When he was Attorney General, current U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal kept in his office a couple of dozen pit bulls, more commonly known as lawyers, who used to harass companies and people with the threat of interminable lawsuits, after which many of them would cough up settlement dollars -- the terms of such settlements not to be publically disclosed -- that would allow Mr. Blumenthal to boast that his office “pays for itself.”
Cases taken up by the Attorney General’s office are not necessarily won on the merits. They are endurance races. Often, a defendant’s material resources give out before the merits of the case can be decided. Mr. Blumenthal was “earning” millions of dollars for the state, he was greasing the publicity skids that eventually would carry him into the U.S. Senate, and companies that did not want to see their profits diminish over the years because of prolonged litigation were contributing their “fair share” to Connecticut’s burgeoning state government.
It was a win, win situation for Mr. Blumenthal.
After much hectoring from leaders in his party who earlier wanted the Attorney General to leave his two decades old sinecure and run for some, almost any, more politically punishing office, Mr. Blumenthal finally decided to kick the dust of the Attorney General’s office from his feet and run for the U.S. Congress following U.S. Chris Dodd’s leave-taking. Having assured the good government folk back home In Connecticut that he would not -- WOULD NOT – become a lobbyist on his departure from the Senate, Mr. Dodd accepted a position as Hollywood’s chief lobbyist. The transition from the Senate to Tinsletown proved effortless for Mr. Dodd. No liberal Democratic politician ever suffered the bends moving from the beltway to Hollywood.
The Attorney General’s office has in its arsenal three litigation weapons that unbalance the usual level playing field whenever plaintiffs and defendants meet in courtrooms on the field of honor: The Attorney General’s office may claim partial sovereign immunity to protect itself against suits brought against the office; the office has time on its side, while a small business or state employee whistleblower can easily be put down by protracted litigation; and money is no object for an office that, under Mr. Blumenthal’s administration, earned its own keep through accelerated litigation, particularly against companies willing to settle suits that brought them unwanted publicity.
Perhaps the two most effective instruments in Mr. Blumenthal’s tool box when he was Attorney General were the subpoena power of his office and his ready access to Connecticut’s media. Rare was the day when one of Mr. Blumenthal’s carefully edited, adjective crammed press releases did not arrive in the newsroom, sometimes in bunches. The information in many of these releases was culled from affidavits Mr. Blumenthal often served on camera shy potential litigants. It was Mr. Blumenthal’s power of subpoena and affidavits – that and his dramatic prose – that put the sizzle in the bacon he almost daily served up to Connecticut's media.
Now The tables have been turned.
Mr. Blumenthal, who has carried many of his vices and few of his virtues into the U.S. Senate, we learn from a story in the Washington Times, is resisting a subpoena served on him by Care One Management LLC.
Filing in federal court in New Jersey, Care One’s lawyers note: “Senator Blumenthal’s office was particularly receptive to the [New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199] e-mail communications and even collaborated with the NEHCEU on a press release and open letter to the National Labor Relations Board on the NEHCEU’s behalf.”
The company has issued subpoenas to Mr. Blumenthal, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, a fellow Connecticut Democrat, and Gov. Dan Malloy. The company says the governor was beholden to the union as a result of “outsized campaign contributions.”
The three Connecticut politicians supported strikes against Care One that led to a declaration of bankruptcy, and one telling communication between a Blumenthal staffer and a union official has made its way somehow into the Washington Times' report:
In one exchange, a Blumenthal staffer said his boss couldn’t attend an event at a nursing home as workers returned to their jobs last year.
“By the way, Dick cannot make the 6:30 start on Sunday," the staffer wrote to a union official. "He was wondering if you would do a similar event for the second shift? (sic) Maybe more likely to get press.”
“Fabulous," the union official replied.
Mr. Blumenthal is resisting the Care One's subpoena that may entail further intrusions on his privacy because, Senate attorneys say:
Even if the unions made "false and misleading statements" to Mr. Blumenthal, the motion said, such deception is protected.
The Senate attorneys argued that the subpoena for records and testimony from Mr. Blumenthal "constitutes an inappropriate fishing expedition into congressional files."
They also argued against releasing any information on the basis of a constitutional clause that immunizes members of Congress from lawsuits arising from their legislative work.
In the course of his career, Mr. Blumenthal has been more than familiar with the possible damage to a reputation that may arise from carefully edited excerpts taken on sworn oaths and released to a friendly media. The fourth richest Senator in the U.S. Congress also is used to sovereign immunity for me but not for thee, as well as the usufructs of power that flow unimpeded to those who occupy positions of privilege -- all of which is fabulous vintage Blumenthal.