for active and retired state employees, teachers, and judges totaled $48.2 billion.

    “Yet, the state has only set aside $23.7 billion in assets to pay for these obligations,” Moody and Warcholik wrote in the report. “The pension system reports an unfunded liability of $24.5 billion. But our study shows that liability is more than three times that amount.”

    The most recent actuarial valuation of the pension funds showed that as of June 30, 2012, the State Employees’ Retirement System was funded at 42.3 percent and the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was funded at 55.24 percent.

    That means the State Employees’ Retirement System had $9.7 billion worth of assets, which is enough to cover 42.3 percent of the $23 billion in liabilities. The Teachers’ Retirement Fund did slightly better because in 2008 the General Assembly agreed to put $2 billion on the state credit card to help make payments to the fund. That means the teachers’ fund had $13.7 billion in assets, which is enough to cover 55.24 percent of its $24.9 billion in liabilities. Experts say an 80 percent funding level is considered healthy.

    The next actuarial valuation of Connecticut’s funds isn’t expected to be completed until after the November 2014 election.

    Moody and Warcholik said the state set aside $144 million in 2013 for other retiree benefits, which are facing a liability of $22.7 billion. In order to meet its obligations they found the state would have to increase its pension and other retiree benefit contributions by $2.8 billion per year.

    The Yankee Institute report concluded that in order to find the additional $2.8 billion per year that the state would need to meet its increased obligations, it would need to raise taxes or put new employees into a 401K type pension system.

    But a union spokesman doesn’t believe the Yankee Institute’s report.

    “This is nothing more than partisan political posturing by an organization to weaken the ability of unions to represent workers and put an end to real pensions,” Larry Dorman, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 4, said last week.

    Dorman said Connecticut’s pension system actually benefits the state because retirees contribute to the economy.

    Pensionomics 2014: Measuring the Economic Impact of DB Pension Expenditures He cited a report by the National Institute on Retirement Security, which found that 110,374 Connecticut residents received a total of $3.7 billion in pension benefits from state and local government in 2012.

    “Retirees’ expenditures from these benefits supported a total of $6.6 billion in total economic output in the state, and $4.3 billion in value added in the state,” according to the report.

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is running for re-election against Republican Tom Foley, has said he wouldn’t ask state employees for more concessions. The 2011 contract he negotiated with them for health and pension benefits goes through 2022.

    “A deal is a deal. We’ve made a deal and we’re going to honor that deal,” Malloy has said of the 2011 State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition labor agreement.

    In 2011, state workers agreed to a two-year salary freeze and other concessions, including an increase in contributions to their pensions, in exchange for four years of protection from layoffs.

    Malloy has said the deal, which was criticized for relying heavily upon difficult-to-quantify savings, has been undervalued.

    “Quite frankly it’s a tremendously valuable deal. I think what’s misunderstood — perhaps purposefully so by some folks — is how much total savings that has brought about and that it really is the biggest reason we can look at our benefit package as sustainable,” he said.

    Foley has said Malloy can’t be trusted when it comes to concessions.

    “In 2010 Dan Malloy signed a public union questionnaire saying he wouldn’t seek concessions,” Foley said in June. “After being elected, he promptly broke that promise. Why should the unions believe him this time? As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    However, Foley doesn’t necessarily believe the Yankee Institute’s recommendations will help the state fund its pension liabilities.

    Foley has already ruled out a tax increase to close a projected budget deficit and he said last week that he’s not sure moving state employees to a 401K type plan would actually be beneficial.

    “All it does is shift the risk on investment returns to retirees or the state,” Foley said.

    He said structuring the benefit plans differently won’t necessarily make them less expensive, and he doesn’t have a “preference” regarding defined benefit plans or defined contribution plans, such as 401Ks.

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    OP-ED | This Isn’t Just A Vacation Day

    by Lindsay Farrell | Sep 1, 2014 5:29am
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    Posted to: Labor, Opinion

    Today, Labor Day, many of us will have a day off. We’ll go to the beach, or host a BBQ, and enjoy the end of summer. But it is important to remember that today is not just a day off.

    There is a purpose and a history behind the holiday. In 1887 Labor Day was officially established to commemorate the labor movement, and the economic advances of workers and laborers. But today as our economy shifts, many of the advances made by the labor movement are eroding. The Working Families Party was established to combat that. We give workers and their families a voice in our government, and fight for an economy that will work for everyone, not just the rich.

    While many of us will have the day off, a growing number of workers will be on the job. Restaurant cooks and servers, retail workers, and grocery store staff, to name just a small segment, will not get the day off. It is a sign of our changing economy, and a prime example of workers losing ground. Our middle class is disappearing and economic inequality is reaching extreme levels. Wages are flat or falling, benefits like paid vacation time and retirement savings opportunities are a luxury instead of the norm, and job security is a thing of the past.

    It has always been a struggle for workers to gain respect on the job, particularly for workers who do not have a labor union to help them negotiate. Increasingly state and federal policies are determining the quality of a workplace. And today, a flood of corporate dollars and armies of special interest lobbyists drown out the voices of workers. The result has been predictable: large corporations, and Wall Street banks have gained power, and can frequently defeat common sense legislation that would benefit workers.

    That’s where the Working Families Party comes in. We exist to represent working and middle class families and the unemployed: to raise our voices at the Capitol, and advocate for legislation that will have a positive impact on our lives.

    And it works. In the past few years we have won some incredible victories. We passed the first statewide paid sick days program, ensuring hundreds of thousands of workers wouldn’t have to choose between their health and their paycheck. We helped Connecticut become the first state to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. We helped lay the groundwork for a public retirement savings program so that every worker has the ability to retire with dignity and security. When workers organize and stand up for themselves, they can win policies that improve their lives, even over the objections of corporate interests.

    One of the major reasons for our success on these issues is our unique ability to support candidates, as a political party, who become champions on these issues once elected. The Working Families Party is different than other political parties because it only supports candidates who will stand up for families like ours. It isn’t about personalities or power. It is about values. That is what being an independent political party is all about: our hands aren’t tied by special interests or political bosses. We won’t let anything stand in the way of building a fair and inclusive economy and government.

    So today, as you are heading to parades or BBQs, think about how much more we can accomplish for workers. We need to solve the student debt crisis. We need to expand family friendly workplace policies like paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. We need to hold large profitable corporations accountable for poverty wages and shady tax dodging schemes. Then think about how we can accomplish these goals and more. Just as labor unions have amplified workers voices on the job, the Working Families Party amplifies workers voices at the polls. This November, vote on the Working Families Party ballot line and stand up for your values.

    Lindsay Farrell is the executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Malloy Reminds Labor To Vote For Him In November

    by Christine Stuart | Aug 29, 2014 4:10pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Labor, East Hartford

    Christine Stuart photo

    Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier

    On the eve of the Labor Day weekend, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy reminded labor leaders from across the state why they should support him in November.

    At a union hall in East Hartford on Friday, Malloy acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to ask state employees for concessions back in 2011, but the state was “in a pickle.”

    The Malloy administration faced a $3.67 billion budget deficit. In order to close the gap, he asked the state employee unions, who had worked hard to get him elected, for $1.6 billion in concessions. That year, Malloy also increased taxes $1.5 billion to help close the budget hole.

    The state “had been driven into a ditch,” Malloy said Friday as he rolled up his sleeves to address the labor leaders. “Its obligations had been underfunded. State workers and all organized labor was under assault. Something had to be done.”

    He said his job was to figure out how to “protect people” and “get our house in order.”

    Labor leaders felt Malloy could have handled the 2011 negotiations better, but they didn’t feel they would have gotten a better deal if Republican Tom Foley had been elected.

    AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Lori Pelletier described labor’s relationship with Malloy as “solid.”

    She said all you have to do is look at who the Republican Party and Malloy’s Republican opponent have brought into the state: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

    “You can call it guilt by association,” Pelletier said.

    As far as Malloy’s relationship with Connecticut’s labor movement is concerned, Pelletier said over the past few years it’s grown.

    “A relationship is like a stone wall so you keep putting rocks on the stone wall and it builds up,” Pelletier said. “Listen, labor was the difference four years ago and we’ve proved to be good allies over the course of four years and he’s proved to be a good ally by respecting us.”

    She said the number of people they contacted in 2010 and got to the polls made a difference when Malloy won the election against Foley by 6,404 votes.

    AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters, who introduced Malloy on Friday, said she wants a governor “who respects workers rights” and “has an open door policy.”

    Peters said the union drafted a six-page document outlining the Malloy administration’s accomplishments, including two controversial executive orders that allowed 10,000 personal care attendants and family child care providers to organize and collectively bargain.

    “I want a governor who returns calls no matter who calls,” Peters said.

    Malloy said he was trying to live up to all the accolades Peters showered upon him in her introduction.

    “I want a state where workers are respected,” Malloy said. “I want a state where people are making a good and decent living.”

    Reflecting on his first debate earlier this week with Foley, Malloy said his opponent “promises to do something, but he doesn’t really promise what it is. And he says he has a way to get there, but he doesn’t explain it.”

    Reached by telephone after Malloy’s speech on Friday, Foley said he wouldn’t change the relationship the state has with its state employees and he wouldn’t look to change the way collective bargaining works in Connecticut.

    Foley made similar remarks in June when he addressed the AFL-CIO’s convention in New Haven.

    In order to balance the budget, Foley told the group he would hold state spending flat for the next two years.

    “I can do this without layoffs and without undoing the agreements public employees now have with the state of Connecticut. The governor and the state must keep their word. A deal is a deal. You can tell everybody you know I made that commitment,” he said.

    On Friday, Foley said that it’s obvious Malloy would try and paint him as a person who is not going to be fair to state employees. He said his 35 years in business taught him it’s necessary to be fair to workers and give them the benefits they want and deserve.

    “State government does a lot of things and those things mostly get done through people,” Foley said.

    He said if he wants to be the “best governor the state has ever had,” then he’s going to have to be respectful and fair to the workforce. He said state workers would actually “feel more secure” under his administration.

    As far as his relationship with labor, Malloy admitted Friday that “there are crises that pull at fabrics, but don’t tear them apart.”

    He said he thinks labor recognizes the tough work they had to do during his first year in office.

    “I then went out and kept my promises because it was good for the people who work for us and it was good for the people who we serve,” Malloy said.

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    Pelto Officially Out of Race

    by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 29, 2014 3:19pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Christine Stuart file photo

    Jonathan Pelto

    Secretary of the State Denise Merrill confirmed in a press release Friday that petitioning candidate Jonathan Pelto will not be appearing on the ballot during this year’s campaign for governor.

    Merrill, the state’s top election official, verified what Pelto signaled to his supporters almost a week ago — he had failed to collect the 7,500 voter signatures necessary to petition onto the ballot. According to Merrill, Pelto collected 4,318 signatures.

    Pelto, a liberal critic of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and former lawmaker, had hoped to challenge Malloy’s re-election by picking off progressive voters dissatisfied with the governor’s education policies. He created the Education and Democracy Party in an effort to get on the ballot.

    “While we failed to achieve that critical goal, we’re hopeful that our effort has and will continue to spur a more serious discussion about the critically important issues facing Connecticut,” Pelto said Friday.

    He said he would stay involved in the political process and will partner with other third parties to “develop and advocate for a legislative package that will reduce the unfair aspects of the petitioning process.”

    Malloy will appear twice on the ballot in November: as the Democratic candidate and as the candidate for the Working Families Party. His 2010 rival, Tom Foley, will also appear on two lines as the candidate for the Republican Party and the Independent Party. Meanwhile, Joe Visconti, a conservative candidate and gun rights activist will also appear on the ballot.

    Pelto had objected to the rejection of some of the signatures submitted for him and publicly considered a legal challenge. But he has since acknowledged that even if a court accepted those dismissed signatures, he still wouldn’t have enough to qualify.

    “It’s become apparent to me that we may not be close enough that those errors will make a difference,” he said Monday. “. . . I think we just failed to get enough signatures, part of it is organizational. We just dropped the ball.”

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    OP-ED | We Treat Third Parties Like Pariahs, And Our Democracy Suffers For It

    by Susan Bigelow | Aug 29, 2014 1:00pm
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    Posted to: Election 2014, Election Policy, Opinion

    It looks like former State Rep. Jonathan Pelto will be left off of the ballot for governor this fall, which will be a relief to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election team. It’s also a sad commentary on the way we treat minor parties in this state, and how the two-party monopoly squeezes out much-needed competition.

    I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan of Pelto’s candidacy; I felt his important points tended to get lost in a sea of hyperbole and vitriol. He had every right to run, though, and he seemed poised to appeal to a constituency of teachers and union members that had felt slighted during the Malloy years. I fully expected Pelto would gather the signatures he needed, and maybe pick up the endorsement of some of the unions who have been furious with Gov. Malloy.

    None of that happened. Unions who felt betrayed by the governor during the fight over state employee concessions in 2011 and again over teacher tenure and education reform in 2012 are now lining up behind his re-election campaign, leaving Pelto high and dry.

    Union leaders actively shut Pelto out, and some went as far as attacking his record. SEIU 1199NE President David Pickus said that Pelto, who has been a consistent pro-union voice, “. . . had no support for unions in 2001 when he was strategizing against Connecticut workers and aligning himself with disgraced former governor John Rowland.”

    It didn’t end there. The Connecticut Education Association, which on the issues should have been one of Pelto’s biggest allies, actually blocked him from collecting signatures outside their convention. They went on to endorse the governor’s re-election campaign.

    Union members may agree more with Pelto or another minor party candidate, but the organizations don’t feel nearly strong or confident enough to actually break their alliance with the Democratic Party. Unions know that if they want to remain relevant at all, they have to align themselves with one of the two major parties — and one of those utterly despises them. So what choice do they have?

    The upshot is that, of this writing, Pelto believed he had failed to gather the signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot. Part of this is his campaign’s fault, but fearful, weak unions and a system that makes ballot access for minor party candidates obnoxious and difficult didn’t help.

    But it’s not just organized labor that’s feeling pressure to stay with the two party monopoly — the Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League, a pro-Second Amendment interest group, endorsed Tom Foley today over independent Joe Visconti. This is puzzling: Foley’s views on gun control have been waffling and ethereal, while Visconti has made his entire campaign about restoring gun rights. Visconti, who did manage to qualify for November’s ballot, also said he’d received some “vitriolic” Facebook posts from CCDL board members, and was facing pushback from other organizations that favored Foley.

    Even the two bigger “minor” parties in the state, the Working Families Party and the Independent Party, have largely made headlines in recent years not by winning elections on their own but instead by cross-endorsing Democrats or Republicans, respectively.

    The problem here is that we’re stuck in a two-party rut, and we have no good way of getting out of it. This is our system, and it’s (mostly) worked for us since the Civil War, but there are a lot of very significant drawbacks causing problems.

    First, this system actually works against democracy, because a lot of voices by necessity don’t get heard. Unions and progressives may not like where Connecticut’s Democratic leaders are going, but they have no real option other than running primary after primary and trying to drag the big party to the left. The same is true of groups on the right.

    Another effect of having a two-party monopoly is polarization — the two big parties know that one or the other will win, so they can throw all their energy into blocking and winning at all costs instead of trying to build coalitions.

    Voting reform might have an effect on this. California’s “top two” primary system is a good start, and so are a lot of alternative voting schemes that let people choose a second choice. Making ballot access easier and more straightforward would help, as well, as would more consistent inclusion of minor party candidates in debates and public campaign financing.

    Our democracy needs to evolve to ensure everyone’s voice is heard — and make sure that the sort of election we’re facing, where the only real choices are between bad and worse, never happens again.

    Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

    DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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    Gun Rights Group Goes With Foley

    by Christine Stuart | Aug 29, 2014 11:14am
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    Posted to: Election 2014

    Christine Stuart file photo

    Tom Foley and Joe Visconti at a gun rally in April at the state Capitol

    Upon hearing that the 15,000-member Connecticut Citizens Defense League endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley Friday morning, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy could barely contain his excitement.

    “I’m shocked. I’m shocked,” Malloy said with a grin on his face.

    Malloy said Foley would repeal the stricter gun laws passed post-Newtown, if a bill makes it to his desk.

    “When a governor says he’ll sign a bill or he’ll sign a repeal he’s actually advocating a position,” Malloy said. “If people want to rollback regulations that have lowered crime and made children safer, and made teachers safer, and made parents safer and make communities safer ... then you know, I guess they know who their guy is because he just got endorsed by an organization that advocates doing every one of those things.”

    The Second Amendment group, which saw its membership grow in response to the post-Newtown gun control measures taken by the legislature, said after carefully considering the issues it has decided to endorse Foley and his running mate Heather Bond Somers.

    “Governor Dannel Malloy has a proven track record of supporting anti-rights legislation and has vilified and ostracized Connecticut gun owners throughout his term,” the group said in an email. “It is time for him to be to be replaced. We strongly believe that the team of Tom Foley and Heather Somers will take Connecticut in a new direction that is so desperately needed.”

    In addition to Foley and Somers, the group endorsed the rest of the Republican ticket and Democratic Sens. Cathy Osten and Andy Maynard. Democratic State Reps. Ed Jutila, Linda Orange, Dan Rovero, Peggy Sayers, Buddy Altobello, Lou Esposito, and Kevin Ryan were also endorsed by the group.

    Joe Visconti, the Republican who petitioned his way onto the ballot, and has made gun rights a central part of his platform was snubbed by the group.

    On Monday, Visconti said he blocked on Facebook several board members from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League. He said he had received several concerning and “vitriolic” posts from members of the 2nd Amendment group who support Foley.

    “I don’t like to block folks, I’m a huge First Amendment guy, but it’s off the reservation,” Visconti said about the posts. “I know these guys, we’ve politically bled together for years. To watch my own go like this, I mean, wow.”

    Foley said that he never sought the group’s endorsement, but was happy to “have anybody’s endorsement” in what is expected to be a close race.

    However, it’s unclear how much their endorsement will help his candidacy.

    “I don’t know if Tom wants their endorsement,” Visconti said earlier this week. “I don’t think he can run fast enough away from it.”

    A Quinnipiac University poll in May suggested that 56 percent of voters support the 2013 gun control law.

    Click here to read the rest of CCDL’s endorsements.

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    Feds Accidentally Disclose Privileged Emails In Rowland Case

    by Hugh McQuaid | Aug 29, 2014 10:21am
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    Posted to: Legal

    Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register File photo

    Former Gov. John G. Rowland walks with his attorney Reid Weingarten on the far left into court

    Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to prevent former Gov. John Rowland’s lawyers from using accidentally-disclosed privileged emails as evidence during his campaign corruption trial scheduled to begin Wednesday. 

    Rowland’s charges stem from allegations that he conducted work for a congressional campaign and conspired to illegally hide his compensation from elections regulators. Prosecutors say the former governor drafted up false contracts, designed to mask the reasons for his pay.

    A jury has been selected to hear the case and decide whether Rowland broke the law while accepting payments from Brian Foley, the husband of former Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson Foley. He made a similar proposal to Mark Greenberg, another candidate who is running again this year.

    The trial is set to start next week and the proceedings are expected to include testimony from the Foleys, who have pleaded guilty to related charges. But according to court documents filed Wednesday, prosecutors are concerned the proceedings may be slowed down.

    That’s because they accidentally shared with Rowland’s lawyers a set of privileged emails including messages sent between Brian Foley and his lawyer. According to the motion, the feds acquired the emails when they executed a search warrant on Brian Foley’s laptop.

    Prosecutors wrote they did not read the privileged emails but they turned them over to Rowland’s lawyers when they were sending the defense team other data during discovery.

    “The government has recently learned that, in the process of producing Mr. Rowland’s potentially privileged communications to him, it inadvertently produced to the defendant other electronic data that had been marked as privileged, including those originating fr