Monday, January 24, 2011

Susan Bysiewicz’s Prospects

Former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz decided she would like to be governor and then changed her mind after former Sen. Chris Dodd declined to defend his seat. Without leaving his position as attorney general, Richard Blumenthal ran for Mr. Dodd’s seat and won, leaving open an attorney general slot that Mrs. Bysiewicz coveted. She announced for the position, but her candidacy was derailed in the course of her campaign by a Supreme Court finding that Mrs. Bysiewicz did not have the proper years in service as a lawyer in “active practice” to assume the position of attorney general.

Along the way, other difficulties arose, many of which have been covered in some detail by Connecticut’s media.

The database of potential voters Mrs. Bysiewicz had assembled while Secretary of State was embarrassing at best, and an insufficient number of ballots supplied to Bridgeport during the recently concluded election turned some arch criticism her way.

But Mrs. Bysiewicz is bleeding from other wounds, most of them self inflicted.

Following her withdrawal from the attorney general race and finding herself with unspent money in hand, Mrs. Bysiewicz threw several “thank you” parties for her supporters, paid a bill for a campaign consultant, and paid the salaries of three campaign workers, spending about $45,000 of her campaign contributions improperly.

State law required that the campaign surplus Mrs. Bysiewicz disposed of should have been given to charity or returned on a pro-rated basis to her contributors.

Accordingly, Connecticut’s State Elections Enforcement Commission last month found Mrs. Bysiewicz in violation of the law. There followed a settlement, part of which stipulated that Mrs. Bysiewicz would pay out of her own pocket $14,000 to a New Haven law firm that previously had been paid by her campaign committee. When the enforcement committee declared it would need access to further information to support its determination, Mrs. Bysiewicz yielded to the importunities of the committee and agreed to pay the questionable legal bill from her own funds rather than supply the necessary information to the committee.

In a separate issue, Mrs. Bysiewicz ran up bills charged by yet another law firm in the course of her Superior and Supreme Court appearances. Last February, she announced that she would pay these bills out of her own pocket, not from campaign funds, and she did shell out a portion of the payments in this way last May. But recently amended campaign finance reports indicate that she is claiming reimbursement from the campaign for part of the charges. The change in the manner of payment was occasioned, Mrs. Bysiewicz has said, by an unforeseen increase in her legal bills, Republican opposition to her suit having driven up the cost of litigation.

At the end of December, the elections enforcement committee, perhaps running out of patience, ordered the “immediate termination” of Bysiewicz’s campaign committee following the “lawful disbursement” of $112,599 in funds yet to be distributed.

Just now, Connecticut’s media appears to be unsettled by such political ineptness; but, in the case of liberals, the left of center media is supremely tolerant of human imperfections, and the 2012 elections are far enough off so that Bysiewicz will have plenty of time to redeem herself through good works, following in the footsteps of Sen. Chris Dodd, who appears to have recovered from imputations that he had been a bit too cozy with evil captains of industry during the larger part of his career in the senate.

The healthy Democratic heart is forgiving and expansive, though it appears temporarily pinched in the sad case of retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman.

In a bilious piece written by Jack Stuef for a site called “Wonkette,” Mr. Lieberman appears as a “douchebag fused to the senate with an adhesive of literal mucus and the endless cash of the defense contractors.” One commenter sees “a bright future for Joe as a test subject for land mines,” and another implores Mr. Lieberman’s wife to “do us all a favor and smother your husband in his sleep” – all this AFTER repeated calls from national Democrats to soften the putative violent political rhetoric endemic on the right.

We should never wonder at the fecklessness of the gods of politics who work in mysterious ways their wonders to perform. Given time and chance enough, even the senator Mrs. Bysiewicz hopes to replace in the U.S. Congress may be re-evaluated by cooler heads, the revaluation of values being the secular version of redemption, a form of cheap grace practiced by historians and politicians. And if redemption is open to such as Mr. Lieberman, why should the door of political salvation be closed permanently against the relatively less offensive Mrs. Bysiewicz?
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