Tuesday, January 26, 2016

All The Governor’s Men

It’s not at all unusual for aides employed by governors and presidents to make their way into lucrative businesses that are, once the aides have left public service, profitably engaged with entities connected in one way or another with their former bosses. Communication directors for presidents or governors occasionally are hired by news networks that report on government operations, or governmental aides join lucrative firms that advise businesses or politicians how best to interface with government bigwigs. The walls that separate politics and corporate entities that do business either with a state or national regulatory octopus are semi-permeable.

Retired politicians sometimes accept lucrative business opportunities with corporations they once regulated. Upon leaving the U.S. Senate, Chris Dodd first promised he would never engage in lobbying and was then quickly hired by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) as its chief lobbyist. Businesses often scoop up gubernatorial, congressional or federal aides to help them negotiate complex regulatory arrangements with their former employers, all of which is perfectly legal. Mr. Dodd’s truth meter may have suffered a major ding when he moved from the U.S. Senate to serve as a mouthpiece for Hollywood, but his remuneration -- $1.2 million a year – doubtless soothed his ruffled conscience.

Governor Dannel Malloy’s former political grunts appear to have done well for themselves. Luke Bronin, once Mr. Malloy’s General Council, is now Mayor of Hartford, very likely thanks to his intimate association with Mr. Malloy. Mr. Bronin replaced incumbent Democratic Mayor Pedro Segarra, who replaced previous incumbent Democratic Mayor Eddie Perezwho stumbled into an FBI tar pit and was charged on five extortion and bribery counts. Mr. Perez’s conviction is being appealed. Among other of the Governor’s men who have helped Mr. Malloy to help themselves are: Andrew Doba, formerly Mr. Malloy’s communications director, whose firm has been hired by MMCT Venture to facilitate construction of yet another Connecticut casino in Northern Connecticut to offset losses suffered by a new $950 million MGM casino in (Springfield) Massachusetts. The interests of the Massachusetts casino will be represented by Global Strategies, one of whose Vice Presidents is Roy Occhiogrosso, formerly a chief-cook-and-bottle washer for Mr. Malloy.  

Immediately upon occupying office, Mr. Bronin was forced to confront problems dropped on his plate by his predecessor, including a poorly negotiated contract for a ball field, extreme violence in a city named several weeks ago as the murder capital of New England, a failing education system the monetary resources of which are imperiled by an old court case that mandates race ratios in schools, and other inconveniences sometimes associated with calcified one-party governments. Nearly all Connecticut’s larger cities have been sunk in the bog of single-party government for decades. Hegemonic political structures are inherently corrupt – ask anyone in China, Russia, Cuba or Venezuela -- because politicians yield to temptations more often when, in the absence of an operative moral order, there are no critical eyes from a vigorous opposition to report slovenly political behavior to an alert media. The watchful eyes of God may always be fixed upon us, but the FBI sometimes sleeps, and even when it gets its man and sends him to prison, voters occasionally elevate the felon to a mayoralty.

Mr. Bronin’s administration has agreed to kick in an extra $3.5 million for the problem-plagued ball park in Hartford. After negotiating a deal with all the culprits involved to cover a $10 million cost overrun, Mr. Bronin presented his deal to Hartford residents.

“Where are you going to slash and burn,” one resident demanded, “to cover [the additional $3.5 million]? Because raising taxes, you understand, is a no-deal.”

His administration, Mr. Bronin responded, would “aggressively” seek state and federal funding to offset projected shortfalls in Hartford’s budget of $10 million next year and $30 million the following year.

Unfunded pension liabilities  in Connecticut amount to about $26 billion; Mr. Malloy is attempting to muscle through the Democratic dominated General Assembly his legacy item, a 30 year $100 billion state infrastructure redesign program; and the state is struggling with yet another multi-million dollar deficit weeks after putting its biennial budget to bed. The penurious federal government is nurturing a national debt that will reach $20 trillion by the time the lame duck President leaves office, half of which was accumulated during the Obama administration. Mr. Malloy's budget number crunchers once again have overestimated tax receipts: During the next year, the big spenders in Connecticut’s General Assembly will receive $73 million less in projected tax receipts, and – big surprise – Connecticut will be receiving $46 million less in federal grants.

Should the proverbial “man from Mars” drop by, he, she (or it) would likely advise sharp spending cuts as a remedy for Connecticut’s downward slump, which recently has featured a dramatic move of General Electric from Connecticut to Massachusetts. Unfortunately, Connecticut is not being run from Mars; it is being administered by the Malloy administration and dominant Democrats in what can only be described as a one-party, crony capitalist state that parallels Connecticut's largest one-party cities. While all the Governor’s men are looking up, everyone else in the state is looking down, ashamed because they are broke.
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