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Foley Think Tank Walks Fine Line Between Politics & Policy

by Hugh McQuaid | Mar 7, 2014 3:59pm
(14) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2014

Hugh McQuaid Photo

Tom Foley

It was difficult to separate politics from policy Friday as a nonprofit institute founded by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley released a set of recommendations on urban policy after an introduction by the candidate.

The Connecticut Policy Institute’s report focuses on recommendations for job growth, crime reduction, neighborhood revitalization, and career education in the state’s urban centers. Ben Zimmer, the institute’s executive director, said his group works to formulate good policy and operates independently of Foley.

“In Connecticut and across the country, too often when we’re thinking about policy, it becomes submerged into the lens of politics,” Zimmer said.

Foley, the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 who lost a historically close race to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, introduced Zimmer at the press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

He said he was proud of the work of the institute, which he founded in 2011 just months after the gubernatorial election. He said the work has been non-partisan and research-based, but Foley did not discourage politics from entering the equation Friday. His campaign advised reporters of the event in an email under the “Tom Foley for Governor” letterhead.

Foley told reporters his presence helped bring exposure to the group’s report.

“I think it highlights the policy work they’re doing. If you’re sitting out there and you’re doing excellent policy work and nobody knows you’re doing it and nobody’s paying any attention, nobody’s writing about it, the cameras aren’t rolling—it doesn’t have any impact,” he said.

Zimmer said his group has always been upfront about its association with Foley and hoped that association would not make some people closed off to the ideas included in their reports. Zimmer pointed to the recent activity of Malloy, who is widely expected to run for re-election this year.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “Gov. Malloy spoke at the [Connecticut Business and Industry Association] event earlier this week,” he said. “Tom is here exclusively in his capacity as CPI founder and prominent official in this state…. People are going to perceive what they perceive. I can’t control the way people process information.”

When asked by a reporter, Zimmer said he did not believe the cost of putting together the report should be considered an in-kind contribution to Foley’s campaign. Last year Foley agreed to pay the State Elections Enforcement Commission $15,504, to cover the cost of a poll his campaign commissioned.

Malloy, who was in Rhode Island Friday, has stated that he does not intend to announce whether he will be a candidate this year until May, after the legislative session concludes.

In the meantime, he has kept an active public schedule by attending events throughout the state. He is currently engaged in a series of town hall meetings where he has been engaged with voters and on Wednesday spoke at a New Britain event with President Barack Obama aimed at shoring up support for raising the minimum wage.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for the Connecticut Democratic Party, called Friday’s press conference a “purely political” effort by Foley. But Hallinan would say little about the nature of Malloy’s frequent events.

Hugh McQuaid Photo “Sure, he’s out and about but I think attending an event held by the President of the United States is very different from the Connecticut Policy Institute,” he said. “[Malloy’s] made it clear that he’s out supporting Democratic ideals and Democratic causes as well. I think that’s a very clear difference.”

A poll released this week by Quinnipiac University suggested that voters were evenly split between supporting Malloy and Foley, who had the highest polling numbers among Republican candidates. Quinnipiac called the 42 - 42 percent matchup a “dead heat.”

Foley said Friday the poll results were good news for Republicans.

“To be this far out, and to be showing this even in a very blue state with a Democratic incumbent, I think this shows that the people are unhappy with where Connecticut is and where it seems to be going under this governor,” he said.

As for the Connecticut Policy Institute’s urban recommendations, Foley said he would not adopt them directly as part of his campaign platform but said they were a “good start” and represent a set of policies he may adopt.

“We need to talk to people in these communities, we need to talk to business leaders about whether these will work and which of them will work and make the most sense,” he said. “In terms of my campaign and developing an urban policy agenda of my own, this a good framework to start from.”

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(14) Comments

posted by: LongJohn47 | March 7, 2014  5:30pm

As much as I like politics, it seems like this article could have spent spent some time talking about the policy proposals that were supposed to be the subject of the press event.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think Foley’s an empty suit, but that doesn’t preclude his staff from having a few good ideas. 

Government should be about policy, not personality and politics.  Foley (assuming he’s the eventual nominee) is going to spend the next eight months beating Malloy up over job creation.  It would be nice to know what he thinks could be done differently.  Hopefully it’s more creative that eliminating regulations and lowering taxes.

posted by: Christine Stuart | March 7, 2014  6:17pm

Christine Stuart

Longjohn, There is a link to the report in the second paragraph of the story. It was a compilation of public policy papers on everything from crime to education. None of the specific proposals were really discussed at the press conference.
Christine

posted by: RichTut2014 | March 8, 2014  3:32pm

It is good to have a candidate above politics.  He presents the problems….and solutions to make Connecticut a leader among states. More voters should listen and realize that we need leaders who are not politicians.

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 8, 2014  3:42pm

@John: Since you describe Tom Foley as “an empty suit” - than you might find Dan Malloy to be “an invisible man.” Spread your humor
around, “unless you find Malloy dresses in a suit of armor and immune from being it “politically incorrect?”
It’s Malloy who has been doing the bad acting job as governor—not Foley.  Don’t blame Foley because you happen not to like the guy. You like to be objective LongJohn—but I believe you are objecting about the wrong person by doing a bad haberdashery number on him.
Malloy has been doing the bad fiscal numbers on our state.  If Connectticut is to turn around from the political fiscal demise created by Malloy—they need a proven businessman like Foley to do it—“even if he wants to wear work clothes” as the state needs a ton of work to regain it’s fiscal stability caused by bad politics under Malloy.

posted by: bdzimmer | March 8, 2014  6:16pm

This is Ben Zimmer from the CPI.  I greatly appreciate Christine and Hugh covering our release, and I think linking to the policy papers on our website (as they have done) is a great way to share the recommendations.  I just wanted to clarify in response to the last comment that the press conference did extensively discuss our specific policy recommendations.  I delivered a 10-minute presentation in which I exclusively discussed the recommendations, and I would say in the Q&A about 50% was about policy itself while 50% focused on questions about the institute’s structure, objectives, etc.  I absolutely welcome those questions, though like LongJohn47 I’d much rather focus on our research, analysis, and recommendations.

posted by: Christine Stuart | March 8, 2014  6:20pm

Christine Stuart

Apologies Ben. I was in and out of the room. LongJohn47 I stand corrected. Thanks Ben for posting.

posted by: LongJohn47 | March 8, 2014  8:02pm

Stan—“fiscal demise created by Malloy”  Seriously??? 

Do you remember the $3.3 billion deficit that Governor Rell left for her successor? 

Do you remember Foley claiming (lying would be more accurate) that he could balance the budget without new taxes and without hurting town allocations?

Do you realize that we now have a balanced budget, with a surplus, and we’re putting money into the rainy day fund?

I get that you want smaller government and lower taxes.  Unfortunately for you, the rest of CT doesn’t agree.

BTW, I label Foley an “empty suit” because I’ve watched him answer basic questions about government policy and all he has to say are inane bromides that mean nothing and have little relevance to our situation.  He really has no clue what to do.

That doesn’t mean that I hate Foley.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  I wouldn’t waste my time and emotional energy on the guy.  He’s simply not worth it.

As to Malloy, you may not like him but to call him the “invisible man” is ridiculous.  He’s done more town halls around the state than his three predecessors combined (Rell did none—zero—and I doubt that Rowland appeared anywhere other than his hot tub and federal court).

So let’s have a fact-based discussion about the future of CT.  So far, all I’ve heard is BS.

posted by: RichTut2014 | March 9, 2014  3:59pm

The Democrat Legislature did not want a balanced budget (under Rell) for political reasons (ie next Gov election).  Some Democrat Legislatures left office after being bullied to vote the “party way”. This state needs more statesmen and less politicians. A statesman will tell you what is right for the people and state.  A politician will smile and tell you what you, the voter, want to hear.

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 10, 2014  10:14am

@LongJohn:  No I don’t believe the we a balanced budget with a surplus and beginning to put money into a rainy day fund.  “That’s all hogwash”—due to the fact that we are predicted to have at least a $1 billion dollar budget deficit at the end of our fiscal year—which is just around the corner.  You seem to be a nice guy John—but it appears that your crystal ball needs a cleaning job.

posted by: LongJohn47 | March 10, 2014  12:32pm

Stan—This year we have a surplus.  yes, next year we have another predicted deficit, and the Governor (whoever that is) and the General Assembly will have to make some tough decisions because the budget has to balance.

Rich—I agree that the Democratic legislature under Rell contrived to “balance” the budget by a series of one-time gimmicks.  But you also have to understand that Rell essentially abandoned her job the last year in office and let them do whatever they wanted.

This is exactly what Malloy pledged not to do, and his first budget therefore needed tax increases along with union concessions which nobody liked.  Under your definition, Malloy is a statesman, not a politician.

posted by: GBear423 | March 11, 2014  8:44am

GBear423

Gov Malloy is the epitome of a politician. The fiscal situation is the clearest example. Announcing we have a surplus is pure politics; we have raised and extended taxes and then borrowed by deferring bond payments and refinancing others, taking loans for operating costs, and the “Statesman” decides to exempt half of teacher’s pension payments… and our $55 checks in the mail, oh ya, and unfunded pension liabilities- highest among the States.. and so the Statesman talks about Minimum Wage?? That’s treating the electorate like adults? that is facing the problems and finding solutions?  really?

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 11, 2014  12:26pm

GBeard423; Your very honest descption of Gov. Malloy—who is leading our state to ruin—and pretends to be doing something by his daily “careless with the truth” taxpayer-paid press release
gimmicks —is why Gov. Malloy must be voted out of of office. He will get the large social benefits crowd to the polls to vote for him—but the rest of us must be there to vote him out of office.  Also, Democratic voters must realize that there is no Democratic prosperity in Connecticut with Malloy in office.

posted by: Salmo | March 11, 2014  6:28pm

Line?? We don’t see no stinking line!!

posted by: StanMuzyk | March 11, 2014  7:02pm

Salmo:  I didn’t see the line either—“but since it stunk—the power of the nose surely could have detected it.”