The election for attorney general has become, to put it politely, a mess.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – afflicted with the bizarre notion that suits against Connecticut businesses actually increase business in the state by providing a level playing field – had decided, after twenty years of enhancing business activity in the state, to move on to greener pastures in the U.S. Congress.
Blumenthal’s abrupt exit gave everyone in Connecticut a view of how term limits would enhance politics in the state. U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd decided – some think after polls showed him tanking badly – to retire, and Blumenthal laid claim to Dodd’s his seat, after which Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz announced she had second thoughts about running for governor and made a pitch for Blumenthal’s seat. Her seat was left open, and the political musical chairs continues; the incumbency ice flow breaks; spring is here at long last
Almost immediately, Bysiewicz ran into a brick wall. Questions were raised concerning her qualifications for attorney general, an issue now in the process of being decided by Connecticut ’s Supreme Court. The proceedings, a five hour interrogation of Bysiewicz, were videotaped, and the air is now cluttered with Freedom of Information demands to make the proceedings public, which may not help Bysiewicz’s long term political strategy. Rumor has it that Bysiewicz intends to bide her time as attorney general and run against Sen. Joe Lieberman when he come up for a flogging at the end of his term. Asked if she intended to surrender her seat as attorney general to follow Blumenthal’s path to the U.S Senate when Lieberman came up for re-election, Bysiewicz’s answer to the question was dodgy.
It all sounds very much like a Greek tragedy, with Zeus bawling from his throne, a scheming Hera entangling everyone in complex subplots, and a few hapless human guards patrolling the walls of Troy wondering at the ominous cloud, now no bigger than a hand, gathering on the horizon.
Into this mare’s nest now steps Republican candidate for attorney general Martha Dean.
One commentator who attended Dean’s campaign announcement on March 16 remarked that it was the most polished presentation of the issues surrounding the attorney general’s office he had ever heard.
Dean, who ran against Blumenthal in 2002 and lost, is no Blumenthal. And she is no Bysiewicz either. No one will question her fitness for the office, and she promises to bring to it a passion for justice and fair play that will last somewhat longer than the term expected from a professional politician whose eye, rumor has it, is fastened on other ripe opportunities.
Dean is co-founder of the Hartford Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, a national organization of law students, law professors, lawyers and judges who sponsor panel discussions and debates with leading scholars and authorities on important public policy issues of the day. She is a graduate of Wellesley College ‘82, and the University Of Connecticut School Of Law ‘86, where she was an editor on the Law Review. She is a member of the Connecticut Bar (1986), U.S. District Court ( Connecticut ) (1995), U.S. Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit) (2000), and the U.S. Supreme Court (2001).
In her announcement, Dean took a shot at Bysciewicz, still her likely Democratic opponent. Lamenting a lack of leadership, Dean remarked that Bysiewicz had used a list compiled by her and given to her campaign committee “of the personal features and proclivities of all who deal with her office,” possibly to raise campaign cash. The Democratic legislative majority finagled to render Republican Gov. Jodi Rell impotent during the budget crisis, “forcing her to try to deal with the crisis alone, all while the Attorney General continues to bully, grandstand against, and intimidate law-abiding businesses in Connecticut to the point where they, in many cases, give up and close down or depart… There is no delicate way to say that the so-called 'leadership' in the current legislative majority is directly to blame for Connecticut ’s economic predicament.”
Dean called for “a fundamental change in the legislative majority,” without which “the new Governor – of either party – will be unable to bring about the critical changes needed immediately in this State. The majority in charge of the legislature must be voted out now…”
She was most persuasive when she addressed herself to the state’s increasingly desperate economic condition: “To succeed and become prosperous, a society must provide a meaningful opportunity for individuals to create, own, grow, and personally reap the financial rewards of their successful business enterprises free from undue government interference. Without this promise, and its reality as enforced by law, the best and brightest --those who know how to create wealth through successful enterprises – will not choose to locate or remain here…
“Such an opportunity depends on freedom and predictability – the exact opposite of the unwieldy, burdensome, complex, political and irrational business environment that exists today in this state.”
Freedom is one of the central pillars of Dean’s campaign, and she defines freedom as “Freedom from improper, or excessive, or unnecessary government interference with our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. I will protect property rights, economic liberties, and the rights guarantee under the U.S. Constitution, including under the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Tenth Amendment, among all the other.”
An indispensable condition of a free and limited government, the U.S. and state constitutions set the limits of government intrusion into private and corporate life. As attorney general, Dean said she would make it her first duty to “oppose all efforts to diminish or interfere with the Constitutional rights of Connecticut ’s citizens,” as well as vigorously opposing “excessive, improper or unnecessary government mandates and regulations that burden business without proper constitutional justification.”
She would strive to make law enforcement fair and just, while insuring compliance with the law: “…no more politicized lawsuits or grandstanding against companies.
” Rather than resorting to “gotcha law suits,” she would “focus on prevention of unintentional unlawful conduct through education.”
And in a stinging rebuke to Blumenthal in particular, she would “end the current Attorney General’s so-called ‘moneymaking’ function for the AG’s office. An Attorney General’s office should never be under pressure to sue and hold-up companies or use extortion to generate a so-called ‘revenue stream’ for a State. This is the behavior of a bank robber – ‘your money or your life’ – and it must end.”
Dean would cut costs and abuses in one of Connecticut ’s most insular agency by reducing the number of lawyers in the attorney’s general office: “Just as corporations do, I will look into expanding the use of outside counsel, negotiating new contracts with them yearly to reflect changing market conditions.”
As is the case with all true reformers in an age resistant to reform -- or rather addicted to reform that perpetuates the status quo -- Dean may expect her opponents to ignore her when possible and to distort her reform message when necessary.