Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dean Cuffs Blumenthal

Martha Dean challenged present Attorney General and heir apparent to U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd’s seat on the Democratic ticket way back in 2002. She lost in part because the money cards were stacked against her by Blumenthal.

Weeks before the election, Dean discovered from a fellow attorney who wished to contribute to her campaign that he could not do so. The attorney supplied Dean with a copy of a contract between his firm and the state containing language that prevented him -- as well as all the lawyers in his firm and all their spouses and legal staff -- from voting with his dollars for Dean.

Dean said she was “stunned’ by the prohibition. She called Blumenthal’s office. The gang there confirmed that the provision, considered by some a violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, had been inserted for the first time by Mr. Blumenthal into state contracts with law firms in 1996. “Mr. Blumenthal,” Dean said “refused to release potential contributors from the ban.”

Eye gouging in what appears on the surface to be an upright campaign is nothing new for an attorney general who has not scrupled to make use of defective affidavits to seize the property of his prosecutorial victims.

Faced with a frontal attack on her civil and constitutional rights, Dean did what any self respecting lawyer would have done in similar circumstances. She sued for a redress of grievances, the portion of the constitution guaranteeing that right not yet having been subverted by the ambitious ear-biting Blumenthal.

"It has been crystal clear since Buckley v. Valeo,” Dean now says, “the landmark campaign finance case decided more than 30 years ago, that candidates have constitutionally-protected rights to raise and spend campaign funds. After throwing off the King of England, our founders believed that the ability of a candidate to mount an effective campaign to challenge entrenched, corrupt or disinterested officials was one of the most fundamental rights enjoyed by the people in the new democracy, and so they ensured that it was enshrined in our constitution, where no person – no matter how powerful – can subvert it.”

Filed in 2002, it has taken eight years for the suit – Dean vs. Blumenthal -- to reach the Supreme Court. It’s been a long eight years.

Attorney Robert Farr, Blumenthal’s 2006 Republican challenger, joined Dean’s suit after learning that Blumenthal’s contractual ban on contributions – the attorney general’s very own answer to “corrupt” campaign contributions -- prevented Farr’s own wife, a partner at one of the law firms under state contract, from contributing to her husband’s campaign.

Asserting it was not “clearly established” in 2002 that Dean and other candidates had a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds, an appellate court held that Blumenthal therefore was entitled to qualified immunity for his actions. Before and after 2002, the high court has asserted that fundraising falls under the protective umbrella of the First Amendment.

In a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari filed with the high court Dean is asking the Supreme Court to decide three points: whether candidates have a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds free from improper government interference; 2) whether Blumenthal’s ban was improper; and 3) whether Dean is entitled to damages. To be a valid exercise of his authority, Dean says, Blumenthal must show that his ban serves a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly tailored. "Mr. Blumenthal has no authority," Dean asserts, "to decide what is a compelling state interest or to go off on his own and write campaign finance laws into state contracts.”

Indeed, a rank whiff of contractual corruption was emitted from the attorney general’s own office when Blumenthal awarded a portion of a $900 million tobacco litigation contract to his former law partner and his law partner’s wife. The other two firms involved were the Waterbury firm that represented former Gov, John Rowland, Carmody & Torrance, and an anti trust firm in Philadelphia, Berger &Montague, apparently not politically connected to Blumenthal’s share the wealth pipeline.

Dean points out in her petition, “Since the alleged corruption involved in the tobacco contract awarded to his former partner and partner’s wife was not connected to a quid pro quo arrangement involving campaign contributions, Mr. Blumenthal’s ban cannot be said to have been designed to stop this type of gross impropriety.”

Addenda

Update

WDRC Dan Lovallo's interview with Martha Dean may be accessed here: http://www.talkofconnecticut.com/includes/news_items/12/832/marthadean.mp3

The following column written by Mrs. Dean appeared in the Republican American on Feb 21, 2010

Mr. Blumenthal’s self-serving power abuse

BY MARTHA DEAN

Republican-American

02/21/2010

This month, in Dean vs. Blumenthal, I filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s little-known actions trampling his opponents’ First Amendment rights over the past 14 years. The case stems from my discovery in 2002, as the Republican challenger to Mr. Blumenthal, of what few people in Connecticut know even today: that he has imposed on his own, since 1996, in virtual secrecy, without the legislature’s involvement, a ban on any campaign contributions to his election opponents.

It was in response to this discovery that I filed my lawsuit. In 2006, Republican attorney general candidate Bob Farr joined as a co-plaintiff when he learned his own wife was banned from contributing to his campaign.

If the U.S. Supreme Court were to take up my petition and overturn the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, it would be the second time within short order the Supreme Court would have found it necessary to do so in the area of campaign financing. In 2006, the Supreme Court held the low limits Vermont placed on candidates were unconstitutional.

Surprisingly, in Dean vs. Blumenthal, this same appellate court held Mr. Blumenthal is immune from paying damages because in 2002 (and even today, under the court’s analysis) it was not “clearly established” that candidates have a First Amendment right to raise campaign funds. Yet, the right to mount an effective campaign always has been protected by the First Amendment under the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Our founders recognized the importance of ensuring the ability to campaign effectively to challenge entrenched, corrupt or disinterested officials and enshrined these rights in our Constitution.

For more than 30 years, since the landmark campaign-finance case Buckley vs. Valeo, it has been known candidates have constitutionally protected rights covering the entire area of campaign conduct. Recently, 91 former attorneys general filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court asserting, without need of citation, the First Amendment right of candidates to raise campaign funds.

Today, the same appellate court that upheld the unconstitutional Vermont election law and Mr. Blumenthal’s unilateral ban on contributions is on the eve of issuing a decision on the constitutionality of Connecticut ’s public financing of elections statute. Mr. Blumenthal has asserted repeatedly this questionable statute replaces his own ban.

Mr. Blumenthal’s self-styled ban, which he interpreted to apply to thousands of lawyers, their spouses, and legal staff at some of the largest firms in Connecticut and New York , did not originate in any law. It was created by Mr. Blumenthal, alone, in virtual secrecy. Mr. Blumenthal simply inserted the language into state contracts as they crossed his desk, knowing he had devised the perfect scheme. No candidate, he believed, would challenge his ban and risk being cast as being “in favor of corruption.” In this way, he ensured lopsided victories against Republican challengers, reelection after reelection.

Mr. Blumenthal’s claim that his ban safeguarded the integrity in the attorney general’s office is transparently disingenuous: 1) it was not instituted in response to any corruption of the type it claimed to eliminate; 2) Mr. Blumenthal accepted contributions from the banned firms to get elected in 1990; and 3) while his ban was in place, Mr. Blumenthal failed to gather information needed to know whether contributions he accepted were banned.

As in many other areas of our society, superficially appealing and seemingly well-intended regulatory efforts to protect us actually protect political and corporate insiders. This is the strongest reason for timely and repeated high court review of each new type of restraint on the ability of challengers to mount effective campaigns.

It will be a sunny morning in Connecticut when the days of “Corrupticut” are brought to a full close. The Supreme Court’s review of the constitutionality of Mr. Blumenthal’s actions against opponents would be an important step in this direction.

Martha Dean is a lawyer from Avon who ran for attorney general in 2002.
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