Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Blumenthal’s Campaign Contributions

The Linda McMahon campaign has noticed that Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is accepting PAC donations for his senatorial campaign. A Federal Elections Commission disclosure report indicates that Blumenthal hauled in nearly a quarter of a million dollars in PAC contributions in the first quarter of 2010.

Blumenthal has accepted money from Democratic leadership PACs in the U.S. Senate controlled by senators Barbara Boxer, Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid, as well as corporation PACs including Aflac, Phoenix Companies Inc., and the ING American Insurance Holdings.

A report in CT News Junkie includes a clip showing Blumenthal holding forth against PAC contributions:

“I’ve never taken PAC money," Blumenthal blusters, "and I have rejected all special interest money because I have stood strong and have taken legal action against many of those special interests."



McMahon spokesman Ed Patru responded:

“Dick Blumenthal’s principled opposition to funding his campaigns with special interest cash apparently only applies when he’s a shoo-in for reelection, but now that he’s in a competitive race, he’s become just like all the rest of the politicians. Voters have the right to expect that Dick Blumenthal will keep the commitments he makes and not make promises he doesn’t intend to keep. His reversal on special interest campaign contributions is exactly the reason so many people don’t trust politicians and have become cynical about government.
Both Blumenthal and McMahon hail from Greenwich, that contented little corner of Connecticut called “The Gold Coast.”

McMahon’s millions have been well covered by the state’s media. If there is a citizen of the nutmeg state who does not know that McMahon made her millions through wrestling promotion, he has not been paying attention to television reports, news reports or the backyard gossip of his neighbors.

Wealthy politicians in Connecticut who have spent most of their lives in public service tend to have made their money in one of two ways: though inheritance or marriage. Should McMahon, a self made woman, supplant Dodd, she would be the refreshing exception.

Ex-senator and governor Lowell Weicker, also from Greenwich, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, though he more often than not managed to sound like a dock worker, an affable affectation. Neither of Connecticut’s present senators is redundantly rich. But Dodd, when he retires, will fall on soft cushions, and lobbying dollars will be temptingly offered.

The Stamford Advocate recently reported on Gold Coast political luminaries and concluded that a veil had been drawn over Blumenthal’s wealth:

“Blumenthal's wealth is partly obscured because much of it comes from his wife's family. Until he files his candidate disclosure statement for the U.S. Senate, much of his family's assets and income are shielded. Even those reports, which limit what spousal income has to be disclosed, do not provide a full picture. Disclosure report filed as state attorney general indicates a number of trusts for family members.”

The source of Blumenthal’s wealth has excited less interest than that of McMahon’s. He appears to the general public as a man entirely devoted to public service. Given a choice between glory and money, who among us would be so grasping as to choose money?

Re-elected to office in July 1996, Blumenthal awarded, without legislative approval, an unprecedented contingency fee contract for his proposed litigation against tobacco companies. The attorney general committed Connecticut to pay 25% of any award made to it through the tobacco litigation -- principally to his former law partner, David Golub and his wife, who was also a lawyer.

First calculated at $900 million, the contingency fee award owed by the state to Golub and his wife was later reduced to $65 million. The award was calculated at the market-based hourly rate as computed by a law firm partner working nonstop 40 billable hours a week for 125 years. The final distribution of public funds awarded to Blumenthal’s former law partner and his wife was settled behind closed doors, in private arbitration, without public scrutiny. The contract was not put out to bid, though there were at the time many law firms that would have been delighted to bank a cool $65 million.

As attorney general, Blumenthal’s made a unilateral decision to decline contributions from attorneys with whom he had done business. At the same time, he imposed a ban on potential contributors to Martha Dean’s 2002 campaign for attorney general. Dean discovered the prohibition two weeks before the election, and it impacted her political contributions.

In matters of campaign contributions, Blumenthal the prospective senator apparently can afford to be less circumspect than Blumenthal the attorney general. Still, it might be useful if some number cruncher could deduce from the veiled reports available how many lawyers are contributing to Blumenthal’s senatorial campaign and whether, al la Bysiewicz, the attorney general’s senatorial campaign is making use of mailing lists generated by Blumenthal’s activity as the people’s lawyer of Connecticut.

Any direct or indirect connection between the two offices would seem to be a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of Blumenthal’s previous efforts to build a Berlin Wall between himself and contributions that might compromise his putative integrity.
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