Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shays Promises Slugfest

In a brief interview with Hartford Courant writer Rick Green, former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays has given an indication that he will pull no punches in his likely Republican Party primary with Linda McMahon.


Mr. Shays told Mr. Green that Mrs. McMahon’s record as a former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) will be an issue in his campaign.

"Her record and her conduct,” Mr. Shays said, “are an important part of the process. Everything that she's done is going to be an important part of the campaign. I'm not going to take punches. I'm not a Quaker."

Mr. Green writes that Mr. Shays “also promised to stick to his moderate Republican roots. ‘I'm not going to try to win the primary and lose the general election.’"

A possible battle between Mr. Shays and Mrs. McMahon is certain – provided Mr. Shays sticks to his script – to have a “déjà vu all over again” flavor to it, Mr. Shays serving as a double for former Rep. Rob Simmons, who lost to Mrs. McMahon in a Republican Primary and was rather peevish about his loss.

Both Mr. Simmons and Mr. Shays were “moderate” Republicans, each of whom lost to fairly moderate Democratic contenders. Mr. Shays had the distinction of being the last moderate Republican congressman in New England, the breed having died out with him.

Mr. Shays is not quite ready for a re-run. The former congressman left Connecticut for parts South after his loss and may have a little boning up to do on national issues before he takes a hammer to Mrs. McMahon’s likely run for office.

In the meantime, Mr. Shay’s Democratic opponents also will outfit themselves with brass knuckles. On the Democratic side, present U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz will be struggling for an opportunity to meet the winner of the Republican Primary on the field of battle, and neither Democratic candidate is a Quaker.

Mr. Murphy, who defeated long term U.S. Rep Nancy Johnson, also regarded as a moderate Republican, is on his way to becoming a perpetual politician. His very first job in politics was as an intern to U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, now a Hollywood mogul; he managed Charlotte Koskoff’s near upset campaign against Mrs. Johnson, and also worked for a couple of years in the late 90’s for then State Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen, now Connecticut’s Attorney General. Mr. Murphy’s work record is unblemished by any connection with the real world economy. Mrs. Bysiewicz recent political background needs no introduction, beyond noting that comparisons have been made between her and Lady Macbeth. Neither of the two Democrats are inept in exploiting the logs in the eyes of their Republican opponents, and both would be delighted to see blood on the Republican Party primary floor.

Mr. Shays’ record in office is not without blemish. One may expect Democratic operatives to make much ado about Mr. Shays’ former felonious campaign manager, Michael Sohn, who absconded with more than $250,000 in money filched from Mr. Shays’ 2008 campaign against present Rep. Jim Himes, widely regarded as more moderate than, say, the tempestuous John Larson, a U.S. 1st District Rep who will be replaced by a Republican moments after Hell freezes over.

It is not precisely accurate to say that Mr. Sohn took money from Mr. Shays. The ten most generous donors in the 2008 campaign were individuals and PACs associated with large financial firms, and the money was stolen from them. Mr. Sohn may have been, at least in sprit, a larval Democrat in supposing that the ill-gotten gains of the super-rich were in some sense his due.

There is a delicate irony associated with Mr. Shays’ troubles that is not likely to be noticed by thuggish roustabouts in both the Republican and Democratic Parties who are interested in bruising Mrs. McMahon because of her unsavory association with wrestlers or Mr. Shays because of his fatal inattention to the felonious Mr. Sohn.

The Center for Competitive Politics (CCP), a group whose mission it is to promote and defend citizens' First Amendment political rights of speech, assembly, and petition, noting that Shays had for well over a decade “fought tirelessly to enact greater restrictions on campaign speech, finally succeeding with the passage of the Shays-Meehan (or "McCain-Feingold") bill in 2002,” observed, following Mr. Sohn’s arrest, “…it is ironic that the Shays campaign may now face added penalties from the Federal Election Commission. It seems a bit absurd, but that's how it works when campaigns are victims of embezzlement - the embezzler is usually someone with the ability to alter campaign finance reports in order to cover his tracks, so as a result the campaign files false reports with the FEC.”

Noting that corruption inheres in corrupt individuals, CCP wondered whether Mr. Shays ever would be forced to face “the cruelest moment of all - will Mr. Sohn's actions force Mr. Shays to realize that he spent much of his political career attempting to restrict the speech of his fellow private citizens, without accomplishing much of anything having to do with public corruption?”

It is a point not likely to be pressed by Mr. Shays’ possible Democratic opponents, some of whom look upon campaign finance reform as the holy grail of politics. But there are vigorous Constitutional proponents around every corner in the Republican Party barracks for whom Mr. Shays’ ardent support of McCain-Feingold – the campaign finance bill that was supposed to eliminate corruption – remains a red flag waved before a bull’s nose. And these folks, talking a page from Barry Goldwater’s adage that moderation in the pursuit of liberty may be a vice, are not Quakers.
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