Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Seen My Chances…

“I seen my chances, and I took’em” – George Washington Plunkitt

Tom Foley, an announced Republican candidate for governor, dropped an anvil on the multi-footed Connecticut centipede, and -- Ouch!

A bill written by Mr. Foley and launched by State Senator Joe Markley was, according to a story written by Mark Pazniokas in CTMirror, problematic for many members of the part-time state legislature, including a potential GOP rival.”

Mr. Pazniokas is exceptionally well mannered, and “problematic” is his polite way of saying that a bill touching so many careers hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell of passing through Connecticut’s version of political Hell.

The potential rival is Republican House Minority leader Larry Cafero, also eyeing the governorship, but the Foley bill would eliminate, in the estimation of state Rep. David K. Labriola, the brother of Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, roughly 500,000 residents from running for public office in Connecticut.

Under the Foley standard, “no public official, state employee or member of their immediate family could be employed by any organization that, among other things, is minimally supported by state funds or employs a lobbyist… anyone who receives $1,000 in income from an entity that derives 5 percent of its income from the state would be in violation of the new standard,” as would members of their immediate families.

The Foley proposal brought Governor Dannel Malloy’s former flack-catcher, Roy Occhigrosso, back to center stage. Mr. Occhiogrosso, who left his employment at Global Strategies to assist a new governor with Connecticut’s media, melted back into the Global Strategies woodwork after a couple of years and now has reemerged briefly as the governor’s chief twitter apologist.

Global Strategies was delighted to have Mr. Occhiogrosso back: ““We are delighted that Roy is rejoining GSG,” said CEO Jon Silvan. “His deep expertise in private and not-for-profit sector communications, combined with his vast experience in government and politics makes him an incredible asset to our team and to our clients.”

Assuming Global Strategies is “an entity that derives 5 percent of its income” in Connecticut, and assuming further that Mr. Occhigrosso has “received more than $1,000” in remuneration from Global Strategies, Mr. Occhiogrosso would not be able under the austere Foley rule to run for office in Connecticut, although he might still be able to divert flak from impeding Mr. Malloy’s forward progress, either on the political stage or from behind the curtain.

The underlying premise of Mr. Foley’s bill is that lobbyists are tar babies that soil the souls of legislators who may write laws benefiting the companies to which the lobbyists are attached. This is a favorite meme, as the progressive bloggers sometimes say, of right thinking leftists, and Republicans are mildly shocked that Mr. Foley has chosen to wield that cudgel against Mr. Cafero, among others, who works for a law firm that does deploy lobbyists. Mr. Cafero’s law firm, as well as many other companies, has erected a sort of Berlin Wall separating lobbying functions from more respectable pursuits. This wall has been under attack for years.

Politicians generally tumble into corruption from inattention, and sometimes they are led off the cliff by their subalterns; former Speaker off the state House Chris Donovan may be a case in point. Law firms are generally circumspect, and Mr. Cafero, who says he has never been the subject of an ethics complaint, is a stickler for detail.

The real problem, of course, is that seemingly endless and complex regulations invite a cozy business relationship between companies and lobbyists that might be mitigated by fewer and less arcane laws and regulations. But cutting away that brush would put out of the lobbying business half the lawyers in Connecticut, not to mention political advisory firms such as Global Strategies. One suspects that Mr. Occhigrosso would manfully resist cleaning the Augean Stables of such detritus because the cleansing would make less marketable “his vast experience in government and politics.”
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