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OP-ED | Of Teabags And Torts: Greenberg In The Fightin’ 5th

by | Aug 22, 2014 5:30am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Election 2014, Opinion

The battle for control of Connecticut’s competitive 5th-district congressional seat has been simmering for awhile. But when opposition research is dumped into the public domain, you know the race has reached a full boil and the incumbent is worried.

The re-election campaign of first-term Rep. Elizabeth Esty, operating through a well-oiled surrogate, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, last week released a 99-page “research book” on Republican opponent Mark Greenberg. The DCCC report was ably chronicled by Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender. And a few days after his Lenderizing, Greenberg defended himself through a flack.

The are no earth-shaking revelations here. Greenberg, a wealthy real estate developer and landlord, has been sued a total of 58 times. The DCCC reports this tidbit breathlessly, as if it would make a great exhibit at the lawsuit museum Ralph Nader has planned for his hometown of Winsted.

But if Greenberg, as a developer and landlord, hadn’t been sued multiple times (with or without merit), I’d be shocked. For in this day and age, litigation has become the order of the day. Indeed for some, it has become the preferred method of settling disputes.

An innocent slip and fall on the front steps of an apartment building or an infestation of mice can attract the attention an ambulance full of lawyers whose profession is overpopulated anyway. But hey, politicians have voting records, academics have paper trails, and businessmen have tort trails.

The DCCC oppo dump also includes a peculiar reference to Greenberg’s religion: It says he “identifies as Jewish,” as if his faith were akin to sexual orientation or political affiliation.

But it appears that some of Greenberg’s past statements and positions, as enunciated two years ago when he ran in the GOP primary and lost to former state Sen. Andrew Roraback, will come back to haunt him. Those utterances have to do with public policy and are far more substantive than his legal history or religion.

For one thing, Greenberg favors privatizing Social Security — an idea so unpopular that in his second term, President George W. Bush couldn’t even get his fellow Republicans in Congress to support it. Never mind that the privatization mechanism would only have taken effect if the beneficiary specifically elected to join it, so no one would have been taking the money out of senior citizens’ pockets and gambling it on the stock market without their consent. Still, the idea remains poison, particularly in blue states like Connecticut.

Other policy positions and statements will also make Greenberg a tough sell. The DCCC document notes that Greenberg once bragged, “I don’t know of anyone more conservative than I am.” That might go over well in South Carolina, or even among a small band of right wingers in the politically mixed 5th district. But in general those kinds of pronouncements are not made in polite company in Connecticut, which has the “steady habit” of electing moderate Republicans in the mold of Lowell Weicker, Nancy Johnson, Roraback and, yes, even John Rowland.

According to the DCCC, Greenberg has at various times said President Obama is pursuing “a communist agenda,” has opposed comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, wants to repeal Obamacare, and supports voucherizing Medicare.

Hearst Connecticut Media Group Such views give Democrats an opening to brand Greenberg as some kind of wild-eyed radical. Oh, wait. They’ve already done that. A billboard on Route 8 in Waterbury brands Greenberg “too far to be right.” And if that message is too subtle, to the right of those words is a tea bag whose tab says “radical right.” Ironically, that ham-handed attack wasn’t the handiwork of the Democratic machine, but of the brothers who own the sign company. They launched similar attacks against former two-time Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

Esty and her fellow Democrats are right and they have nothing to worry about. Greenberg is simply too conservative to represent the fightin’ 5th. But when Esty wins in a landslide on Nov. 4, she will have one person to thank.

The boss of her husband, Daniel, the former commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, did them both a huge favor when he appointed Roraback a Superior Court judge after he lost to Mrs. Esty in the general election two years ago. In putting Roraback on the bench, Gov. Dan Malloy removed the only other candidate with the resources and clout to challenge Mrs. Esty. That left the door wide open for the wealthy Greenberg, who said he would spend whatever is “necessary to get elected.”

So not only has Dan Esty’s return to Yale and the resumption of his lucrative consulting gigs proven to be a boon for the entire Esty clan, but his old buddy (the other Dan) greased the skids for Mrs. Esty’s return to her $175,000 a year job in Washington. Not bad for a few years work.

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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(9) Archived Comments

posted by: shinningstars122 | August 22, 2014  8:45am


Hypocrisy is hypocrisy whether it is from a incumbent or from a millionaire.

I am sure in this fight there will be plenty from both sides.

Ironically it was not the Democrats who threw Andrew Roraback under the bus, it was conservatives and John Roland was driving that one.

How about a piece on the economic challenges facing the electorate in the 5th?

That way you could challenge both candidates in what you find.

I think many are fed up with just reporting the obvious and the media not pushing public figures to come up with solutions to help improve the quality of life for all of our residents.

Snarky pieces from journalists simply enables the problem and promotes voter apathy.

posted by: ASTANVET | August 22, 2014  11:28am

Shiningstars122 - i don’t often find myself in agreement with your positions, however, I 100% agree that snarky hit pieces are taking their toll on the electorate.  I would add only that how campaigns are run thru primaries and elections pounce on the same jerry springer-esque “ooohhhhhhhh that was a good quip” style.  Both in the ads and “debates” which aren’t really debates as much as snarky fights.  There has to be a better way for politicians to make their case.

posted by: Bulldog1 | August 22, 2014  7:23pm

I can agree with both of you!  Imagine that.

That said the real problem is jobs, jobs that can sustain a family and allow an opportunity to educate their children.  The industrial base in this country has been sold off to China and other labor hellholes over the past 30 years.  By guys like Foley and Romney.  The same thing happened in the UK when Margaret Thatcher made a generation and a half of workers redundant.  Putting them on the “dole” and then criticizing them for their “lack of Industry.”

Not a single Pol on any side will acknowledge that nor will they put forth any plan to counteract the destruction of American Industry.

The sad fact is that there aren’t going to be enough good paying jobs, ever. Without the people in Washington taking some responsibility America will start to resemble Pakistan.  I really don’t think they care, they’re too addicted to corporate cash.

Surprised they had out Military vehicles to local PD’s?

posted by: art vandelay | August 23, 2014  10:35am

art vandelay

Bravo!  I commend you on an excellent comment.  Couldn’t agree more.

posted by: art vandelay | August 23, 2014  10:43am

art vandelay

It was a brilliant political move by Malloy nominating Andrew Roraback to the bench.  It secures the congressional seat to the Democrats for decades to come.

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 23, 2014  12:28pm

@shinningstars122: I could not agree with you past committed 100% Democratic stance, but I’m pleased that you are now demonstrating a non-partisan acceptable view. Hope you continue with this dialogue. This is the first time “that I did not agree to disagree with you.”
Keep up the good work.

posted by: RJEastHartford | August 24, 2014  1:18pm

@ Bulldog1, I agree. Many at-willl full time employees have been replaced via layoff by independent contractor status including immigrants with H-1B Visas (guest workers) hired as independent contractors. Lower salary, no benefits while the company receives a federal tax break/incentive. Consultants like Tata, Accenture etc. replaced workers with a high skill level, much experience and education but the problem is, they cost too much. Higher quality replaced with cheaper lower acceptable quality. The jobs themselves did not go away, instead they were “insourced”. These same people lost any health insurance, including upon retirement if they chose retirement, Saving for retirement? Paying for college? Supporting local small business? Can no longer do it. That is the paradigm shift in this country for corporations. This is happening every day but you don’t read it in the news paper. I would be glad to provide references and sources regarding all of this. Republican’s and some/most Democrats have sold out working people with tax laws, employment laws, Accounting rules etc. etc. I would be glad to debate this with anyone. Forget the “I am conservative b-s**t talking points” etc It is all a distraction, people need to wake up. Berkshire Hathaway Class A was priced under $2,000 a share in 1992 (DJIA under 2000 pts) that same stock closed over $200,000 last week, but here is no money?, who is struggling? look at your neighbor, friend ...not McDonald’s who os suing local towns on assessment values while importing expired meat from China. It is all about margin and cost. Need more Market Basket cases. Look it up.
You could drive tax rates down to next to nothing but as an employee you will still be struggling because of the paradigm shift. Take a look at the proposed FASB changes for example. Collective power and union’s are the problem, please!!.

posted by: SocialButterfly | August 24, 2014  8:36pm

@art vandelay: As a lifetime self promoting politician, Malloy is s skilled political genius. It’s too bad he has failed miserably as a reponsible governor.  That’s why we need Tom Foley the businessman in the governor’s chair, to clean up Malloy’s mess.

posted by: art vandelay | August 24, 2014  9:50pm

art vandelay

Foley will have a difficult if not impossible task of cleaning up Malloy’s mess. He’s going to have to contend with a veto proof House & Senate who will thwart every move Foley tries to make.  Rell and to some extent Rowland faced the same problem.

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