Here is an accurate transcript of a conversation between Dennis House of Face the State and former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley. Mr. Foley hopes to secure the Republican Party’s nomination for governor. Neither Mr. Foley nor Governor Dannel Malloy has as yet formally announced their respective bids for the governor’s office.
A great deal of commentary – most of it critical of Mr. Foley’s comments -- already has preceded the posting of a transcript. But it’s always a good idea to put first things first: First the transcript, then the commentary:
DH: You also said something rather provocative on Tuesday. You suggested that the governor may be trading favors and when a reporter asked you for specifics, you did not. Can you do that today?
TF: Yeah, absolutely. You know last spring I was working with Senator Markley to introduce a bill to raise the ethical standards at the Capitol. And I've just been really disappointed by what goes on at the capitol and what I've learned about the relationships up there, the conflicts of interest. I’m concerned and in some ways disgusted, and I think the governor in some ways contributed this. I think he had an opportunity when he was elected to talk about transparency and to set a standard, and he hasn't. In fact, he may have taken it to a new level, so…
DH: What kind of examples can you offer us today?
TF: Well, first of all, I’ll give you some examples, but first let me preface it by saying I’m not a news organization. I don’t have a staff to look into these things and investigate them. But these are all things that have been told to me by more than one reliable source, and so it meets a journalistic standard. And they’re things that are believed, so they’re a problem whether they’re true or not. It seems that there are (sic) some substance to them, but I can’t confirm that they’re true. So, let me give you some examples. Umm, Dan Esty. Dan Esty is the head of a consulting firm…
DH: The Commissioner of DEEP…
TF: Yeah, he is now. But this is going back before the election. And it’s believed, or I've heard, a lot of people believe, that at his consulting firm, Esty…. Umm, Environmental Partners, I believe it’s called, or some entity that he controls, was compensating Dan Malloy…
DH: As a candidate?
TF: Well, not as a candidate, but either with consulting fees or compensation or something of value. And in fact it was not a (unintelligible), so that’s a problem in itself. So, this might have been prior to his declaring himself a candidate or during the time he was a candidate. (Unintelligible) I hope not, I don’t know. So, as soon as Governor Malloy is elected, he’s made a commissioner of DEEP. So, to me, that’s improper. It’s a conflict of interest; it’s a favor for something that was done. And in that instance, if that was the case, that potentially is an illegal contribution. When I ran against Governor Malloy, he was fully engaged in the race. So there was no way he was performing any work for Mr. Esty, if he was being paid anything. So it was… should have been a contribution if it was during the campaign. So anyhow, this is something I've heard and that people believe. I welcome the governor coming out and explaining, saying either that it’s not true, or explaining that it’s different from what I am describing. So let me give you another one. Roy Occhiogrosso. You know Roy huh?
DH: Oh yeah.
TF: He was the governor’s campaign manager and, I think, ran communications and was a spokesman in the administration. Earlier this year, Roy Occhiogrosso left the administration and went back to his political consulting firm, the Global Strategies group. And very recently, they’re awarded a very significant contract to handle, I believe, communications and PR for the Health Exchange for the state, which is a quasi-government entity, but their website is “pt.gov,” so clearly a government entity. Totally improper, if this is the case of what happened, to me, that somebody leaves the administration and turns around and within a very short period of time a company that he’s a partner in receives a very lucrative government contract. Umm, Andrew McDonald, a very close buddy of the governor, now on our Supreme Court, was a partner in a law firm called Sullivan and… excuse me, (Pullman and Comley), and they do a lot of legal work for the municipalities that issue bonds. It is commonly believed among first selectmen that I know that if you don’t use Pullman and Comley for your bond issue, it's much less likely that the governor is going to approve it, and he has sole authority to approve all bond issues. And so they tend to use that firm to make sure that their bond offering goes through. Whether that’s true or not, the mere perception that that’s the case is creating a distortion in moving business to a firm improperly. Finally, I got one more. Do you want to know…
DH: No, go ahead…
TF: It’s been publicly reported that there’s been issues with the governor’s travels. He took two trips to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland -- It’s quite an expensive trip -- and another trip to China. And it’s publicly reported, and I think the governor’s office has publicly admitted that some of the expenses of this trip was (sic) paid by the UConn Foundation. The UConn foundation is primarily a private funded organization. People who make those kinds of contributions assume that they are providing money for UConn, for the education of the students at UConn and making the program as good as it can be. It’s an improper use of the funds. And I also understand that at least one board member was called by a very senior member of the administration. A lot of pressure was put on them, and they were (sic) reluctantly agreed to provide these funds. So these are examples of things that I consider improper. If I were governor, no one would even think these things were possible, because would set a standard that was so high that even the perception of a conflict, or a friend, or someone in your family getting business as a result of your holding office wouldn't be believed.
DH: We obviously don‘t have the staff here at Face the State to confirm these allegations in the course of this program. I’ll obviously have to look into them. Are there any names of first selectmen and selectwomen you can offer who have made these allegations to you?
TF: Not that I want to share. Obviously, I wouldn't want to share. But there’s more than one; let me just say that. And let me also say that I call on the governor to address these issues, because if they… I hope they’re actually not true, because it would be good for the citizens of Connecticut if they were not true. But these are things that are commonly accepted at the Capitol as being true. And people are: Oh, that’s just the way things are around here, or that’s the way the governor does business. I think the governor should come out and explain to us whether or not these things that people believe are true. And if they are, and if here’s an explanation for them that would make sense to reasonable people, explain that too. And if he doesn't, I hope the media will go and look into these things. The media has the resources; that’s one of their roles. And let’s get to the bottom of this.
DH: [Well, certainly after this] we’ll look into the allegations. And I know that other reporters certainly will who are watching this program. If these turn out to be false, these allegations, do you think it damages your credibility as a candidate?
TF: No, because I think that the perception that this administration does not have high ethical standards, that favors are being done for friends and family, is there. And the mere fact that it’s there is a problem, whether these things are happening or not, and a good leader doesn't allow that perception to exist. They set a standard, and their own behavior makes people understand that these things couldn't be true. So, if I were governor, no one would be believing these things about my administration.
DH: Do you believe Dannel Malloy to be an unethical governor?
TF: Well, if these things are true, he certainly has a very low ethical standard. Some of these things may or may not be illegal, but they certainly, to me, get nowhere near the threshold of solid leadership and ethical standards that should be present in Connecticut’s government.
The commentary so far is pretty much what might be expected from a media that is left of center and overly protective of Governor Dannel Malloy. The chief concern of a media that lists to the left lies in shoring up the left.
Some commentators may take Mr. Foley’s remark that his representations during the face the State interview met a “journalistic standard” as very far from the mark. But it is clear from his remarks that Mr. Foley was addressing the standard of a “plausible charge.” He said he had more than one unidentified “reliable source,” and the charges, as he outlined them, were far from amorphous. Indeed, they were specific enough to arouse the wrath of Malloyalists both inside and outside Democratic Party precincts.
The preface to Mr. Foley’s charges is not unimportant: “Well, first of all, I’ll give you some examples, but first let me preface it by saying I’m not a news organization. I don’t have a staff to look into these things and investigate them. But these are all things that have been told to me by more than one reliable source, and so it meets a journalistic standard. And they’re things that are believed, so they’re a problem whether they’re true or not. It seems that there are (sic) some substance to them, but I can’t confirm that they’re true.”
Mr. Foley here is not playing the part of a lawyer prosecuting a case. He is issuing an invitation to the media to take up and investigate assumed improprieties.
Now, a charge of impropriety must begin somewhere. Charges at the beginning of an investigation must meet a standard of plausibility; certitude concerning the charge follows an exhaustive ongoing investigation.
Here’s an example: Before anyone in Connecticut was certain that former Governor John Rowland had committed improprieties, there were rumors of improprieties circulating throughout the General Assembly. Some plausible charges were tossed on the desktop of a number of investigative reporters, reporters pursued leads and an official investigation was opened at the conclusion of which Mr. Rowland pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to steal honest services. No reporter in the state refused to investigate the presumed improprieties swirling about Mr. Rowland because they were mere unproven allegations.
Here are the first two paragraphs in a story covering Mr. Foley’s face the State appearance:
“Escalating his attack in a campaign that technically hasn't begun, Republican Tom Foley blasted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Sunday as a chronically unethical leader.
“Foley, who says he has not yet decided whether he is running for governor, offered a blistering, unsubstantiated, indictment of Malloy as running an administration of back-slapping insiders ‘getting special deals.’ Appearing on WFSB's ‘Face the State’ Sunday morning, Foley declined to offer on-the-record evidence to back up his charges, saying that his allegations meet ‘journalistic standards.’"
Well now, a charge made by one politician of another is very far removed from an “indictment,” a legal term that presupposes a definitive investigation. Legal indictments generally are presented by legally convened and sworn grand juries that have considered and passed on evidence preceding a trial. All pre-investigatory charges are by definition “unsubstantiated.”
At this point, Mr. Foley has merely challenged Mr. Malloy to answer his charges: “And let me also say that I call on the governor to address these issues.” He acknowledges he has not the resources of a newspaper at his command: “Well, first of all, I’ll give you some examples, but first let me preface it by saying I’m not a news organization. I don’t have a staff to look into these things and investigate them.” He hopes the rumors and innuendos are not true: “I hope they’re actually not true, because it would be good for the citizens of Connecticut if they were not true.” But he cannot deny that the charges, if true, are consequential. At the very least, the charges made by Mr. Foley rise to a level above that of water cooler gossip, but his repeated pleadings that the media should investigate what one reporter dismissively termed “back-slapping insiders ‘getting special deals’” is infused with the desperation of a man who senses that Connecticut’s investigatory apparatus will not oblige him.