Friday, December 07, 2007

Gaffey, Transparency And Opacity

Because Lou DeLuca complained of maltreatment and suggested that the Gaffey potboiler be handled in a way similar to his own case, both commentators and politicians, among them President Pro Tem of the state senate Don Williams, felt constrained to point out the differences.

Williams said, "For Lou DeLuca to have brought this up is an outrage. For somebody who was investigated by the FBI, the chief state's attorney's office, and but for the fact that law enforcement was able to break up the hit that he ordered on a relative, he would be in jail. For him to start talking about Tom Gaffey, who broke no law … we're talking about two different universes."

All true. Apples are not oranges. The characters to whom we’ve been introduced during the DeLuca drama are not at all the same as those wandering the stage in the Gaffey drama. There are no FBI agents posing as mobsters under state Sen. Thomas Gaffey’s bed, and Gaffey did not refuse a bribe and then decline to report it to the proper authorities like US Rep. John Murtha, the powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Defense who lately favored Connecticut Democrats with a submarine.

On the other hand, 1.8 billion in tax dollars did not pass between Deluca and reputed mobster associate James Galante.

Shortly after stories began to appear in the media concerning Gaffey’s liaison with Jill Ferraiolo, the university's associate vice chancellor and legislative liaison at the state Capitol for Connecticut’s four state colleges, Gaffey presented a query to the state ethics board, which found that he had broken no law or ethics regulation.

Relying on that decision, Williams pronounced, “There is no intention to proceed with a review because no law has been broken, no ethical statute has been violated. Senator Gaffey was under no obligation to disclose his personal, private relationship and to come forward and say, 'I have this relationship, but by the way, it's not a conflict.' But I think, in hindsight, certainly more transparency would have been better. That's always a good thing.”

Williams, it should be noted, thought transparency was not a good thing when Democrats produced their multi-billion dollar bonding package plan – which included a hefty one billion for the state colleges that Gaffey and Ferraiolo worked hand in hand to procure. Republicans claimed at the time they were blindsided by the Williams, Gaffey, Ferraiolo bonding package. When Williams grudgingly advises that more transparency is good, it should be understood that he means to single himself out as an exception to the rule.

We do not know at this point whether Gaffey received any favors from Ferraiolo that might have inclined him to satisfy the lady’s requests. We do know that if he did, the ethics committee would look upon the Gaffey, Ferraiolo liaison with an approving eye – whatever it was. Ferraiolo and Gaffey are both state employees; which is to say, they are paid from tax dollars – and while it is unethical for politicians and private lobbyists to corrupt each other, the same regulations do not apply to politicians and state employees. The private lobbyist goose is not at all the same as the public lobbyist gander; or, to put the matter in Orwellian terms, all the animals in the state's political barnyard are equal, but the public pigs are more equal than the private pigs.

Perhaps a little more transparency would change all that. But no one should hold his breath waiting for an enlightened legislature to pass laws punishing the kind of relationship exploited by Gaffey and Ferraiolo.

Conflicts of interests of the kind that has exposed Gaffey “private” relationship to public view are routine in Connecticut. The transferance of one billion dollars from private to public pockets is in no sence a private affair. The legislature – indeed, the Judiciary Committee itself – is full of lawyer/legislators whose lives would be made so much more difficult under the direction of a law or regulation that prohibited self serving liaisons between, say, lawyers and the judges before whom they practice.

It's the worst sort of optimism to suppose that the pigs are interested in writing legislation that affects their feed time at the public trough. Some legislators are married to lobbyists; others get their satisfaction outside the bonds of holy matrimony.
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