Saturday, October 18, 2014

Malloy The Campaigner

It has been said of President Barrack Obama that he is a perpetual campaigner, a remark not intended as a compliment. The charge has been made in connection with Mr. Obama’s foreign policy. To cite but one example, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan was an early campaign promise the consequences of which have proven to be exceedingly dissapointing.

Appearing at a campaign debate with Republican gubernatorial challenger Tom Foley and Independent challenger Joe Visconti at New London’s Garde Arts Center, Governor Dannel Malloy adroitly complimented Mr. Visconti concerning his “principled” opposition to Mr. Malloy’s recent gun law.

Mr. Malloy said that while he disagreed with Mr. Visconti’s position on legislation that had been designed to forestall yet another Sandy Hook massacre, he appreciated Mr. Visconti’s clear position on the bill championed by Mr. Malloy. Both Mr. Visconti and Mr. Foley have said that the bill favored by Mr. Malloy as a multiple murder prophylactic will not in the future prevent the Adam Lanzas’s of the world from slaughtering innocents.

Mr. Malloy’s plaudit was, some may have noticed, a backhanded compliment to himself – like Mr. Visconti, a politician willing to take a clear view of a pressing problem affecting the public’s safety. At the same time, the compliment was a gauntlet thrown down at Mr. Foley’s feet. Mr. Foley’s position on the Malloy bill was more nuanced, and in political debates political nuance is usually the first casualty.

Later in the debate, according to one account, “the governor used Visconti as part of his justification for a mailer, which the Democratic Party funded on his behalf using money from an account designated for federal races. Malloy was asked whether the move ‘made a mockery’ of state campaign finance laws. He said the party was complying with federal law, if not state law.

"Once again using Mr. Visconti as a political prop, Mr. Malloy answered, ‘Right now, we’re in a pretty tight race and we have a third-party candidate [Mr. Visconti], who appears to be coming on. And we need to spend money.’”

In a one party state such as Connecticut, political need prevails over ethical considerations. If Mr. Malloy had taken a truth serum before his appearance in New London, he might have said something like this:

“We want to defeat Mr. Foley, and to do this we need lots of money to buy killer ads that besmirch his reputation. Since Mr. Foley never has been a politician, he has not left behind himself a political trail that might be successfully assaulted. His business record, properly refashioned by Washington D.C. attack monkeys, is fair game. Both federal and state regulations would allow such ads, provided the ads were financed through my campaign. However, state party coffers have been depleted by campaign finance laws that prohibit large donations. Owing to a loophole, such funds may be provided to political parties through federal accounts. The campaign finance law itself has created a gap through which large donations may flow from PACs, to cash starved governors such as myself. Because PACs are prohibited by law from creating positive ads promoting specific candidates, the majority of ads created by PACs ideologically associated (wink, wink) with specific candidates are NECESSARILY negative. And this answers our purposes perfectly. In addition, the existence of a federal law that, properly advantaged, would  make available to me an ad that did indeed support my campaign negates Connecticut’s state law, trumpeted in dozens of editorials and celebrated by scores of politicians concerned with preventing state contractors from corruptly buying their services. Of course, my campaign COULD utilize such ads and bow to the ethical features of the Connecticut law by returning the tax money provided to us on condition that we may not accept large campaign contributions from Connecticut contractors with whom we almost certainly will be doing political business. We could do that. But we are not required to do it under the provisions of Connecticut’s campaign regulations because … well, because federal laws -- though most certainly not the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – trump state laws. In short, we are doing what we want to do because we want to do it. That’s politics: Politicians who own the sandbox get to decide who plays in the sandbox.”

We should all remember that politicians, especially successful ones such as Mr. Malloy and Mr. Obama, are not on their oaths in debates. There were no guffaws from the audience -- possibly because New London audiences are exceedingly well behaved -- when Mr. Malloy asserted he was compelled to accept federal funds because the threat of Mr. Visconti’s independent campaign had now become serious, but the claim may yet produce some titters among the editorial page editors of Connecticut major newspapers.
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